from the upcoming book about Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Mother and the Dragon
By Mrs. Hayne Brady of Marquette, Michigan
This true little drama took place in May 1921 in a deep woods area about ten miles north of Iron River, Michigan. My father's lumber camp consisted of a big log cook camp, where ten or twelve lumberjacks ate quantities of food three times a day, a log sleeping camp for the men, and a small room log cabin where our little family lived. I play a significant role in this story, but it is a non-speaking part as I was only two months old.
It was a beautiful May day, much welcomed after the long, bitterly cold Upper Peninsula winter. My mother stood at a table near a sunny window, chopping veggies, and half-frozen venison with her big cleaver, as she did every day to make a good soup or stew. Mother had placed me on a big blanket across the room with a few spoons or clothespins to play with.
I should mention that in the spring of the year, some of the chinking between the logs of the camp often loosened and fell to the ground or floor.
As Mother glanced over at her baby, she thought, "What's that near Jayne? Is it a piece of yarn or rope?" Suddenly she realized it was a snake, slithering closer and closer to baby Jayne! Now, my mother was deathly afraid of snakes. She screamed and fainted!
As it happened, my Aunt Lu and her friend, Leonard were visiting and probably in the other room playing cards. They ran into the kitchen, quickly sized up the situation and took charge. With two steps, Leonard stepped to the blanket, picked up the little snake by the tail, and walked to the door. With a flick of the wrist, he snapped off the little snake's head.
By then, my dad had run up from the landing and was helping Mother into a chair. "What happened, Louise?" he asked her. "A snake, Henry! It was going to attack our baby!" she said. "It wasn't a dragon, Louise," said Dad. "just a little snake."
"Well, Henry," said Leonard, "it wasn't just a little garter snake. I think it was a copperhead. It could have done a lot of damage to a two month old baby."
Dad slowly said, "Well, Louise, then I have to warn you. Those little snakes often travel in pairs. You'll have to be on the lookout for its mate."
The final scene in this little story takes place two weeks later. It is such a warm, beautiful day that Mother has spread the blanket just outside the kitchen window where she could keep an eye on her baby as she stood chopping the venison and veggies for stew. Suddenly, she gasped, horrified! There, slithering rapidly toward the blanket was the second little dragon! Mother flew out the door, rushed to the blanket, and chop, chop, chop, cut the poor little snake into pieces. Then she screamed.
Dad rushed up from the landing. "Well, Louise," he said, "why didn't you faint?" And my brave, beautiful mother stood there holding her whimpering baby and said, "I couldn't. I was the only one here."