During lunch-and-play break between morning and afternoon school, the children were playing in the backyard while I lay the baby down for nap. Then I heard the screaming and thundering feet as the three came racing indoors crying, "Snake! Snake!"
|See how close the snake got to the swing|
Mary had been swinging on the tree swing when her brother froze and whispered, "Snake!" She later told me soberly, "John saved me."
We identified the three-foot-long snake as a black rat snake (which can get up to seven-and-a-half feet long): usually docile and a friend to us because he is a predator of mice and rodents, of which we have many.
We watched the snake slide his way across the lawn and up into a bush, where it traveled along among the branches instead of along the ground (I read that rat snakes are excellent climbers).
Now, I sat outside as long as I could, but Mama's duties go on. The snake was deeply ensconced in the shrubs, the children had been admonished to leave it alone, we don't hurt friendly snakes, and I thought (since the snake was harmless) that I could return to the kitchen to do my chores.
All was very quiet outdoors, which should have been my clue.
Then one child, whom God did not bequeath with natural fear, came running in to announce, "I touched the snake! I touched the snake!"
I stomped outside and began my lecture: "You disobeyed me! I told you not to touch the snake. And you also disobeyed me because I instructed you that if [that child] tried to bother the snake, you were to come tell me right away!"
The touching child defended, "Well, [that child] told me to touch the snake!"
I turn with arched eyebrow to said child and that child gives me a grammar lesson. "Mama, I asked, 'Could you touch the snake?' I did not say, 'Would you touch the snake?' Could means 'can the person do it,' but would means I'd have been asking them to do it."
A grammarian and a natural-born lawyer is a powerful combination.
The little rascals lost their outdoor time after that . . .