Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Small Memory in Idaho #3

This was from when I was a kid and we--as a family--camped out along the Snake River. I don't recall exactly where it was, but I remember the river because I liked snakes a lot when I was a boy. We camped a lot of places out west when we lived in Vancouver--we were a family of seven, which was expensive, so Father had bought a big Coleman tent and Coleman sleeping bags (actually, the first trip we took only blankets and everyone froze at night, hence the purchase of sleeping bags) and eventually a Coleman camp stove, lantern, even a gas space heater and that was our vacation package: tents and bags and a full tank of gas in our deep green Ford Falcon station wagon and western highways and western campgrounds. (Coleman with their forest green and deep red hunting colors, the patterns of pines and pheasants, are still iconic to me.) So, along the Snake River we were. Camp was set. Off we kids went to explore. We met up with some other boy--about my age, I think--and struck up one of those quick, kid-only kinds of friendships. So, he hung with us as we scoured the rocks of the river beneath the dryish mountains and the pine forest.
I remember that that boy and I were goofing around along the banks of the Snake, doing kid things, when all of a sudden we heard this hissing behind us. We ignored it, but the hissing came louder, more insistent. We turned around but all that was there was a clump of tall grasses, maybe a juniper, some rocks. But there was no mistake to us: the hissing was a snake (it was the Snake River, after all). Probably a rattler . . . Well, we took off yelling. Scared. And then out from the grass jumps Oldest Brother. Laughing. He was the rattlesnake. And he was always pulling such stunts--nothing big or especially mean, but pranks pulled often enough to trouble some of us in the family more than others.
But one more thing from that camp, that trip: along the Snake River I caught a blue crayfish. Now, I loved animals, creatures and such. I had those guide books and children's books about animals from different areas of the country, areas of the world, and I'd study them like a little PhD scientist when I was a boy. Over and over and over. And I liked crayfish and I'd seen photos of blue crayfish and knew it was rare to see one and here I was, along the Snake in Idaho, and saw one among the rocks we were overturning and I reached into the cold shallow waters and pulled it up.
I don't remember if I let it go. I don't remember if I killed it.

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