I seem to remember that my mom once told me the first words I learned to say weren’t “mama” or “daddy” but “uh oh.” That was a harbinger for things to come in my life. My mama swatted my backside so often that dust rarely settled on it.
The trend continued into adolescence. Once when I headed out fishing with my rod, reel and tackle box, my neighbor, Mr. Plunkett, who lived next door, was sitting in a cane-bottom latter-back chair on his front porch.
“Come here, boy,” he commanded. I knew better than to blow him off because he had my mother’s ear, and he’d rat me out. This would not have turned out well for me, as any neighborhood adult could get away with bossing me around in those days.
So I walked over to his yard haltingly. He leaned forward and spat an amber dart of Bruton Snuff between his gnarled fingers. When it hit the red clay of his front yard, it looked like a splatter of dried blood.
“You ort not go a’fishin’ in short pants,” he advised. “You’ll step on a cottonmouth.”
I wouldn’t be caught dead in long pants in summer, so I did the old, “I’ll be careful” routine.
As I stepped out of his yard and headed to the creek, I heard him say, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
When I got to the creek, not only was I wearing short pants, but I had also pulled off my shoes so I could wade in the shallow water to get at the hard to reach fishing spots.
I was moving up stream on a well-worn path to get to another spot when I came up to a dead tree that had fallen across the way. As I stepped over the log, my mind was focused on thinking like a small-mouth bass.
As I was about to set my foot down on the other side of the log, I caught a glimpse of something on the other side.
My foot was in mid air when I saw the cottonmouth moccasin, which was as big around as the calf of my leg. It had its mouth wide open and about to strike.
Instinctively, I launched myself backwards in a maneuver that defied gravity, and it’s a miracle I didn’t experience hygiene issues.
I crawfished away from the log to put some distance between the snake and me.
Thankfully, it plopped into the water, swam to the other side and slid off into the underbrush.
When my heart finally returned to my chest from my throat, I looked around for my fishing gear, which had somehow ended up in the creek.
I waded in long enough to fetch my gear, but I decided to call it a day.
Mr. Plunkett was still sitting on the porch when I walked back home, and he looked a lot smarter than he did a few hours earlier.
I can tell you that I never went fishing in short pants again.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Happens is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org