One of the more puzzling parts of parenting is what to do when your boy is Taint.
Taint is that awkward period that, for boys, seems to last between 16 and 26 years of age. They taint kids anymore, but they taint full-growed adults, either.
This story was shared with me by Kenny Siefert of Springport, Michigan. I claim to have taken artistic license with it. That way, anybody mentioned in this story can claim..."That never happened. He just made that part up."
Kenny was a third shift electrician. It suited how he chose to live life. He was a farmer who raised about 30 Angus-Simmental cross beef calves a year. Beef farming was good to him. It paid the taxes without placing undue demands on his time. Mostly, it gave him an excuse to get out of the house.
One of Kenny's favorite passtimes was to run the woods with "Rattlesnake" Dick Haley. "Rattlesnake" is an uncommon nickname in Michigan, so it merits some explaining. "Rattlesnake" fell into a deal with a local pharmaceutical company that was breaking into the anti-venom trade. They needed a goodly supply of rattlesnakes on a steady basis, and that is where "Rattlesnake" shone.
There is only one species of rattlesnake native to Michigan, the pathetic Massasauga Rattlesnake.
Rattlesnakes like it HOT! Michigan is not. So the Massasauga Rattlesnake is about as at-home in Michigan as an anorexic Los Angeles model on a Steelhead stream in November.
"Rattlesnake" had this all figured out. A lifetime of hunting mushrooms, picking berries and tomatoes and gathering firewood informed his uncanny ability to fill a bag with snakes.
Some people claimed he could smell them.
Kenny liked nothing better than stomping around the woods with "Rattlesnake" rolling rotten stumps over, looking for 'rattlers. The most fun was when you took a new guy. Typically, the rattlesnakes will just lay there, coiled up and as energetic as a hobo with a moonshine hangover. But sometimes there would be a Blue Racer beneath the stump and they are LIVELY. And you cannot always bang out a quick ID as you squint through the bottoms of your steamed up bi-focals. The new guys gave some amazing lessons on levitation until they figured out that rattlesnakes don't move.
On one expedition, "Rattlesnake" and Kenny did really well. They collected well over their quota, even after letting the bent-up ones go. Kenny asked if he could try to keep one of the extras.
You see, the reason the pharmaceutical company needed a steady supply is because rattlesnakes cannot be kept in captivity. They just don't eat. They wither away. Kenny knew he had a fair hand at getting sick calves to eat and thought he would like to give rattlesnakes a whirl. There might be a little more money in it than in beef calves.
So Kenny picked out a healthy looking 24 inch specimen and installed it in a styrofoam beer cooler. He put a piece plate glass over the top and furnished it with a few chunks of wood and a rock or two.
Mostly, Kenny concentrated on collecting "pinkies", hairless baby mice he would find beneath bales of hay. He thought he got the snake to eat one or two but could not be sure. He was not too keen on sticking his hand in the cooler and stirring around the furniture to see if any of them had crawled out of sight.
After a month or two Kenny kind of lost interest due to bow hunting season's imminent approach.
Kenny's sonKenny's son was Taint. He lived in a single-wide behind the barn where Mom did not have to feel obliged to keep an eye on him or get aggravated by what she might see.
Kenny's son put that styrofoam beer cooler on a low table where he could keep an eye on it. Kenny's son had a plan. He figured that a grown up snake probably wanted grown up meat...to heck with the veal. So he caught a mouse with a little hair on it and tossed it into the cooler. The mouse caught onto the plan pretty quick and commenced to doing Daytona qualification laps around the beer cooler. The snake must have been a NASCAR fan because he seemed to perk right up. Kenny's son could almost start counting the money.
Kenny's son had a girlfriend and he had learned a little bit of magic. He learned that if one carefully selected the right movie (An Officer and a Gentleman comes to mind), added generous amounts of cold Pink Chablis graciously served in Dixie cups, and make the mobile home cozy-toasty warm.....then clothes disappeared! This was a magic trick that he took great pleasure in practicing at every opportunity.
In anticipations of the evening's magic show, Kenny's son cranked up the thermostat to something north of 75 degrees and went to work.
Fast forwardWhile nibbling on his girlfriend's earlobe, Kenny's son's eyes strayed to the hither-to-forgotten snake cooler. There was a round, dark spot in the side that he did not remember being there before. The round spot was somewhere between the diameter of a quarter and a fifty cent piece.
Ever the gentlemen, he also noticed that his girlfriend's Dixie cup was empty. He asked if she would like some more refreshment, untangled himself and picked up the cups. He just happened to walk by the cooler on the way to the refrigerator and look through the plate glass cover. No mouse. No snake.
After handing the-love-of-his-life her cup, he casually asked her, "So, what do you think about snakes?"
One thing led to another. We can assume that the situation was exacerbated by the feelings of vulnerability that accompany being dressed in only panties and a bra. She stood on the exact, geometric center of the coffee table after kicking off all the stray "cover" that might provide an approach for assault by a snake.
I have great sympathy for the boy. Most people lose focus after hearing the words "venomous snake" and don't generally register words like, "small" and "sluggish" and "pet". Girls who have consumed copious quantities of Pink Chablis seem particularly unfocused in this regard.
The mood was brokenThere are some distractions that you can recover from. Some are things that you can laugh about a year later. Passing gas....a door that blows open...a power failure.
Unfortunately for Kenny's son, having your girlfriend dance like a dervish for two hours while you hunt down a prime specimen of Michigan's only species of poisonous snake is not one of those savable events. At least not that evening. Not even when watching An Officer and a Gentleman.
In retrospect, recapturing the snake would have been far simpler if the trailer had not been carpeted with green-gold shag carpeting. At least, the carpet was green-gold in the few locations that were shielded from 20 years of hard living. And that is where he found the snake. It was stretched out along the baseboard behind the dresser in his bedroom. About 2 inches of the tail was visible.
Boys do a lot of learning and growing up in the Taint years. It just takes time.