Whitesburg KY

Ike swears he’ll never again sit down on a large snake

If you find it difficult to read this column because of misspellings and a general sense of disorganization, it’s because I still have a bad case of the jitters and because I’ve spent the last hour or so making sure my heart is still beating instead of trying to beat newspaper deadlines with an intelligent piece of writing.

The reason for my current condition is that I have, this morning, had an experience in my garage that has left me more than a little shaken.

Let me first give you the background for this story.

Early Saturday morning I dashed out 52 toward Richmond to check out a few yard sales and managed to get a fantastic buy on a Mitchell 308 fishing reel which, upon inspection, I discovered was made in France. Old, in other words. Very hard to find.

It looked almost like new but when I picked it up I noticed that the bail was flopping around. I knew what was wrong with it but I asked the lady anyway.

“All I know about it is that my son says it won’t work,” she said.

“How much?” I asked. “Is it worth a dollar for parts or something?” she asked.

I almost never pay the asking price for anything at a yard sale but my conscience would have bothered me if I’d tried to talk her down to 50 cents because I knew that I had a bail spring in my tackle box that would make the reel “work” like brand new and that I could get at least $75 for it on ebay.

Still, just to stay in form, I said to her, “That’s a mighty high price for something that won’t even work but I’m gonna take it anyway.”

So, early this morning, 308 in hand, I climbed over lawnmowers, broken chairs, several bags of mortar mix, a crippled sawhorse, a stack of shelving boards and some other stuff that lay between me and a little worktable I have in the very back corner of my garage.

On the table I have a good lamp with a 100-watt bulb and a big, stand-mounted magnifying glass. Installing a bail spring is a piece of cake if you have good light and the ability to see the nearly microscopic holes it mounts in. You don’t even have to have a screwdriver if you have a dime in your pocket because there’s only one little tap to remove and the edge of a dime fits so perfectly in the groove that I’m nearly sure the reel maker designed it that way on purpose.

Old Mitchells are notorious for broken bail springs and most fishermen don’t carry screwdrivers in their vests, so the thoughtful inventor made repairing one much more convenient.

Sitting beside the table I have an old chair with a thick spring cushion. It screeches something awful when you sit or move around on it because the springs are rusty and there’s no way to oil them without getting WD-40 all over the material and eventually on your britches.

Still standing, I took the bail off and removed the old spring and made sure the new one was the right size before plopping down in my chair so I could see how to line it up in the mounting holes.

As soon as I sat down, I felt something wiggle in the cushion and I’m thinking field mice because it would not be the first time they’d taken up residence in my garage. But when I stood up I noticed the surface of the cushion was moving more than I thought a mouse would do so I figured chipmunk. I bent over for a closer look, slapped the cush- ion and glanced under the chair to see if it was going to come out at which point I found myself staring into the eyes of the biggest snake head I’ve ever seen in my life and it was darting its tongue at me, no farther than a foot from my nose, like it meant real business.

I fell backward, hit the wobbly sawhorse which fell across my chest and watched in sheer terror as the snake slithered out of the bottom of the chair and across both my ankles. I’ve seen shorter freight trains but I’ve never been run over by one. And, given a choice between train and a monster snake, I think I’d take my chances on the railroad bed being soft.

Somehow I had enough sense not to kick because that would have put the reptile farther up my legs. I swear this thing was bigger around than my arm and I still believe it could have be measured in yards instead of feet in length.

Then it disappeared under the boards and mowers and I threw the sawhorse in the direction it seemed to be headed.

I didn’t have a hoe or anything else I could fight it with so I quickly climbed up on the table just in time to see it escaping under the garage door. I’m telling you, comparing it to a train is not much of an exaggeration.

I got outside just in time to see the last few feet of it disappearing under the fence and headed toward Charlie Brown’s old place. Charlie’s grandson, Kevin, and son of our banker, Joe Brown, is remodeling that wonderful home. If you see Joe or Kevin tell ’em to get the biggest hoe they can find, to watch out for the cow sucker and don’t be sitting on any of Charlie’s old easy chairs.

In the meantime, as soon as I can hit the send button here in a minute, I’ll be headed for Bluegrass Hardware where I intend to purchase all the Snake Away that Larry has in stock. Then I’m going to spend the rest of the day cleaning out my garage.

Let me know if you need a nice old chair with a thick spring cushion. It has to go. It does squeak pretty bad but you could probably oil it right up. If there are any baby snakes in it, they’ll probably crawl right off.

In the further meantime, I’m moving a solid wood rocker into our living room.

It may be years before I sit down in anything with a cushion on it.

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