A Cobra in Iowa! Let’s Call Him Jonah.


1951

My sister is not an alarmist.  Instead, she is highly pragmatic about most situations, able to work through difficulties with success.  I personally think she sometimes waits too long to ask for assistance.

High water entrepreneurs from childhood

As young children Carolyn and I were taught how to generate income for spending money and for the purchase of birthday and Christmas gifts for other people in the family.  I guess you call us entrepreneurs–individuals that build capital through risk and personal initiative.  This was out of necessity since our parents had no discretionary money to even give us a small allowance.  So, if we wanted money, we had to do it the old fashion way.  We worked for it.  We were ahead of the curve with our schemes to make a buck.  Both of us were hoarders, so before long the interest from our savings were earning us more money than our actual income. We picked up the corn that had fallen on the ground during harvest.  We could usually get one wagonload during the months of October and November.  Our lawn mowing service was always good for a few bucks in the summer.  We tried raise night crawlers…bummer.  We managed to get all neighbors to subscribe to Capper’s Weekly.  My sister detasseled corn.  Even our projects and livestock at the county fair garnered more money in premiums than we actually spend during an entire week of food and entertainment.  My cousin and I figured out a system so we could turn a profit while playing the games on the midway, and I doubt that the so-called “carnies” were happy to see us walk up to specific games with a smile on our face.

One of our micro-businesses was picking up hickory nuts or walnuts in the fall, then cracking them and picking out the meat of the nut during the winter to sell to people too lazy to do it for themselves.  And, let me tell you there are a lot of those people out there.  It was tedious work, but it kept us busy on cold snowy evenings for the three frigid months when the black and white television reception was so pathetic in the country.

One fall afternoon Carolyn was underneath one of our least productive shag-barked hickory trees while I had gone to the tool shed for a hammer to see whether the nuts that year were good or not.  Sometimes, depending on the weather, a particular tree would provide good meat.  This tree was directly across road in front of both the house and just a loud shout from the garage.

She began to scream as if the very devil was after her, “It’s a cobra…It’s a cobra…Holy cow…Help me!”   I ran to see what she had seen, knowing before I arrived that there are no cobras in Iowa.  But, there it lay camouflaged in a small clump of dried leaves, a small cobra to be certain, but large enough to send me running to find my father.  Carolyn would never have noticed it had she not nearly placed her hand on it as she reached for a hickory nut.

Dad was skeptical as well.  He grinned and said, “that’s impossible, but let’s go take a look.”  On the way, he did swing by the shed to grab a garden hoe to kill the serpent.  When we arrived, the snake had not moved one iota.  Dad knew that was strange with all the yelling and commotion we had made.  He moved in for the kill.  After severing the business end of the snake from the rest of the body, he quickly identified it as a harmless garden snake—probably the most common snake in Iowa.  But this creature was definitely shaped differently from any he had seen.  It did have a head like a cobra, but upon a closer look it was possible to see that the mouth of the snake was stretched around a large “something” that had been swallowed and was well on its way toward the digestive track of the snake.  Dad took his pocketknife and extracted the “something” by cutting both sides of the head of snake.  Since Dad had struck the snake well below its head, he discovered a toad that was still alive and able to hop away from its near death experience.  We called him Jonah.

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