The boy who cried SNAKE!
|Here’s a Dave & Lyle story.
There was a little boy in a shearing shed one time, a shed owned by bachelors whose relos were showies- Called carnies in the USA? But this happened on a sheep grazing property in Australia. It was in the early 1970’s.
Dave & Lyle’s relatives stored their excess or defunct / clearance side show alley paraphernalia in the far end of the farm shearing shed.
It was mid February the boy, too young to be at school, brought the entire shearing process to a halt in the middle of a “run”, unheard of unless injury, illness or strike. (Not the fly strike sort either)
A distant shout of the child’s voice pierced the clatter of woolshed machinery.
The plant disengagement ropes were yanked, the handpieces dropped to the lanoline stained floor, and there was quietness only interrupted at regular rhythm by the banging Lister stationary engine sulking on a lower level of the gloom. The last of the half shorn merino ewes were released back into catching pens to bury themselves behind the mob of astonished fine-wools.
For once the board of men stood there speechless.
Then with the deceptive casualness of country people when they feared a child was in danger, they fanned our to the far end of the wool bales, scraping tea chests of grubby sideshow prizes and ruined teddy bears out from the pile.
Ceylon was stencilled on the chests, but concern and determination was etched into each shearer’s face. Even the brothers who owned the place paid no heed that all work had ceased.
“Can’t see it over here.” One of them muttered.
“Here, Charlie. Grab these boxes while we check in some others.”
“Nothing in this one either.”
“Where’d you see it again mate?”
One of the shearers was the boys father.
They all paused, puffing, to hear the boys reedy little words,
“It was just in that one! It was a brown one with a red tongue.”
The lad pointed to a battered tea chest.
“Right!” said a shearer as he upended the heavy box of goods effortlessly, and the contents spilled out uncomfortably close to their feet.
There it was. The snake!
For a moment they all stared in awe. They’d all had an hour’s spell, an unscheduled break because of this.
They looked at the boy, whose face had been white with terror but was now burning with catastrophic embarrassment only a child understands.
Then, like a volcano erupting the laughter began.
After a time they ruffled the boys hair and trudged back to the stands, one by one pulling out a sheep to shear, still the occasional chuckle heard.
“It’s alright boy. It could have happened to any one of us!” a roustabout said, grinning. This yarn would be told over many a campfire, but probably not believed.
And the little boy couldn’t believe it himself. He looked again, with betrayal, at the brown rubber snake with the red tongue, a dusty sideshow alley prize won by some shearers, a couple of sheep farmers, and a red faced boy.