This Blog includes; Short Stories, Poetry, Life Stories, Satire, Humor, photography, travelogues political commentary and Fiction by DON BOBBITT. I am originally from Lynchburg Virginia, and I have traveled to many interesting places over my life. I continue to travel, today, gathering new Life Experiences and great photography. These are my writings, and I place them here for your enjoyment and I hope you will read and share them.
How a Kid starts a Business - Growing Up on Craig Street--Snake Business
A wonderful and true story of a young boys adventure one summer in Lynchburg Virginia. It describes a couple of young boys and their scheme to get rich by capturing snakes and making snakeskin belts.
A Childhood Story about Kids and Commercial Enterprise
When I was a Kid, I and my friends were always getting into trouble.
Looking back, i now see that it was a part of our right of passage into adulthood.
We were that kind of Kids that just had to learn things ourselves. And usually we had to learn these lessons the hard way, regardless of the cost.
In this story I am relating an instance when my friends and I decided that we were going to start a business of our own by capturing Snakes and using their hides to make Snakeskin belts and other such items.
In our ignorance, we had no real fear of the snakes, and we truly felt that we were going to make ourselves rich with these silly snakes.
Living in the Fairview Heights area of Lynchburg Virginia, which was a lower middle class neighborhood, kids like myself, were free to roam the neighborhood and get into all kinds of things, just for the fun of it.
And the consequences to the kid back then were never as dangerous and frightful as they are today, or so it seemed to us. I mean, what's so bad about a little whuppin' if you have a good time.
At that time,in the late fifties, things were a lot different, in so many ways, than they are today, and back then, a young man could reach for his dreams, and it wasn't catastrophic if he failed a few times. Those were the lessons you learned.
So, here is my story of a few kids' attempt one summer to become rich.
My Friend Martin
When I was around ten or eleven years old, a new kid moved into the neighborhood. Their house was one street away from mine and we quickly became good friends.
The first thing that everyone always said about Martin was that he was just a great guy. Everyone has met a few people like him.
He was friendly to everyone, and never had a cross word or bad thing to say about anyone.
They say that; you don't pick your friends, they pick you.
Well, somehow, Martin decided I should be his friend, and we were best buddies for a couple of years, during that part of my life.
We stayed friends until his death a decade or so ago, and his was one of those friendships you look back on and smile to yourself as the memories flood through your head.
It was always great to drop in on Martin at his house. You see, both of his parents were Deaf-Mutes. Now, that in itself wasn't so great, of course.
But, there was one really cool thing that Martin could do, that no other kid I ever knew, could do. You see, Martin's parents, both of them, were totally Deaf.
He was able to turn his record player or radio volume wide open when he played his favorite music.Any time he wanted.
His parents, obviously, had no clue what he was doing. So often, when I would be walking up the street, I would hear music. I might be 200 or 300 feet away, and there would be, a song like Elvis Presley singing "Return to Sender", blasting through the walls and windows of their house.
I would stop and ring the doorbell, which actually didn't ring anything, but lit a pair of lamps in their Living Room and Bedroom.
When one of his parents opened the door for me, they would always wave me in and point to Martins room.I had no clue how to Sign, so we didn't communicate much.
They must have thought I was the biggest idiot in town, because I would already be laughing about the loud music, and when they opened the door, my smile stretched even wider.
I would walk into Martins room and the sound of the music would be so loud, that he had to turn it down so we could talk.
We would then sit around in his room for hours, and as with any normal boys our age, we talked mostly about; Rock and Roll, Girls, school, and what we were going to do when we grew up. And, of course, how bored we were.
Often, out of boredom, we would just go out and walk around the neighborhood, looking for trouble or just something challenging to get into. Whichever ever came first.
Picking on Dogs
I mentioned that Martin was a really nice guy. I figured I was to, but we were also pretty young, and we were bored most of the time that Summer. We were really looking for something to do.
One day, we were sitting on Martins back porch steps and just throwing rocks at the neighbors dog.
