Insights From Morton High
June 13, 1995
As I looked up from my yard I could see six miles away to another "rise" and what I saw looked very much like a scene from the old movie, the Sugarland Express. A line of emergency vehicles, their lights flashing, was headed my way. Within a few minutes, fifteen men stood visiting amiably in my yard. To say that it was an event worthy of the society page would be stretching things a bit, but it was the largest gathering I have hosted since my arrival in Morton.
What brought these guests to my door was a frantic 911 call about 7:00 p.m. Arriving home, in a great hurry, I opened up the house including both front and back door to get some air circulation started. Having invited two teachers for dinner, I rushed to the kitchen to prepare dinner. In the midst of marinating chicken breasts for the grill, Mrs. Beach (our dog - named after the famous American Composer Mrs. H.H. Beach) began running between the front door and the kitchen window where she could see me working. She barked frantically. I continued working for a time, but finally her persistence told me that something was wrong.
I headed for the front door -- but didn't get too far. From about fifteen feet I heard a strange sound. Now, I grew up on the desert of California where there were thirteen indigenous varieties of rattlesnake--so I know one when I see it. But I didn't go close enough to see this one. I heard a rather anemic rattle, and saw the body of a snake in the space between the bottom edge of the heavy wooden door and the cool green ceramic tile floor.
If you've been reading this column for long you'll remember that Mrs. Beach was bitten by a rattlesnake shortly after our arrival here, and she has a healthy respect for the species whose head she had trodden upon, and who, as the Bible says, bruised her heal -- or in this case her flank. My cat's curiosity, on the other hand, propelled her in the direction of the snake. I grabbed kitty and carrying her on my left hip, dashed for the kitchen phone. Without so much as a thought, I did what any city girl would do, I dialed 911, the snake set up a real racket. That was enough for kitty. Terrified she dug her claws into my arm--jumped free and dashed out the back door. I completed the call, and was told to exit the house. Mind you, I had every intention of staying in the house with the snake until I was told to exit--REALLY!!
What I couldn't have known was the scene at the other end of the telephone conversation. The call had come in over the new 911 system while the volunteer fire department was having a meeting. So not only, did the Sheriff know about my situation -- the entire Volunteer Fire Department including their kids and dogs had also heard. So when I looked up and saw the procession of emergency vehicles headed my way, I had no way of knowing that it included two sheriff's cruisers, the fire engine, and the ambulance! I believe that is all the emergency equipment in town!
The young policeman who often patrolled near the school, was first on the scene. He offered to shoot the snake with a pellet gun, but decided against that as this tactic could have driven the snake further into the house. Miraculously the snake stayed put and was still visible between the hinges of the front door. When reinforcements arrived, the snake was quickly driven onto the porch where one of my young students picked it up and brought it over to me.
The snake that had seemed to me to be six feet long, turned out to be a 2 foot bull snake. "What do you want me to do with this Ms. Mc?" Willis said, with a devilish grin which told me that he was going to enjoy relating this story to his high school friends as soon as he got back to town! "Oh, Willis, just put it out in the field" I said with a red face.
Had I been a real pioneer woman, I would have taken a hoe or shovel and dispatched the thing without so much as a sniveling comment. It was just another example of my ignorance on the prairie, and the kind gentleman (children and dogs) that stood in my yard were kind enough not to speak of it aloud -- at least in my presence. I still don't know how that Bull Snake feigned the sound that a rattler makes, but I do know that I felt very much reassured that the 911 system was working and working well.