I never thought I'd have to live with a snake until I became acquainted with Billy Blow. My son, Andy, had a summer job 'rougueing potatoes' which means walking the potato fields and culling out the diseased vines. It was hard work but good pay. Early mornings were cold, middle of the days were hot, and towards late afternoon it became very boring except for the occasional snake which the crew would catch and throw at each other. On one such boring day Andy decided to bring home a two and a half foot Blowsnake for a pet.
I guess Billy had been in my home for a full 36 hours before I discovered he had joined our family. At least, when I gasped in horror and demanded my son get him out of my home because he might escape his little rodent trap cage someday, my son just laughed and said, "Oh, mom, don't panic. He got out yesterday and just crawled up across my dresser to wait for me." Nevertheless, I persisted. Harmless or not, he was to go. I would not live with a snake. Dutifully my son agreed to take him to the shed that evening as he had planned to pick up a mouse from the pet store on his way home from work. He would then have time to fix a more permanent place in a more secure cage.
I returned from work that day before my son returned from his and went to the basement to start the wash. As I lifted the first load of clothes, a cold chill ran down my back. My peripheral vision had caught an empty cage. I dropped my clothes, turned on full lights, and stepped into Andy's room to investigate. The cage was indeed empty. I left the basement immediately.
Well, my son searched in vain to find Billy Blow. My log cabin house offered all kinds of heat vents, storage areas, and unfinished walls where a snake could easily hide, but the stairway did open directly to the outside door where a snake could easily squeeze under the screen. After an exhausting search, Andy announced that he had to have escaped, so I should quit worrying. I wanted to quit worrying in the worst way possible, but I couldn't.
My habits in my own house began to change. I no longer went into the basement unless I really needed to do so, and then I put on full lighting and looked in every corner before I entered. Knowing the snake is a timid animal, I began to make as much noise as I could, sometimes singing, sometimes banging doors, sometimes just talking to myself. My son still lived there in the basement. In fact, we had more than one young man stay with us in that basement that fall, and I was sure some morning one of them would wake up with a snake in bed with him. They laughed at me.
Things seem to be calming down until one morning when I went in to change Andy's sheets. There, just barely sticking out from under the bed was snakeskin. I devised a plan. I would use the covers to quickly jerk this thing out into the room and then beat it until it no longer moved under them. Pow, pow, pow--I delivered my blows. Nothing ever did move. Strange, I thought. It should have tried to get away. I carefully--very carefully--with club still in hand--began to pull away the sheet. There in the middle of the room lay a beat-up cowboy boot with a snakeskin toe. Why hadn't I remembered Andy's boots had snakeskin toes?
My next encounter came in the washroom itself shortly after Christmas. I had begun to be cautious of the wash room because I knew that would be the source of water for an animal, but sufficient time had passed that I was not looking as carefully as in the previous weeks--until I began to pull the recently dropped wet towel from the top of the clothing pile and about four inches of snakeskin showed at the end of the towel. It had moved as I had moved the towel. Cold chills ran down my back and, again, I made my plan, for that had to be Billy buried in that pile of clothes. If I picked them up quickly and dropped them in the washer, I could drowned him. As I gained the courage to execute my plan, I realized that the snakeskin had not moved since I disturbed the towel. A real animal would have tried to go deeper. This was no boot. What else could it be? I gave one more suspicious gentle jerk of the towel and out tumbled a pair of boys snakeskin briefs. The memory of a sister's hilarious laughter when Andy had opened his Christmas present from her flashed through my mind. Her present had been a trio of wild bikini briefs--spotted leopard, striped tiger, and yes, snakeskin.
I'm almost ashamed to admit all the other times I thought I had run into Billy Blow. Once we got an awful dead-flesh smell in the wash room when the drainage field clogged and flooded the washroom floor. I was sure Billy had crawled down the drainage hole and drowned. Then as I began to gain confidence that he was no longer in my home, I found some unusual tracks in the bathtub. They were the kind a snake would make. That was only one day before I rearranged the camping gear in the storage closet and a snakeskin overnight bag fell out at me and gave me a terrible scare. I was falling apart. I didn't even like being in my basement anymore.
One year has now passed, and Andy has moved out leaving me to battle Billy alone. I began to daydream about how big Billy would be when I finally see him again. I began to read all about snakes and their habits. I quit allowing company to sleep in my basement. I even rearranged the furniture to make an upstairs bedroom where my grandbabies could sleep. I couldn't bear the idea of a snake crawling in bed with one of them. It really wasn't fair for my son to upset my lifestyle like this. I have began to compose a sermon for him comparing the bringing of a dreaded snake into a house and letting sin enter a life. Both cause anxiety, frustration, suspicion, distrust, and eventually change one's own living pattern to accommodate the lack of feelings of safety. Someday I may write this up as an article for the Ensign, so other mothers will see that they must never allow a child to "promise to correct a situation" as my son had promised to get the snake out that night. Instead, I should have insisted on "immediate correction". I have learned a lot living with Billy Blow.
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© Mary Lula Welch