When I was Young No. 1; Lowell and the Big Worm

Well, OK then. I changed my mind and will include my hits on the head in the same sequence as the draft for my grandchildren.

Lowell and the Big Worm

As told to me:

I was nearly four years old and Lowell was just over two in the late summer or early autumn of 1940. Mother, pregnant with David, Lowell and I lived in a log and rough cut board cabin across the Missouri River from Sanish, ND. The inside wall that separated the kitchen area from the sleeping area was constructed of rough cut boards. The rough cut board over dirt floor was covered in places with patches of linoleum. The one window above the sink, which drained into a five gallon bucket, and the one in the sleeping room were also trimmed with those boards.

There was no electricity but the days were long enough to have more light than dark. Water for drinking, washing up, bathing and watering the garden came from the river just over 100 yards away. The gray water from the sink drain was poured around the edge of the garden so soap and other solids were filtered before they reached the always thirsty plant roots.

The outhouse was about 100 feet farther away from the river in a sparse grove of cottonwood trees. In one sense, that made us no worse off than people in Sanish. Most homes there had an outhouse and no indoor plumbing. When the outhouse benches were washed, gray water from the kitchen drain was used. There was little other waste. Even the skins from the vegetables grown in the small garden were cooked and consumed or buried along the edge of the garden as compost.

Vegetables in the form of home canned corn, green beans, peas, and beets along with the last of the potatoes from the prior year’s harvest were available from the log and mud covered root cellar dug into the ground behind the cabin. All but the beans were often eaten without being cooked. Because of the fear and great possibility of botulism, green beans were always boiled for twenty minutes. The first solid food children of our income was any vegetable pressed through a hand rotated meat grinder or potato ricer. Any bone-in meat, a rare treat for Mother, was eaten to the gristle and the left over bone was sometimes used over to flavor soup. The cooked and cooled soup bones and occasional table scraps went to our pet wire haired terrier named Jiggs.

One day Mother either asked me or told me to find Lowell. He was always running off and I’m sure she feared that he would go down by the river and stumble into the deep fast moving water. I found him standing by the garden as if frozen but with tears running down his face. Not in continuous motion was rare for him. And, neither was crying without sound his nature. I soon found out why he was motionless and silently crying.

There was a large snake coiled a few feet in front him. Being a year and a half older did not make me an expert on snakes. I thought it was just a giant night crawler like those I had seem Mother put on a hook and cast into the river. I may have considered picking it up but I became as afraid as Lowell appeared to be.

Either my commands that Mother wanted him or my instructions were not powerful enough to stir him. He remained motionless.  I ran to the cabin where Mother was finishing the lunch she had started when she asked me to find him. I told her that Lowell was being scared by a big worm. She knew that both bull snakes and rattle snakes were common on the west side of the river. She grabbed a garden hoe from outside the cabin door and ran to the garden.

Lowell and I watched as she chopped the snake into bite size pieces. I guess Jiggs might have eaten them; Mother said we did not.

I never knew for sure if it was rattle snake or a bull snake until I was a teenager when Mother filled in some of the details she had not shared before. It was a bull snake and they were not aggressive but she did not know until her first chop removed its head.

After David was born, we moved to Montana.

2 thoughts on “When I was Young No. 1; Lowell and the Big Worm

    1. Jan,
      Thanks for following my blog.
      My current and near future posts will be shorts I am writing for my grandkids, but others in my family will see the shorts in this medium.
      I will be sending my Chapter Zero via your E-mail.


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