On the weekends that my 4-year-old grandson stays with us, I seem to have a shadow attached to me. Every time I stop he says something like, “Dad, let’s work in the garden” or “Dad, let’s go to the store” or “Dad, let’s do this or that.” Then we embark on another adventure.
This weekend I realized that he looks a lot like me when he was his age. Since I can remember, until I discovered girls, I loved being with my grandfather. I was lucky to be able to spend a lot of time with him, having fun, learning and gaining wisdom from him. I especially remember riding in his truck and talking.
Grandpa was a very quiet man, like all gray men, and he didn’t talk much except when it was just him and me in the truck. He would always tell me something about the farm, the old days when I was young, nature and wildlife, and about life in general. It was always like showing and telling stories when we were in the truck or working on the farm.
There was an event we shared together that stuck in my mind and I still smile and marvel at the wisdom of her explanation. I was about 8 years old and we were driving his truck down what we call Swamp Road to the field where we were working. This was an old sandy dirt road that was typical of most roads in the area.
I was daydreaming as we drove without paying attention to anything when Grandpa suddenly slammed on the brakes and stopped in the middle of the road. Then he cut the engine and just sat there. I looked at him questionably and he pointed down the road while telling me to shut up and look.
About twenty feet in front of the truck sat a huge rabbit with the largest rattlesnake I have ever seen coiled freely around it. The snake was coiled in a snapping position and they were looking at each other, in the eye. Neither of them moved, not even a tic.
I asked Grandpa what they were doing, even though I knew the rabbit would soon be snake food. Grandpa looked at me and said, “Look, the rabbit is charming the snake.”
I chuckled and replied, “Don’t you mean the snake is charming the rabbit?”
“Just look,” was all he answered.
We stood there for what seemed like an eternity watching the drama of life and death unfold before us. Although I knew it was the way of life in nature, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the poor rabbit. It was at this point that I learned a valuable life lesson.
After waiting and seeing the snake and rabbit locked in a death stare, without moving a muscle, the incredible happened. In the blink of an eye, the rabbit leapt to its freedom and the snake was still sitting in its attacking position staring at an empty place.
I remember the shock I felt when I asked my grandfather what had just happened and he laughed at me and said, “I told you that the rabbit just charmed the snake.” He then proceeded to explain various life lessons to learn from this.
The first lesson he taught me about the rattlesnake and the rabbit was never to judge a book by its cover. It is very easy to judge your opponent or a problem as overwhelming. Although they form the backbone of our rating system, first impressions are not always the best.
The second lesson is running away from problems will not solve them. The rabbit had tried to run away, but in the end it had realized that it was trapped and could not run away from its problem. It was at this point that the rabbit realized that he had to deal with his problem face to face in order to solve it. He could no longer ignore the problem, run away from it, or dance around the issue at hand.
The third lesson is to never give up. Even when all the odds are against you, you must keep trying to overcome it. Obviously, the rabbit was stuck in a dead end situation, completely surrounded by his enemy, the snake. He did not let fear overcome his desire to live, so he resorted to the last effort to stand up on his hind legs and look his enemy in the eye, daring him to blink. If he had shown any fear, they would have killed him.
Another lesson to be learned is that neither the strength of the snake nor the speed of the rabbit determined the outcome. Sometimes it takes finesse to solve a problem. In life we are taught that force and money can solve most problems. When you go out into the real world, you soon learn that you have to use your intelligence and experience to overcome most situations.
The last point Grandpa made was, when the prize is at hand and you have your enemy where you want him, attack! Don’t just sit around waiting and taunting your opponent. How many times has a great victory been lost in history because the perceived victor wavered and let his victim escape? Don’t celebrate until the final whistle sounds.
After he finished explaining all this to me, Grandpa looked me in the eye and said, “The story is not over yet, come with me.” Then we got out of the truck and he grabbed a shovel from the back and we killed that huge snake.
Then he said, “Never leave a rattlesnake alive (problem) if you have the means to kill it.” With that he started teaching me about rattlesnakes, their fangs, and their rattlesnakes, but that’s another story for another time.
This is also part of growing up in Aurora NC.