Hey ..... that Dog didn't like us, or pretty much anyone else that walked by. It was big, and looked like a cross between a BullDog and something else. It would jump up on the neighbors fence and growl and bark at you until you disappeared down the street.
Martin said that the dog was so dangerous that it had actually bitten the paper-boy last year and the neighbor had then been forced to put up a fence in his back yard to contain the dog.
Back to our Dog game.
Every time it looked like the dog would start to calm down, Martin and I would get up from the shade of the back porch steps and walk over to his Dad's work shed.
There we would root out a nice rock about the size of a quarter from the small gravel walking path that Martins dad had made between the shed and the house.
When we stood up, that mean old dog would stop barking, spread his legs out in a wide stance, lower his head and stare at us with a low rumbling sound coming from his throat. He knew exactly what we were going to do.
He knew it, and we knew it.
We would walk slowly just like in the movie The Showdown at the OK Corral. We would smile and exaggerate our walk, pretending to be the Sheriff in the movie, until we reached the end of the gravel path.
Then Martin and I would look at each other, and one of us would nod towards the left side or right side of the dog. Immediately we would both draw back and throw our rocks to the selected side of the dog.
You see, we figured that he was going to jump in one direction or the other. Our previous experience told us the dog definitely would not stand still if you threw a rock directly at him.
Uncannily, the dog would, nine out of ten times, read our body language, and jump in the other direction. We rarely hit that dog, but when we did, you would think we had killed it.
It would run around in a couple of circles, yelp, and howl for a minute or so, and then try to run right through that fence to get to us. Growling and barking with a renewed vigor.
We thought this was great fun, and we played this game for an hour or so, for about two weeks until Martins Dad caught him at it one evening. He told me later that he got a major Ass-Whipping for teasing the dog, and we couldn't do it anymore.
But, on this day, his Dad was at work, so we felt safe returning to our rock throwing sport.
While we were keeping one eye on the street, just in case Martins Dad came home early, and one on our Dog, we started discussing what else we could do for fun.
We let our minds have free rein and talked about all kinds of things.
Let's climb Candlers Mountain and camp out at the top. (We had no camping gear)
Let's walk all the way into the city and see what is playing at the Movies. (We had no Money)
Let's start a Paper Route (We had no Clue how to even start. Where did the kids with routes get those newspapers anyway?)
Let's steal some Oranges from the Store, and sell them to people at a Stoplight. (We dropped this one fast, because we knew our Dads would actually Kill us.)
Then out of the Blue, Martin said. Let's catch some Snakes and make belts out of their skin!
I was Stunned! I was amazed! I was scared! I started to laugh at him, but when I looked at him closely I realized that he was serious.
As he explained it all to me, Martin became more excited by the idea.
He told me that he had been reading a magazine from the Library on snakes, and learned that people made boots and belts and a lot of other things out of Snake skins. And it was easy!
I thought about it, and we beat it around for a little longer, and within about ten minutes, we had a business that we were going to start.
We spent the rest day discussing all of the money that we were going to make, and how we were going to spend it.
Our Snake Source
We both knew where to get our Snakes!
At the end of my street, Craig Street, there was a large Lumber company. They had acres and acres of stacks of rough cut lumber.
They also had a big Saw Mill, and an enormous mound of sawdust, hundreds of feet tall.
It was irresistible to a Kid. Imagine climbing and then sliding down such a tall mountain of Sawdust on a piece of cardboard. What fun we had!
On the other end of the Lumber Yard was a creek-fed Pond. The Pond supplied water for some part of their Lumber cutting business.
I am not sure exactly what they did with it, but it was a large glorious Pond, covering maybe an acre of land.
It was deep enough to swim in, and there was a nice creek that fed into the Pond on one end, and out the other end. All of this was surrounded by several acres of dense woods.
Is it any wonder that every kid within a mile of this section of woods and this beautiful Pond had snuck down to swim and fish in the Pond, as well as hunt in the woods, and fish in the Creek..
