“Did you find your
Wais' Sahs?” Mother's ninety-one year old voice was clear, youthful and
alert on the phone. It was early in the morning, June 22, 2004. Her
words with our old language took me back to an easier world when American
Indian kept their yards smooth, without grass around the entry.
I suddenly remembered
my own Grandmother early in the morning at Dawn, in fact, before the
neighbors were up, out sweeping the dirt lawn. It was as hard packed and
smooth as possible. If there was a dry period, Grandmother could be
seen giving the ground a sprinkle with the water hose. The front and sides
had the lush green lawn like the neighbor's yards but immediately around
the back entrance, which was most used, there was not a sprig of grass.
This morning, Mother
was referring to my encounter with a yard long Copperhead snake the day
before. I had been working on one of the flower bed with railroad ties as
a guard around it. Other activities had caused a neglect and I was having
to do extra maintenance in the way of weeding, digging and mulching. The
phone rang and I ran in to answer it. While I was standing at the phone,
looking out the long and low windows, that dastardly snake ruined my
whole day. I couldn't believe how quickly it slithered under the atrium
door and into that small space. I was shocked and rattled. The woman,
with whom I spoke, was mistaken for someone else. As I ran to get a
shovel, of course, that wily serpent disappeared.
The question then
was, “Did it squeeze under the storm door into the house?”
“Oh No!” I moaned,
“It seems like every time something goes wrong around here, I'm the only
one home. My husband was making a trip to town for some sort of supplies
So began our day
walking through the house with snakes in our shoes, as the expression
goes. Mother had driven up in the midst of all the searching.
“They like to hide in
clothes.” Mother was, of course, knowledgeable. There was only one small
hamper in the bathroom with dirty clothes. As I dumped them in the machine
I didn't have the nerve to go through them.
“Snake if you're in
there you will just have a hot bath.” I muttered.
The only clothes on
the floor were the rag stash in the hall linen closet. I pulled those all
out and with the broom went through them. Nothing was there and I just
left them in the hall while I searched through closets and under beds with
the trusty Pinto sniffing along beside me. It was so funny the way he
seemed to know what we were doing.
stuck his nose in a small trash can the crispy plastic sack rattled and he
jumped back quickly, seeming to be as ansy (nervous) as I was. That was a
good laugh for me which did relieve the tension somewhat.
“What is this?” My
husband had walked down the hall way to see all the rags on the floor.
“I knew we should
have taken care of the grass around the house.”
course, I had to go through the whole snake story.
“You probably ran
him out of that flower bed.” He didn't look at me as he was busy bundling
the rags into a plastic bag.
“Oh horrors!” My
thoughts had not included that possibility.
The rest of the day
was spent with the weed eater, moving rocks and large potted plants and
spreading sulfur about the cleared ground. Because the flower beds are out
a little distance from the house it was an easy matter to cut everything
to the very ground immediately around the perimeter of the house. I
threatened to fill in the fountain with soil for flowers instead of water
but my husband convinced me, that was a bit extreme. The fountain does
serve the birds, so we left that.
The morning of the
next day found me groggy and filled with fatique from the antics of the
day before. When Mother light heartedly asked about Wais' sahs, it was
just the thing to give me a chuckle and quicken my mind into remembering
my own American Indian grandmother. In my mind I could see her as she was
quite elderly, quietly going about a morning duty of sweeping the back
yard. She was never traumatized by a Wais-sah in the atrium.