CLASS IS IN SESSION
by Kat Stickroth
A friend and I spent much of last summer together, in what I would call an intense internship on being “A Wallowa Gal.”
We headed for Imnaha one hot morning to pick blackberries. Daydreaming of buckets of juicy fruit to be gathered, I commented, “Oh, look. A snake in the road.”
“Kill it!” she exploded. “Every Wallowa Gal should kill a rattlesnake!”
I snapped into a brain freeze, not immediately willing to switch my thoughts from
blackberries to rattlesnakes.
She corrected me as I eased onto the road’s edge, “NO! You have to run over it!” I secretly dubbed her Tawanda.
“I can’t do this,” I whined.
“Just drive over it slowly. Only get the head. We don’t want to damage the skin.”
Squish, squish. Crunch, crunch.
My breakfast wanted to get reacquainted with me.
The deed completed, I hoped to continue on to our berry picking.
“Turn around,” she commanded. “We have to make sure it’s dead.”
So now I was driving back up the highway.
Same bump, bump. Same sound. I was glad we were headed in the direction of home.
"Go back. One more time.”
“But I don’t want to do this.”
“Go back.” Yes, Tawanda.
After the final pass, we pulled over and retrieved a shovel from my truck to harvest the now deceased reptile. “We need to hurry before anyone else gets it,” she cautioned.
Please, God, send someone!
“Do you have a bag?” she asked.
“We’re going to take it to Sally who owns the Tavern. She’ll skin it and make a hatband for you.”
“The last thing I want to wear is a snake hatband.”
My eyes squeezed shut when she approached me to drop the snake into the Safeway bag held by my far extended hands.
Sally happily examined the prize stretched out on the bar. Her display of hand crafted snake skin accessories couldn’t be missed.
What is it with these women? Suddenly, the South I had renounced seemed most appealing. What am I doing here?
I hurried to the door, but Tawanda caught me. “Wait! You must record this on the annual Rattlesnake Count sheet.”
As we piled into the truck, Tawanda announced, “Now you’re a real Wallowa Gal!” She was so pleased.
I could only respond, “Can we pick blackberries now?”
Originally published January 20, 2016 in the La Grande Observer newspaper. Reprinted with permission.