The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #59418 Message #3407695
Posted By: Rapparee
20-Sep-12 - 09:42 AM
Thread Name: BS: The Mother of all BS threads
Subject: RE: BS: The Mother of all BS threads
We all took music lessons, of course. I learned to play the trumpet, Tony learned the trombone and Martha studied violin. Ted studied saxophone, trumpet and guitar -- more than any of the rest of us.
Of course we all took piano lessons too.
It was Ted's musical skills that prevented him from being bitten by the rattlesnake. And what with one thing and another it all led to . . . but let me start at the beginning.
Snakes hibernate all winter, except for snow snakes, which estivate. But decent snakes hibernate and come out in the Spring. When they come out of their dens they're hungry and they look for food to regain their strength.
Up to now I haven't said much about the regular snakes in the Boogie Swamp, but they were there. Garter snakes (which we called gardener snakes), black snakes, king snakes, water moccasins, milk snakes, hoop snakes, rat snakes, bamboo vipers, both rock and reticulated pythons, both king and spitting cobras, black mambas, fer-de-lances, coral snakes, anacondas, puff adders, asps and of course rattlesnakes.
There were sidewinders, pygmy rattlers, massasauga rattlers, timber rattlers -- why, some days when you'd walk around in the Swamp it seemed that every stick you picked up turned out to be a snake!
One day Tony picked up a copperhead to hit a piece of elm! That was exciting!
As a rule snakes won't bother you if you leave them alone. And they do a lot of good for people! Really!
But it was one morning in early Spring and the sun was up and starting to melt a light frost from the night before. It had been foggy and the trees wore a coat of rime so that they look like white jewel trees when the sun touched them.
We set out, Tony and Martha and Ted and I, on a hike. We'd been inside all Winter (or so it seemed), so we hiked out and fooled around by Cedar Creek and by midafternoon we were on our way home, cutting through the Boogie Swamp.
We took a break and sat on some rocks. I'd been whittling, and Ted picked up a stick and started to whittle also. As he whittled he whistled.
He was whistling The Stars and Stripes Forever when and we heard the buzz of a rattlesnake right next to him!
Ted started to whistle faster and faster, and as he whistled he whittled faster and faster. He whittled his stick into pieces, whittled the pieces into slivers and the slivers into sawdust. He whittled so fast that the sawdust started to smoke -- and none of the stuff he had whittled even touched the ground before it caught fire. We'd never seen anyone whittle that fast before!
A piece of hot sawdust burned his hand and he said "Ouch!" and stopped whistling.
When he stopped whistling, a big rattlesnake at least eight feet long crawled from beside him, coiled itself in front of him and looked at him.
The snake's tongue kept going in and out, in and out, "smelling" Ted. Finally the snake started to rattle. Just a little, sort of tentatively and sort of jerky.
Ted whistled a few bars of The Stars and Stripes Forever. He later said that he didn't know what else to do because there wasn't anything left to whittle.
And you know, that old snake rattled right along with the music!
Ted kept on whistling and made little motions for us to leave while the snake was rattling along with John Phillips Sousa.
We quietly and carefully left and waited in the cemetery by Daddy's grave, our usual rendezvous. We hoped that he'd get away without getting bitten, but that if he did get bitten he'd get out of the Boogie Swamp before he got really sick or died. Otherwise we'd have to get him out.
Finally, after what seemed like hours because it was, Ted appeared. He'd whistled just about every song he knew and had finally told the snake (who he'd named Rex) that he had to go. He said that the snake seemed to understand and even showed Ted a new shortcut out of the Swamp.
After that afternoon Ted would whistle up Rex every time we'd go into the Swamp. They'd sit there whistling and rattling, and it got so that Ted would even sneak off by himself to see Rex.
We never told anyone about this, not even Mom. How could you explain that your youngest brother played whistle in a duet with a giant rattlesnake?
We asked Ted if he was going to put Rex in the theatre or in the movies and make a lot of money, but he said no, it was just in fun and besides it was Art. We said fine -- art, huh?
Fall came and finally Rex went off to wherever he -- or maybe she -- hibernated. Ted missed his serpentine friend but got over it by Christmas.
The next Spring Ted couldn't find Rex anywhere. He looked and whistled all over the Boogie Swamp, but there was no Rex to be found.
Ted was really very disappointed, but he didn't let it stop him from doing other things.
But it was a strange Summer, too. We didn't see ANY rattlers in the Swamp. None at all.
School started and Autumn fell. Ted hadn't seen his slithery sidekick for a whole year.
Then one day, when the leaves were red and gold and the sky was bright blue with white clouds and there was a hint of cool, we four were again hiking through the Swamp, returning from gathering hickory nuts along Cedar Creek.
Ted was trudging along dejectedly, thinking, we knew, about Rex.
We stopped for a minute and suddenly Ted's head snapped up and he looked off to the left and shouted "Rex!" and tore off through the bushes!
Then we heard it too -- the faint sound of a rattlesnake shaking his rattles to the tune of The Stars and Stripes Forever.
We followed the path Ted had cleared for us through the brambles and we found him sitting on a long rock, facing a good-sized depression.
We sat on the rock next to Ted and saw that the depression was filled with rattlesnakes. There must have been seventy-five or eighty of them: long ones and short ones, fat and skinny, some with lots of rattles and some with just a few.
And in front of them all was Rex.
Rex coiled himself up and -- I swear that this is true! -- he bowed to Ted and made little bows to us.
Then he turned back to the other rattlers and they formed rows and the rattling got quiet.
Rex pumped his head a couple of times and the rattlers started rattling. It took a moment, but we realized that we were hearing The Washington Post March!
When it was over we clapped and clapped and clapped. And it dawned on us that the reason that rattlesnakes were so scarce that Summer was because Rex had been teaching them the music he had learned from Ted!
It was a grand concert! We heard Manhattan Beach and Hands Across the Sea and The Washington and Lee Swing and The Notre Dame Victory March and On Wisconsin and Fight Fiercely, Harvard and The Air Force Song and the Triumphal March from Aida and Home On the Range and Three Jolly Coachmen and They're Moving Father's Grave To Build a Sewer and Clementine and Bell Bottom Trousers and Anchors Aweigh and the largo from Dvorak's The New World Symphony and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and Bach's famous Toccata and Fugue and at the end, of course, The Stars and Stripes Forever.
Each of the snakes took a little bow after Rex motioned them up, just like a human conductor who was proud of his or her orchestra.
We clapped so hard that they played Puff the Magic Dragon as an encore.
Then they all bowed again and slithered away into a hole beneath another rock because it was getting dark and it was, after all, time to hibernate.
Ted looked at his friend Rex and Rex looked at Ted and no one said anything. Then Rex left to join his fellows for the winter and we went home to a supper of fondue and flapjacks and fool and frittata and fillets and farl and fruitade to drink, and of course, fruit flambé for dessert.
I don't know what ever happened to Rex and the All-Rattler Orchestra, but I heard some Mexican music that makes me think that maybe Rex taught maracas in Mexico. Ted may know, though.