In the days before television, entertainment was largely what you made it. Out west, where neighbors were few and far between and visiting was hard to say the least, practical jokes were the choice of many. They eased the loneliness and lessened the despair.
My Grandma Bertha was a master practical joker. The offshoot of that was that her son, my Dad, Owen, was pretty good at it himself. Of course, he had a perfect foil – my city-bred, inexperienced Mom. How he loved to bedevil her.
Those were the days when generations of families lived together, so Grandma had a front row seat for most of Dad’s shenanigans. Then, one breezy autumn day, she declared to my Mom, “Hattie, I’ve had enough. Today we’ll get our revenge.”
Wide-eyed, my Mom listened to the plan and agreed it would work.
Pointing behand the wood stove, Grandma Bertha asked, “Do you see that RATTLE SNAKE EGG that Owen brought in so you could watch it hatch?”
My Mom looked at the egg that her husband had put behind the big black stove. “Uh huh. I see it,” she whispered nervously. “Owen said when the little snakes hatch, they can keep the garden clear of gophers. I don’t like snakes much — big or little. I think I prefer gophers.”
“I think I do too,” chuckled Grandma, “but there will be no snakes hatch from that egg. Let me explain.” Grandma took Mom out to the porch and they made themselves cozy on the swing. She continued.
“You do know what a joker your husband is, don’t you?” she asked.
“Oh yes, I truly know that,” laughed Mom looking rather chagrined.
“Never mind, Hattie. Today, we’re going to put one over on that man if it’s the last thing we do.”
The ladies plotted for quite some time. Their gleeful giggles and laughter floated over the valley. Their eyes sparkled with devilment as they searched in the dirt for the perfect prickly pear.
Before long, Owen came in for his lunch and soon returned to the ranch chores. As soon as he was safely away, the two women went to work on THE PLAN.
“First, we have to run up to see Gladys and pick up our supplies,” directed Grandma Bertha.
Mom cranked up the Model T and jumped in beside Grandma and off they went. After sharing homemade cake and after perfecting their plot with Gladys, they gathered up the rattle snake rattles that she had boxed up for them to take home. Gladys, you see, had rattle snakes but actually had none where we lived. The altitude where our ranch was, too rarified at 7500 feet for rattlers. But five miles down the mountain where Gladys lived there were more rattlers than she had ever wanted, and she was happy to share her treasures with us.
Upon arriving home, Grandma Bertha and Mom went right to work.
“Take this fishline, Hattie, and string it from the rocking chair to the SNAKE EGG.” Even as they worked, their shoulders shook with laughter and they were filled with joy. They attached the rattles to the Egg and then stopped wipe their tears of fun away.
The same day, after supper, as the family relaxed around the stove, Owen nodded off in his arm chair and the co-conspirators rocked away near by.
Suddenly, Owen bolted up out of his chair. “What is that?” He spun around the room like a top.
“Oh, Owen,” soothed my Mom, “it’s just the snake babies hatching out of that egg you gave me the other day. Relax, dear.”
Quietly, Grandma and Mom patiently waited. Dad settled down. The rocking chairs creaked away once more. The rattles sounded once more. And once more my dad was on the lookout.
“There can’t be any babies hatching from that egg,” he told the ladies. “So where are those rattles coming from?’
Shaking his head and peering into every corner, he searched all around the room. At last, spying the fishline strung from Mom’s chair, he went over to it. He followed it to the other end.
The ladies held their collective breaths. Then my Dad let out a hoot. He saw the rattles poking up behind that cactus rattle snake egg. He bent down and took tight hold of the fishline. The rattles stopped. The rocking stopped. But gurgles of fun erupted from both the young bride and her cohort. Dad couldn’t help it and his gruff guffaw soon joined the laughter.
“GOTCHA!” they shouted.