Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Feast of St. Hilarion

St. Anthony of the Desert, a friend of St. Hilarion,
of whom I can find no picture.
Do you know about St. Hilarion?
Well, he was an early saint, living in the mid fourth century, a contemporary of St. Anthony of the Desert. He was born in Palestine, educated in Alexandria, and became a hermit near Gaza in Israel. He wound up in the Egyptian desert with St. Anthony, but became too famous to be a hermit there, and fled to Sicily, Dalmatia, Croatian and Cyprus, all the time in front of the crowds that were attracted to his sanctity and many miracles. He was an amazing ascetic, a wonderful saint of the early Church.
And he is the patron saint against snake bites.

A cottonmouth, also known as a water moccasin.

Snakes. Let's talk about snakes. Do you mind?

I'm not really afraid of snakes, but I'd just as soon not run across one live and in color. It's a thing I would rather avoid. Nevertheless, I have had the trouble of making almost hand-shake acquaintances with snakes more times than I would have liked in my life.

Growing up in the rural southeast, it was an easy thing to do. Lots of snakes there.

There was the one that my brother kicked because he thought it was an innertube. That one scared me so much, I literally jumped out of my shoes and ran all the way across the meadow in my bare feet ~ through stickers, mind you! Didn't even stop for stickers! See, we were a southern anomaly; our mom wouldn't let us go around barefoot like everyone else. We were, therefore, "tenderfeet" ~ or is that "tenderfoots"? Anyway, thanks Greg, for that shining moment of courage when you went back and retrieved my shoes for me.

Then there was the cottonmouth I sat on.

I kid you not, I sat on a cottonmouth and am here to sit and type about it! We had a makeshift "fort" made out of a large piece of plywood propped up between our tool shed and the house, right on the carport. It had been very rainy, so this snake had decided to slither up from the marshy forest near our house, to our fort where he could stay nice and dry and cozy under the pillows that my friend, Debbie, and I had piled in there for our pre-teen comfort.

Well, the fort was a nice place for my friend and me to hang out on a rainy day, too. So, unaware we had a houseguest, we brought a snack and settled in for a chat. I reached my hand under the pillow that my knees were propped on, and, well... I think there is some instinct built into our genetic code that alerts us immediately when we've made skin to skin contact with a snake ~ even if we've never touched a snake before. Let me tell you, did I light out of there fast!

My mom called base security (this was on a Navy base), and they came out to "wrestle the snake down." When they first came out, they were smirking. They didn't believe that this was more than a run of the mill case of garter snake and hysterical mother. Until they got a look at the guy. That cottonmouth was eight feet long! And I'm not exaggerating. Ask my mom. All the security guys had was a rusty hoe to kill it with. Boy! What a hair raising adventure that was to watch!

They finally got it, and took it back with them, I'm sure, to show it off at the office.

But, unfortunately, that's not the end of my snake tales (No pun intended). We lived in suburbs most of my teen years, and ran into little more than the occasional garter snake. But, then I got married and eventually moved to the country, where the snakes could find me and the fun began again.

A corn snake

My wh was home sick from work one day out at the farm, and I was taking the children out to the park or somewhere to get them out of his hair. I had loaded all the children into the van, but had forgotten something, so ran back upstairs into the boys' room. And lo, and behold! There, lolling on my son's mattress in a ray of sunshine was a big old corn snake!

Well, of course I screamed. That was about the last thing I expected to see! My wh came running to see what the fuss was about (Poor guy, being sick and all...), and there it still lay, like a snake pinup model, lazing there, looking at us, like we had intruded.

So, what do you do?

Well, we scratched our heads for a minute. Then went and got a pillowcase, thinking we could catch it in that. (Yelled to the children coming up the stairs to get back in the car. "There's nothing the matter!") Then, my poor sick husband made his way slowly (What a brave man!) over to the snake with the open pillowcase, got to within about four feet, then glanced at me and said something about "getting ready." And in the space of time it took for the two of us to take our eyes off it, the snake had darted off the mattress, headed for the boys' toy trunk. We thought it was going to hide behind it. But, there was the teeniest crack in the wall paneling next to the trunk, and, though it seemed impossible, the snake wriggled into that tiny space!

My husband grabbed it by the tail. (Yes! He really did! Aren't I married to a brave man?) I screamed. The children at the bottom of the stairs screamed.

So there we were. Me in the doorway, panicked and helpless. The children downstairs screaming about they knew not what. Wh with a snake by the tail. The snake, probably a little miffed, trapped half-in half-out, with its head in the dark of the eaves behind the paneled wall.

Wh looked at me like: Now what? I looked at him like: Heck if I know!

And in the space of time that glance took, the snake suddenly backed out of the hole (How it did that, I don't know), whirled around at my husband, opened its mouth and roared in a snake hiss sort of way.

My wh yelled (which he never does!) and dropped that snake's tail right quick!

And the snake slipped immediately back into that hole.

What did we do after that, you ask, with a snake crawling around in the eaves of our house? Well, we found out about St. Hilarion and prayed.

We also put tack strips in the backs of all the crawl spaces, and repaneled the wall in the boys' room. We never saw the snake in the house again, so we assumed St. Hilarion had helped out with that.

Let's see, after that, the boys caught the odd snake or two. They would keep them in garbage cans with the lids on, saving them to show to my sister, Linda, the snake lady (Yes, one sister's into spiders, the other is a snake expert). But, somehow, those snakes always managed to escape. Snakes are amazing creatures. Escape artists.

And acrobats.

One summer morning I had gone out to the backyard and drank a cup of coffee, sitting on top of the picnic table. I came in the house, the children went out. After just a minute, I could hear Michelle yelling, and ran out to see what was going on. There was a corn snake (Suppose it was the same one?) on top of the picnic table that I had just been sitting on!

And seeing that there is no conceivable way that a snake could climb up onto a picnic table... it had to have dropped from the tree overhead! Aghghg! Still gives me the eebie jeebies thinking about it! That snake must have been dangling right over me!

But as creepy a thing as it was, no harm came of it. And all the other episodes came out fine in the end, too. We know there are no accidents in the world, for the good, most especially. For all the close scrapes, (and the fact that we never have seen a rattler out on the farm!), I know I have the union of our Guardian Angels and our Saint of the Day to thank.

Thank-you, St. Hilarion!

(We're moving back out to the farm in about a month, and we are just assuming you are on the job already, right? We don't mind if you call St. Patrick in for backup.)


Theresa said...

Was I born when any of those things happened?

Lisa said...

Hmmm.... I think you were a baby during the corn snake incidents...
&:o) Love you, Theresa.

deanna said...

This is not a comment to this post, but rather a comment to you regarding a comment you left on my blog, notlukewarm. I was wondering if you would be able to tell me some of the natural things you used to help your thyroid.
My email is if you have a spare minute, though with 11 children I'm sure that is not often. Thanks for any help,
peace, deanna