Tom, The Older Brother, and the Serpents; an epic tale in two parts (primum)

Hi again, Fat Heads!

Well, it happens just about every time. Tom goes on vacation, lets me sit in the Big Chair, then forgets to reset the password!

I was actually pretty content with my last chance to fill in, and was looking forward to the cruise report, when instead we got “Chareva the Snake Handler,” with Chareva bossing a reptile around while Tom was enjoying the show from behind the camera. One commenter – Sky King – asked the obvious:

“I think what everyone REALLY wants to know is… why was SHE getting the snake and you had the camera..?! :0”

To which Tom nonchalantly replied:

“She was all geared up and ready to grab the snake before I even knew what was happening.”

Uh, huh.

I’m pretty sure that if it took Chareva forty-seven minutes to get “geared up and ready to grab the snake,” it would’ve taken Tom about forty-seven minutes and fifteen seconds to get ready himself. “Dang, dear – I’m just about there. Why don’t you go ahead and I’ll be right along.” Like that.

It kind of took me back. Waaaaay back to our idyllic childhood in Bettendorf, Iowa. I was about six or seven, so Tom would’ve been around five or six. A couple of years earlier, in 1962, Dad had a killer year as a salesman for NCR. He had two big deals close right at the end of the year, and made twice what his salary would’ve been for the year. Yep, he brought in ten thouuuuuusand dollars!

Dad and Mom took that extra 5K and used it for a 20% down payment on their first home. It was a split level, 4 bedroom, 2 bath new construction in a subdivision that was just being built. Probably about half the lots had houses when we moved in, and the rest sprouted new houses with new young families over the next three or four years. We were walking distance to school (back when children still did such things), the pool, a creek (“crik” if you’re from around here), new parks and…. The Lagoon.

The Lagoon was really a pond of a few acres just a couple of blocks over from our house, at the south end of a park area that ran along the east side of the neighborhood, in turn bordered to the east by said crik. It was where the neighborhood boys would hang out, fish, attempt to float in various homemade craft, and generally get into mischief.

One weekend, Grandma and Grandpa Tohill came for a visit. We loved Grandma Tohill (Mom’s mom), but Grandpa was simply the best grandpa in the history of the galaxy. Kind, gentle, soft-spoken, blue-collar through and through. He’d take us fishing, let us tag along hunting, fix things – you know, grandpa stuff. [Grandpa was also one of The Great Generation. We knew he’d been in WWII, but he never told us anything about his experiences until he was dying of Mesothelioma some forty years later.]

Well, Tom and I knew Grandpa would be quite impressed with The Lagoon, and Grandpa agreed, based on our glowing description, that it would be a good thing to take a walk to see. Dad even agreed to come along, and so it was us four men set out for a hike.

As we approached the edge of the neighborhood, we entered the knee-high grass meadow that surrounded The Lagoon and continued. About halfway in, Grandpa said, “Well, you boys should keep an eye out in case there’s any snakes – they like tall grass like this.” At that, Tom picked up a thin three or four foot branch – about as tall as he was at the time – that was lying on our path, and, giving it a couple of authoritative swings, started boldly proclaiming the fate that would befall any snake that made the mistake of crossing our path with his trusty new shillelagh in hand.

He was giving sample whacks to the surrounding flora as he continued elaborating on his blood oath against the local reptile population, getting a bit more forceful with each stride. Phrases like “destroy,” “break in half,” and “beat its brains out” emanated as he worked himself into a minor lather. His steely tirade just appeared to be coming to a crescendo, war club held high, when Grandpa pointed at the ground in front of Tom and blurted:

“Look, Tommy, a SNAKE!”



The stick shot straight up into the air, forgotten. I looked up, concerned as to where it might land, but it was moot as it appeared to have been whipped skyward with enough force that it would be coming down in another time zone, if at all. I then looked back down to Earth, only to catch Tom rocketing back in the direction from whence we’d come at a velocity I’d never seen a human being achieve before or since. The grass was nearly waist high to us, but I swear I could see his feet the whole time. They just tickled at the tips of the stems, throwing off wispy vapor trails as you see when a jet flies overhead.

Grandpa was grinning like an elf and chuckling, and even Dad was having a good laugh at the prank. I, besides a good laugh at Tom’s expense, was also looking forward to the many opportunities to rib him with his new title as the Naughton Family Snake Slayer for the rest of our lives.

Or so I thought.

… Well, Fat Heads, that’s about enough for this part of the story. If Tom leaves his post unguarded again soon, I can finish it up. Maybe I’ll see if Chareva will let a wasp in the house.


The Older Brother


8 thoughts on “Tom, The Older Brother, and the Serpents; an epic tale in two parts (primum)

  1. Ben Fury


    I used to race after our black snakes in our backyard in Pittsburgh, PA.

    Really now… what did a six year old think he was going to do when he chased down and tackled a full grown snake???

    Thank God they were faster than me…

    1. The Older Brother Post author

      I think I can say with complete certainty that neither Tom or I ever considered running towards a snake!


    1. The Older Brother Post author

      That used to be a pretty good way of avoiding exposure. Seems like You Tube and Face Book are kind of leveling the field.


  2. Becky

    Thanks for the belly laugh! See, this is why I love Fat Head. You get to see the other side of things, which always results in a clearer overall picture. Helps that I have an older brother, too, who always seems interested in setting the record straight.

  3. Linda

    Thanks for the great laugh! I can hardly wait for part II.

    And speaking of snake tales, I was lying half awake this morning a little after 4 AM, waiting for local news with my daily dose of weather prediction, when, lo and behold, I saw a familiar bedroom on the telly! I turned on the sound and heard Tom giggling. It was a segment showing Tom’s mini-movie of Chareva catching the snake in the girls’ bedroom! This was national TV, no less- Inside Edition, before my local stuff came on! At the end the commentator asked, tongue in cheek, “And where was Dad during all this? Why, behind the camera, of course.”

    I got another great laugh, just watching again! You guys have managed to start my day off great again!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.