|August in Oklahoma can be brutal. The mix of unyielding temperatures exceeding one-hundred degrees and smothering humidity creates an atmosphere of crankiness and misery. Add to that, three children stuck in a house bickering with each other over the slightest thing, and it becomes clear why my mother at last gave in to the idea that we we no longer needed parent supervision to go the pond.
My sister and brother were old enough without question, being sixteen and fifteen respectively. I, however, was the baby of the family, a mere ten-years-old. It wasn’t my immaturity or lack of safety around the water that had kept us from going. It was the mix of our personalities and the gap in ages. Tormenting me was one of their favorite past times. They would tell me there was a snake or a wasp on me, and a hundred times I obliged them by reacting with screams and cries. This brought them laughter and my mother headaches.
But on this day, Mother was already at her wit’s end. She pushed us out the door with instructions to fish, swim, explore, whatever – just give her peace. We ran for the barn anxious to gather the fishing poles and inner tubes. The smothering heat didn't bother us because we got to explore the pond for the first time without adult eyes following our every move.
"Keep up! You're not gonna slow us down or get in the way." My brother's warning was met with my infamous eye rolling.
I loved floating around the water in an old inner tube. My brother and sister were the fishermen. They competed with each other in every aspect, keeping track of who caught the biggest fish, the first fish, the most fish, the smallest fish, and on and on. I loved the feel of the cool water, and as long as I stayed on my side of the pond not disturbing their precious fish we got along just fine.
The sun beat down on me as I pretended to float like a princess surrounded by servants in her castle pool. Bloodcurdling screams suddenly interrupted my imagination. Startled, I tipped over taking in quite a bit of scummy pond water. When I surfaced, I saw my brother running along the shore. He was dragging the line of fish he caught, yelling as if Satan himself were after him. Swimming toward him, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was another cruel trick.
"I'm not falling for it this time!" My voice didn't sound as convincing I had hoped.
It was only after I stopped to tread water and saw the panic in my sister’s eyes as he handed her the fish did I realize this was no trickery. Now they were both running like an Olympic relay team that’s lost direction. Around the pond they went dragging these fish, yelling with fear.
"They're your fish! You take 'em!" my sister screamed to no avail as my brother ran in the opposite direction.
Finally, I saw it. The biggest black snake alive was chasing them! What I couldn’t understand was why they didn’t just let go of the fish; that’s what the vile reptile wanted. Parallel with them now, not far from shore, I yelled my words of wisdom, “Drop the fish!”
My sister obviously thinking this was brilliant didn’t just drop the fish, she hurled them into the pond precisely in my direction. To this day, she swears it wasn’t intentional. I swam that pond at the speed of Daddy’s best racehorse as that snake slithered its evil body in the water, searching to devour the fish. As I tried to scurry up the opposite bank, I slipped. I was convinced the snake had my leg and started begging my sister to rescue me. I felt two hands reach out for me - one was my sister’s and the other my brother’s. Both had come dashing to my rescue. We lay on the bank crying and laughing, and made a pact not to tell Mom of our adventure for fear the pond would become off limits once again.
A brief silence overtook our mayhem as we looked at one another. Though we would never dream of verbalizing it, for a split-second we realized how much we meant to each other. It was one of those rare moments that mix the innocence of childhood with a glimpse of the wisdom that comes with maturity.
WC - 692