We kids were such a problem that the Lumber company had hired an old man, put a guards uniform on him, and told him to go out and run all of us neighborhood kids away.
Well, that was what we thought his job was back then, anyway. And he tried!.
But, he was Old and Slow, we were Young and Fast, so his success rate was near zero every Summer.
There was actually, one stupid Kid that really stopped when the Guard told him to. He ended up with a serious whipping, and being grounded for the Summer after the guard carried him home to his parents.
Anyway, by this time, Martin and I had learned how to make "forked sticks" from young Hickory trees, and we both had scrounged a pair of work gloves from our respective Dads workshops.
According to Martin that was all we needed to be professional Snake Catchers. He saw it on a movie, of course.
We, and every other Kid, knew that the Pond had plenty of Water Moccasins, the Woods held plenty of Rattle snakes, and the rows of Lumber was full of Black snakes that lived on the Rats.
After much discussion we decided to train ourselves on the Black snakes, because they were not poisonous. Then, when we became really good at it, we would move on to the Rattle snakes and the Water Moccasins.
The Water Moccasins worried us a little because we hadn't figured exactly how we could catch them in the middle of the Pond. But that was a detail for later.
We had Snakes to catch!
Needing an accomplice
The first couple of times we went across the fence to the Lumber Yard, we ended up being run away by that damned guard.
We would walk in to the area where the Lumber was kept, and he would pop around a corner and start waddling up the rows and yelling at us.
I swear he looked like a clown with his contorted red face, his big belly hanging over his leather belt, and rivers of sweat running down his face from under his shiny black Cops hat brim.
I don't know how he didn't croak right there between those stacks of fresh-cut lumber.
He acted like we were trying to steal the Lumber itself, and it was his own personal property. Jeez!
Martin and I sat down that evening, and considered our options.
It was obvious that this guard was going to be a major pain to our operation. Finally, we decided that we needed to bring someone else in as a Lookout, so the two of us could concentrate on our job.
Our selection criteria was that the person had to be willing to help us, but at the same time, he had to be stupid enough to do it without getting a cut of our pending fortunes.
Tough criteria indeed!
We spent another day walking around the neighborhood doing a Dick Tracy!
You know, we would walk up to a potential candidate, and ask what we thought were brilliant and indirect questions, while trying our best not to give anything away about what we were really doing.
Well, after confusing a number of the kids in the neighborhood, we saw Billy walking home from the store. Billy was perfect. He was a couple of years younger than Martin and I, so he looked up to us.
Billy was also kind of slow! The most used word in his vocabulary was ..... Huh?
He didn't have a lot of friends because they tired pretty fast of constantly explaining things to him. Over and Over!
We explained that we needed his help for a secret project, twice. On the third try, his face finally lit up with a big smile, and we had him.
We told him to meet us at the gate to the Lumber Yard the next day, and he walked away the smiling like he was the happiest kid in town.
Our first snake
The next day, we picked up Billy at the gate, and we snuck into the Lumbar Yard. The Hunt was on!
The first thing we did was to walk Billy down to the end of a row of the stacks of lumber, and spend a while explaining his job. He was to keep hidden but also keep an Eagle-eye out for that pesty guard.
We told him that if he saw the guard, he was supposed to whistle to us and then run. All of us would then meet back at the gate again and decide what to do next.
As Martin and I walked between the stacks of fresh cut lumber, I was distracted by the wonderful smell.
Even today, I believe that there is really nothing like the smell of fresh cut Oak or Pine lumber.
When you then stack these planks together on skids, to cure and dry, they emit such a strong sweet odor that it is almost intoxicating. I guess that's one reason I always liked helping Dad in his wood-working shop. The smells from the Lumber was so enjoyable.
Anyway, we walked between the piles of lumber for a short distance, and broke out our snake hunting gear; the forked sticks and our gloves.
