My earliest memories of life seem to start with the outdoors. I can recall a day one summer long ago; my friend, Snowball and I in the yard playing "keep the stick away from the boy". It was his favorite game. I also enjoyed that simple game of running after him trying to teach him the art of retrieving a stick that I had seen a bird dog do once before for my dad. He had his own ideas about how the game was to be conducted, and I just had fun playing with him no matter how many times I had to forcibly remove the stick from him.
Snowball was a small white dog with short legs and long ears. He was white, completely, all over. He seemed to understand my very thoughts when it came time to eat or finding some place to play in the water, like the ditch next to the corncrib.
We always liked to play in the corncrib, because that was where we could "hunt" for rats. Sometimes we even ran across our neighbor's cat. He was a big tabby male and he made a serious opponent for both of us when we had him cornered.
Well this day started out just like most for a small boy and his best buddy. We shared breakfast, when mama wasn't watching and then we went outside to make history. First he ran and found a stick and started his favorite game. I just didn't want to play that game so I looked at him and said snowball let's go see Lucy.
Lucy was the farm mule that didn't get much work except for the garden. We had a modern farm. At that time we used the new orange colored tractor in the fields, but Lucy was Queen in the garden. At that time in history no self-respecting farmer would use a tractor for the purpose of tilling the ground where you would raise your food. Lucy was always happy to see us especially me. I would take something she craved as much as I did, Biscuits and molasses. When I called her name she answered and came over to the gate. She took the biscuit knowing what would happen next. I walked under her and reach out for her chin hair and led her to the side of the stable. There I could climb up the side of the stable and jump over to her back grab a hand full of mane and go for ride. Getting off was much easier than getting on. I would wrap my arms around her neck and kind of fall off sliding down her front leg till I got to the ground. She was always patient, understanding and knowledgeable of what I wanted her to do. She knew when to stand and when to walk. She never moved when I was crossing under her belly. A perfect lady she was. I never understood when Dad called her a stubborn mule. She always listened to me.
After "the ride on the prairie" Snowball and I decided it was time to go to the corncrib and eradicate the rats from the corn. When I opened the door to the crib Snowball was ready for action. He started his barking. He knew what was coming. I had to wait for him to jump in the door then I climbed in behind him. Well no cats. Let's find some rats Snowball, I said.
I started beating on the sides of the crib to kind of stir-up the rats. There's one; I yelled to Snowball. Like a flash, Snowball was after him. I could hear the rat squeal and Snowball growling as he was digging in the corn trying to get him. I started helping Snowball dig the corn away form around where the rat had disappeared. The corn stored in the crib was to be used for feed to the livestock on the farm so it was still on the cob also the "shucks"(husk) were still on the ears. I started throwing ears of corn over my head because we were not going to let that rat get away.
As we were digging away the corn snowball found a cavity that was big enough for him to follow the rat deep into the stacked corn. He charged in after the rat. I was yelling, "get him Snowball". I started digging faster. Then I heard my buddy make a sound that could only be made from fear and pain. That nasty rat was hurting him. "I'm going to kill that rat", I said out loud. I was throwing corn like a conveyor belt now; no nasty rat was going to hurt my dog.
I finally got to the cavity where Snowball was and I reach out for him still partially covered by the ears of corn. Then I saw it. "SNAKE"!! I yelled and jumped back. It looked to me as if a snake was eating Snowball. I could see a ball of white surrounded by a coral of blackish brown with Snowball crying for help. He was frightened and I knew he was dying by the sounds he was making.
I couldn't let a snake kill my dog. I grabbed Snowball's leg that was not wrapped in the coil of snake and pulled it from the cavity. With him came the snake attached to Snowball's head and chest all wrapped in a ball. There was more snake than dog, but that didn't stop me. I reached for the snake and grabbed him. I had an ear of corn in my hand so I use it as a club to try and separate the snake from Snowball. I beat the snake with the ear of corn, all the while Snowball was crying for help and it seemed he was getting weaker. I would beat the snake and pull him from Snowball.
Finally I had Snowball almost free. I hadn't notice; I was saving my dog, but freeing snowball from the snake had given the snake the opportunity to wrap himself around my arm. All the way to my shoulder on the left arm was covered in SNAKE, but Snowball had to be saved. Once Snowball's body was free he launched himself to a safe distance. I was still beating the snake with the ear of corn. He wasn't letting go nor was he trying to get away. I yelled to Snowball "help me boy'.
The hair on his back was standing straight up and his ears were folded back. He came back, grabbed the snake by the head and pulled. While he was pulling and shaking the snake's head I was beating the snake's body with the ear of corn. We finally got free from the snake and we killed him. As snakes do he was still moving when we buried him in the cornfield so we wouldn't have to explain to mama how we came to have a snake in our possession.
After we buried the snake we carried the shovel back to the shed. I looked at Snowball and he looked at me. He licked his lips, shook his tail as if he were saying "thanks buddy". I patted him on the head and said, "I love you too boy, let's go eat ".
Most of the days spent with Snowball were not as eventful as the day with the Snake, but they were all wonderful. A boy and his best buddy learning the simple pleasures that life offers to us if we just do it. We did return to the corncrib later to hunt more rats. We were much more cautious, remembering the ordeal of the snake, and entering the corncrib was never taken lightly again. Snowball and I understood what we meant to one another after that day; each fulfilling an ancient tradition of love, teamwork and if necessary, sacrifices. On that early summer day we had truly entered "The realm of "Dangerous Game".
I miss you Snowball.