This is a true story that happened to me in the spring of 1962. It was corn planting time and in a few days I would graduate from high school. We were planting corn down next to the Scioto River.
I was doing the disking and dad was doing the planting. It was just about lunch time and I had just enough time to make another round.
When I got to the end of the field, I started my way back when I saw the biggest black snake I had ever seen. Actually, it wasn’t a black snake at all but a big cow snake, and man was he a long one. Later on, after calming him down, he measured 7-foot long. I named him after Hoss Cartwright on Bonanza.
I got off of the tractor and caught this big snake. Dad had a cage he called the snake cage, so I put this big snake in that cage to let him cool off a bit. After the cows were milked and supper was over, I decided to see how this big snake was going to react.
I didn’t have long to wait because I went to the cage and I said to this big snake, “Hello, Big Hoss.” Big Hoss, of course gave no answer, but I knew he wasn’t afraid of me.
I reached in the cage and brought him out, grasping him around his neck and petting him on his head as I talked with him. After a few times of taking Big Hoss out of his cage, he would crawl out of his cage and slither towards me. All I had to do was raise my hand and he would wrap all of his length around my arm clear up to my shoulder. We became great friends.
One morning, dad was up in the front yard and in a couple of minutes he came back with a snake. He thought Big Hoss had gotten out of his cage, but I told him he was still there. As it turns out, it was another 6-foot, 5-inch snake who I called Adam Carthwright. A few days passed when dad caught Little Joe, a 6-foot snake. Over time, they became very tame.
This episode all started when I was a senior at Waverly High School. I wanted to take General Business, but with that course being full, I was stuck with English Literature. The students in that class were all headed for college and the only place I was headed to were the fields.
I begged to be somewhere else as I didn’t understand the “thee’s” and “thou’s” or the authors in general. I managed straight D’s — no higher, no lower — and I think the teacher tolerated or felt sorry for me.
When we were assigned our term paper, I spent all winter searching the library for my assigned books. Finally, I found an author that I enjoyed and it seemed the author enjoyed me as well.
Finally, the day came when I no longer had to go to the library on Saturdays. Mother and I went over my pages and if made corrections as needed.
Mother sat up all night typing my terms paper and it looked really good. In a couple days, I turned in my paper to the shock of my teacher. She didn’t say a word.
She handed our papers back after some time; I was afraid to look, but I did eventually. The grade on my term started as a B+, but as I turned through the remaining pages, you guessed it: another D-.
I took my paper up to the waste can and tore it up into little pieces. Then I blew up.
I told my teacher how I had worked on Saturdays and my mother typing all night. But what did that ever get me?
All day, I thought of how to even the score. And so I did.
My chance came when I took Big Hoss on the school bus. It was a rather hot day and I had a jacket on. My noisy sister said, “Why do you have a jacket on?”
I replied, “I am chilly.”
Nobody knew there was a seven-foot cow snake wrapped up all the way to my shoulder.
When I got to school, I went straight to the principal office and there stood my English teacher. I got on the left side of her, Big Hoss being on my right. The principal could see Big Hoss was tame and said it had been years since he handled a cow and asked if he could hold him.
I allowed it and, business suit and all, the principal said to the teacher, “Meet Big Hoss.”
She looked at the snake and ran out the office. The principal said he understood she’s given you a rough way to go and then called the Science teacher down to his office.
“What a fine specimen you fellows have here,” the Science teacher said. “I suggest you put him in my room until school lets out.”
Things were going great that is until someone left the Science teacher’s cage door open and the critter escaped. Volunteers searched the school grounds for Big Hoss before we found him in a dark corner in the basement. That evening I took him home.
When it started to get colder, I released all three snakes so they could hibernate for the winter. The next spring, all three returned.
It’s hard to believe, but they did come back and hung around all summer.
I remember this tale like it was yesterday, but it has been over 50 years since that escapade.