I told Martin that one of us should go to the other side of the Lumber stacks, and beat on the stacks. The other guy would then wait until a snake came out, and trap him with their handy forked sticks. Simple!
So, Martin beat on the stacks of wood, while I stood ready to pounce on the flood of Black snakes that would appear shortly.
We had been doing this for about ten minutes, and Martin had beat the Hell out of at least five or six stacks of lumber when two things happened.
One was that nothing, not even a spider had tried to leave the stacks while Martin whaled away with his forked stick.
The other? Well, I sensed something weird and slowly looked behind me.
I nearly jumped out of my skin. There, not a foot behind me, was Billy with that stupid grin on his lips, and a quizzical look in his eye.
After I jumped back, I asked him: What the Hell are you doing Billy?
To which he replied: What the Hell are you doing Don?
Not a brilliant response to my question but that smile was still stretched across his face.
I couldn't tell if he was that stupid, or if he was smarter than I thought, and was just screwing with me.
Meanwhile, Martin had heard us talking, and had wriggled between two of the Lumber stacks and joined us. I looked at him and we both turned to Billy and explained that we were trying to scare some Black Snakes out of the stacks of lumber.
This took a little time, of course. It was Billy!
Well, Billy's smile widened even more and he asked: Will you take one that's laying in the Sun?
In unison we responded with: What?
Billy then explained that not ten feet from where we had left him to be our Lookout, was a really nice Black snake just laying there in the Sun.
We beat him down that what he thought was a snake was probably a piece of old water hose or something else, because Black snakes were smart and fast, and on and on. I mean he just had to be wrong. Right?
Finally, we gave up and followed him back down the stacks to where he had stood before. He pointed over to a patch of scraggly weeds and dirt.
And, there was the fattest Blackest snake we had ever seen. It was about five foot long, and obviously had been eating well.
Martin and I sprang in to action.
We took a firm grip on our forked sticks, and began to walk Indian Style towards the snake.
You know, you put the ball of your feet down first instead of your heel, and moved real slow so that you don't make any noise in the woods .... just like an Indian.
We had learned this old and secret trick, of the Indians, from the Westerns we saw at the Saturday matinees we went to each Saturday. All of us kids knew how to walk Indian style in the woods.
When we got almost on top of the snake, it started to move sluggishly, and we both pounced. Martin got the snake right behind the head with his forked stick, just like you are supposed to, while I missed the damned thing by about two inches.
I swiftly reacted, two more times,until I finally had pinned that snake about halfway down it's fat body, so it was officially caught.
Here, though, is where the flaws in our planning began to show.
It became quickly obvious, as we stood there with that wriggling snake trying to get away, and with Billy excitedly running a circle around usand laughing.
It would have been handy if we had been smart to bring a bag, to put the snake in, or at least a knife to kill it with.
And, by the way, it is really hard to re-group and make a new plan when you are standing directly over the first live snake you have ever seen, hissing and fighting for it's freedom.
You can imagine how excited we were, standing there, a mad snake under our feet, all the while trying to figure a solution to our dilemma.
While we were shouting and dodging the tail of the snake, I finally noticed that Billy, you know our stupid Billy, the Lookout? Once Martin and I finally stopped arguing, Billy said that he had an idea.
We looked at him and he smiled that smile of his again, and said: My Dad has a Machete in his work shed, and he keeps it really sharp.
I'm not supposed to touch it, but I could run down to my house and bring it back to you pretty quick. If you want me to ..... Huh?
At this time, I had decided that he was the smartest, stupid guy, I had ever met.
I figured that he had been screwing with us and everyone else that knew him and that stupid Grin, and that persistent "Huh?" of his.
And I figured he had just been waiting for a time like this to unwrap and expose the real Billy.
Martins arm that was holding his forked stick, had started to shake a little, it seemed to me, and he told Billy to: Run like the wind Billy, and get that Machete for us ..... NOW!
Billy took off and disappeared around the Lumber, while we waited.
It seemed like an eternity, but Billy eventually showed up with the Machete and then stood there ...... waiting on our next instructions, I suppose.
