No personal memoirs would be complete without mentioning Wilbur. Wilbur is (or maybe was) a significant representation of the clash between two cultures. On one hand you had me, who grew up almost fearless of all of God’s creatures found in the yards and woods of my neighborhood; and on the other hand you had Lynn, a prim and proper lady, properly raised in a prim and proper fashion, and able to what prim and proper ladies do best.
I first met Wilbur shortly after we built our house in the country near John’s Station. He would come around for an occasional visit. Most of the times we met were when I was down in our basement/garage/woodwork shop. We got to be quite close, but I never told Lynn about these secret meetings that were taking place beneath her feet.
About 15 or 16 years ago our daughter, Hannah, was being tutored in math after school. We were fortunate that one of the math teachers agreed to meet Hannah a couple of times a week at the Scotland County Memorial Library, and offer her exceptional help.
One beautiful spring day Lynn got in her car to make the five-mile drive into town and get Hannah at the conclusion of a tutoring session. Meanwhile, I was just arriving home from work. My cell phone rang and Lynn was screaming so hard at the other end that I could not understand a word she was saying. After hyperventilating and regaining some sort of her composure, she slowly spoke into her cell phone: “There – is – a – snake – in –my – car!”
Now you have to remember, back in those days the battery life of a cell phone was one to two hours, and most people kept them connected to a recharger in their home, office, or car when not being used.
My reply probably did not help the situation: “Yeah, yeah. And you’re sitting in your car telling me this?”
Her response cannot be printed or spoken in polite company, but I got into my Chevy Blazer and drove into town to diffuse the situation. Pulling into the parking lot of the library, I found Lynn and Hannah standing about fifty feet from the Chevy Lumina with the front doors wide open. The public avoidance of the vehicle was amazing, considering there was no yellow “Crime Scene” tape surrounding the car.
“There’s a snake in my car, and I’m not getting in until ‘it’ gets out!”
Sizing up the situation, I cautiously approached the car, looked all over the inside, looked under the seats, under the dashboard, in the glove compartment, under the hood, and in the trunk. Nothing!
“There’s nothing in there. The ‘snake’ must have slipped out.”
Her quick response: “I don’t care. I’m not driving that car home!”
So I drove her car home and she followed in my Blazer with Hannah. As we both pulled into the garage, I got out of her car and walked up the steps, unlocked the door and entered the house.
At about that time I heard a blood-curling, awful scream coming from the basement garage. Another decibel and the windows would have shattered.
Running quickly back down the steps I saw the front door to Lynn’s Lumina opened and Lynn and Hannah cowering in the corner.
As I approached her open car, what did I behold … Wilbur was stretched out across the two bucket seats, all five to six feet of his black, slick and shinny body. While Lynn and Hannah “escaped” to the safety of the home interior, I picked up Wilbur, looked at him squarely in the eyes and broke out laughing. He joined in. Taking him into the sunlight of our back yard, I scolded him: “Wilbur, don’t ever do that again!” and let him go.
For many years, Wilbur continued to live quietly in our basement, carefully confining himself to the hidden places and occasionally catching a mouse. He would winter between the insulation and our floors, leaving a long clear snake skin dangling from the floor joists when he emerged for spring.
About five years ago I quit seeing his tell-tell signs, but some of his relatives have replaced him, and are ever present to keep my company in the workshop.
Hannah has moved on and now we have 9 year-old granddaughter, Lizi. Lizi, too, is being raised in a prim and proper manner with one addition: she loves snakes!
Beacham McDougald is president of McDougald Funeral Home and Crematorium in Laurinburg. He serves as vice chair of the Scotland County Highland Games, on the Scotland County Tourism Development Authority, and is the founder and liaison of the Scotland High School-Oban High School student exchange program.