Letter to the Editor

Born 50 years too soon

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Years ago, when I was growing up, there was a cartoon strip in a newspaper headed with the caption, "Born Thirty Years Too Soon." This came to mind when I saw recent Gazette pictures of baseball size hailstones, lined up in a row, and a coiled rattlesnake on a road. Photography has come a long way during my lifetime.

My hailstorm story wasn't backed up with a picture, but I did put two baseball size hailstones in the freezer that day. It was in July 1950 and began as a perfect harvest day; dry, with no dew that morning, a gentle breeze and temperature forecast for the high nineties. All that changed by mid-afternoon, when dark clouds built up in the northwest.

The harvest crew just made it to the farmyard and into the Quonset shop before the baseball size hailstones began hammering it. Two members of the crew said it sounded like World War II all over again. Those dents were still visible on that steel building 50 years later, when I visited the old Harris farm site about 14 miles southwest of McCook. That day in 1950 ended with the wheat harvest over in 30 minutes and every roof on the place leaking like a sieve.

My rattlesnake story would be better if there had been another witness, besides our little dog. I was home alone that day. The men folks were helping a relative move his household goods to Fremont.

The coyotes were so bold, we had to keep my chickens penned up till after nine a.m. So, they were in an eight-foot high wire pen in front of the chicken house. I was ready to go through the gate with buckets of water and feed when I stopped in my tracks. The sight in front of me was unbelievable!

The 50 or 60 hens were standing like frozen statues with their necks stretched up and their eyes riveted straight ahead on a coiled rattlesnake outside the chicken house door. The snake's head was stretched up, too, and it was weaving it back and forth ever so slightly, eyeing the chickens - (or hypnotizing them.)

As soon as I could collect my wits, I ran to the shop and grabbed a long-handled spade. Back in the chicken pen, nothing had changed and I was able to get close enough to land two good chops with that good, sharp, long-handled spade. When I saw the nearly severed head, I backed out the gate and leaned on the gatepost until my knees quit trembling. Then I scooped the dead snake up on the spade and took it out to the road, a long way from the chicken pen.

After relating my harrowing experience and expecting to hear words of praise on my outstanding bravery, my husband Elmore calmly asked, "Did you cut off the rattles and clean off the spade?"


"No rattles, no picture - no proof."

Where were cell phones when we really needed them?

EDITOR's NOTE -- Mrs. Harris, 92, lives in Jameson, Mo. She says her niece still keeps the spade sharp, but hopes never to have to use it to chop up a snake. Mrs. Harris' book, "Recollections and Collections," is available at the Museum of High Plains Historical Society in McCook.

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