Well, Martin talked me into holding both sticks on the snake, while he got the Machete from Billy.
So, there I was, holding down an increasingly mad snake, while Martin moved around to get a better angle for the big Kill.
I shouted at him to Kill the Damned Thing! Will Ya?
And Martin struck!
He struck the snake behind the head as desired.
Only, he also struck it behind the stick that was holding the snake head.
Now, I had one stick holding a head and about two inches of neck that was obviously dead and not moving. But the other stick was holding a headless snake body that, I swear, was trying to climb up my forked stick and attack me.
Needless to say, I released the stick and made an Olympian leap backwards. The jump wasn't very far but it was far enough to get me away from the snake.
I looked over and Martin and Billy were laughing at me, while the snakes body was still wriggling the ground.
After a couple of minutes and several well placed kicks, we were finally confident that the snake body was also dead, so we picked it up and headed back to Martins house.
Billy cleaned the Machete on the grass and left to return it to it's proper place in his Dads shed, and finally joined us at Martins.
After much study of the body, we decided that we were not in the Snake Meat business, but just Snake Skins.
With this decision made, Martin slipped into his house and got his Moms best Butcher knife.
We went to the back of his Dads shed and decided to copy what we had seen in another old Western movie, when a pioneer nailed a Raccoon to the wall of his cabin, and "Skint it".
Martin went into the shed and returned with a hammer and a handful of nails. I took over and put the first nail in the snakes tail.
Martin slowly trimmed the skin from the boy of the snake as I kept pulling down on the meat. Once we got about three quarters of the way down, the remaining part of the body let loose, and I went flying across the yard.
They both had a good laugh, at my expense, and I walked back to them with a bloody snake body in my hands.
Martin, with Billy's help, had spread the Snake skin out and nailed it to the wall of the shed, so I looked around and finally just threw the snake body under the shed.
We all stood back and admired our work! We were in business!
The Major Flaw in our Plan
Over the next week, we actually caught another Black snake between the Lumber stacks, and a friend told us about a Rattle Snake that a neighbor had killed.
We did better on the second Black snake, and even though the Rattle snake smelled to high Heaven, we managed to finally skin it.
It was a little the worse for wear, and the meat was half rotten, but we got the job done.
Oh, and there was a major flaw in our plan.
You see, I had kept throwing the skinless bodies of the Snakes under that workshed.
And it was Summer time and very hot!
Martins Dad was Deaf and Mute. What we had not considered, was that his nose worked fine!
Rotten Snake really stinks to High Heaven under these conditions after just a couple of days.
And, Rotten Snake draws A LOT of insects that want to feed on it.
Martins Dad comes home one day, and smells the dead snakes.
He follows his nose, so to speak, and goes around to the back of his shed.
There, on his Shed wall, were three, shriveled up, rotten snake skins. Held there by fifty or more large nails.
He sniffs a few times, bends down and reaches undr his Shed. When he pulls his arm out, he is holding a rotten snake's skinless body from under his shed, covered in Maggots, Ants and God knows what other kind of biting insects.
It obviously scares him as he pulls it out, and flings it away.
Of course it lands on their back porch, at the feet of Martins Mom, who had come out to welcome him home from work.
His Mom, according to Martin later, emitted the scariest scream he had ever heard, especially from a Mute, and runs back in to the house.
Martin told me later about his punishment. After they both calmed down, they sat him down and chewed him out, in Sign of course, as well as using up several pads of paper to make sure he understood.
They were so mad at him that they finally took everything from his room but his clothes and bed.
No Music, no Comics, no Books, no Toys!
They then explained that he would not see the outside world, until school started again. At the soonest.
And, because he had blamed me for pretty much everything, He was told to inform me that I could stay away from their house from now on.
I couldn't blame him, though. It was all about self-preservation, when you get into that much trouble with your parents.
I would have thrown him in too!
Our first business enterprise had been shut down ....... Just Like That!