Snakes scare me more than Social Security

By Bob Huber: PNT columnist

Is Social Security safe? We’re told that unless meaningful reform is implemented, the system will be bankrupt by the year 2050, which will plunge us into chaos, despair, and extreme whining. I don’t care, because I plan to be dead by then.
So let’s forget about THAT problem. Instead, on this nice spring day let’s talk about a more pressing crisis facing all Americans in this millennia — snakes!
When my wife Marilyn was still boss around here, she never let a week go by without expressing her annoyance at my fear of snakes. She claimed my ophidiophobia (Greek for screaming at the sight of things without legs) was little more than nagging pessimism complicated by naked self pity.
“According to your way of thinking,” she liked to say, “a light at the end of a tunnel is a reflection off the eye of a snake.”
“That’s true,” I always replied. “I’m just a viper magnet, and that’s what scares me.”
It was hard for our children to cope with the fact that their grown father — 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, looking like Shreck — could be frightened by snakes. My son Glen, always at the forefront of inventive minds, one time challenged my phobia.
As he told it later using elaborate gestures, he and his little sister Holly went fishing one day, and when they returned, they had a gift for me in a tackle box. Innocently I opened it, anticipating a bouquet of buttercups or at least the keys to a new Buick, but there, staring me in the face, were dozens of baby water snakes all writhing and heinous like a bowl of green, bug-eyed, evil spaghetti.
I threw the box of snakes in the air and cried, “Eeeaaugh! Snakes! Snakes! Snakes!”
There’s little a father can do in a situation like that except to demonstrate the proper use of exclamation marks. But it should be noted that Glen never said the word “snake” again around me, nor could doctors ever remove my footprint from his behind.
But let’s return to the tackle box. When it fluttered back to Earth, baby snakes scattered all over the kitchen floor like whiskey at an Irish wake. Completely unfounded family folklore has it that I refused to come down from the roof until Marilyn signed an environmental impact statement. That’s just not true.
Anyway, the family rounded up the serpents and took them out of my sight, most of them, and a few weeks later I strolled nonchalantly to the garden to pick strawberries for a mid-morning snack. Down on my hands and knees, I hummed a merry tune until suddenly something green and slimy slithered by my fingers.
It stopped, stuck out its tongue, and said, “Boo!”
If you’ve ever come face to face with a mature water snake in a strawberry patch, you know it bore a striking resemblance to the Denver-Chicago Zephyr with fangs. At some point in my lengthy marriage I’d failed to make clear to Marilyn that it was sinful to place snakes in strawberry patches to frighten away birds and husbands.
When I saw the snake, I yelled, “Eeeaaugh! Snake! Snake! Snake!” and levitated eight feet in the air.
My aerial display was witnessed by the entire family through a kitchen window and was an instant sensation with the kids, although it later fostered heated debates with their friends who refused to believe I was able to remain suspended in air by simply pointing at the ground and yelling, “Eeeaaugh! Snake! Snake! Snake!”
Marilyn just shook her head and told the kids, “Go fetch your father before the wind comes up and blows him away.”
Then a few days later as I stepped from a shower, I heard a faint rustling behind the clothes hamper. Without thinking, I reached out and moved the hamper.
A few minutes later I walked stiffly though the kitchen to the back door, clasping a suitcase. “Where are you going?” Marilyn asked.
“Costa Rica,” I said.
“Well, write when you get work,” she said.
No, I didn’t go. In fact, I hung around long enough to begin worrying about Social Security and all its shortcomings. You see, I doubt it, but it’s entirely possible, I suppose, that I could still be around in 2050, unless a snake gets me.

Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. He can be contacted at 356-3674.