|Chapter 11||SNAKE IN THE GRASS|
We weren't in Thailand very long before we had our first encounter with a cobra. In fact, we drove a Land Rover right over it. We thought it was just a small tree trunk lying across the road. Instead, the head of a very angry red-hooded cobra suddenly appeared over the driver's side of the half door. The tail (hold your breath) was flipped up on the other side of the vehicle! It was one tough snake. The jolt of the back tires plus the weight of six people should have stunned the snake. Instead, the 10-foot-long creature simply slithered away into the jungle!
Some years later I reported another snake incident to my mother: "Last Sunday afternoon Elmer thought he was imagining things. From behind the dresser in our bedroom appeared the head of what proved to be a huge snake. Elmer called to me, 'Don't come in here!' He jumped on the bed and after surveying the situation, carefully crept out of the room. He got a long-handled spade and put on knee-high boots. Now armed and ready, he couldn't find the snake! However, as he poked at some clothes on a hook, the snake sprang from behind them and struck at the top of Elmer's boots. He managed to kill the snake. It was three feet long. The neighbors told us the snake was poisonous. It probably could have killed a child. I cried and cried."
In only a year and a half we have killed over 25 snakes outside and three (deadly ones) inside the house. I told Elmer we would have to move. I am about at the end of my emotional rope. Every night I check the whole house before we go to sleep. I always carry a flashlight at night, even inside the house. We have to have a young Thai girl watch Esther every minute or else she must stay with me. The ponds and canals around this house must breed the snakes. Elmer nailed up some of the loose wall boards and put in more screening. We are also starting to look for a house in other areas. Today I found a baby snake in the bathroom. It was a viper - deadly. Pray for us - for me. I need it!
With Elmer's permission I wrote to the Mission field committee: "I cannot stay in this house for another rainy season because of the snakes here. There have been over 25 snakes outside and now four inside. It is especially difficult with a young child and I am under constant tension. Many of these snakes have been deadly. I expected to see snakes in Thailand, but not so many!" Before we had a chance to find another house, Elmer was chosen to be the new chairman of the Mission. That meant a move to a different city. After we moved into the new house, I wrote my mother: "It surely is a relief for me to be here in this house. I can even let the children play outside."
One of the worst snake experiences happened when I was at home with the children and Elmer was out in the villages. The Thai helper came running in one day and said, "The dog is barking at a big snake in the back yard." I went out to check. Right there, where I had walked just minutes earlier, was a long snake. The helper went across the street to get the neighbor. The neighbor came. He took one look at the snake and said, "Get inside the house-everyone!" With a long iron bar he struck the snake seven or eight times. Finally, he was able to kill it. He told us to be very careful as there could be a mate close by. I found out later that the snake was a rare spitting cobra. We had heard of spitting cobras. An American soldier at a nearby airbase had been temporarily blinded by the spit of such a snake. They can spit up to six or eight feet. We had also heard that the skin rots where the spit falls. We were so glad to have a dog who warned us many times about snakes in the yard. In our field magazine, The Task, I quoted the following excerpt from the Bangkok English newspaper: "Statistics show that more people are bitten by poisonous snakes in Thailand than anywhere else. Between 300 and 400 Thais are killed by poisonous snakes every year. Most are victims of pit vipers, cobras, or banded kraits."
In my journal of 1953 I wrote: I sometimes put Evelyn outside in her playpen, but seldom leave her alone. If I do, it is only for a few minutes. I always think of scorpions, snakes or other dangers. This past Thursday, I went to the kitchen for only a few minutes. When I came out, there on the steps not two feet from the baby was a little snake. I grabbed her from the playpen and retreated to a safe distance. I shouted for Elmer. A Thai helper got there first and killed the snake. He said it wasn't poisonous, but it could have been."
This is life in the tropics. We must always watch and commit ourselves to the Lord's care. We also found a huge scorpion in the bathroom right where we shower.
In two different letters, many years apart, I told my mother, "I am so tired of snakes!" I think I hate snakes even more than most people because of a childhood experience. I was only six years old when I saw my five-year-old brother bitten by a snake. The snake was not poisonous, but my fear of snakes started right then. Snakes were certainly a major problem in Thailand, but life in the tropics had other difficulties too. We had to constantly fight termites as well. Thailand termites seem to be a special breed, appearing quickly and doing extreme damage behind the scenes.
House in Nongkai
In our first wooden house in Nongkai, we noticed a small dirt trail going up the sides of the large center posts of the dining room. Elmer tapped on the posts. They sounded hollow. Upon further investigation, we discovered that the termites had destroyed almost the entire dining room. All the walls, posts and even the ceiling had to be replaced after a chemical treatment of the house. Once, returning home from a vacation, we heard a buzzing sound as we entered the house. Enough termites were eating away in a bookcase full of children's books that their presence was audible at the door! Many beautiful books had to be thrown out and I spent days repairing ones that could be salvaged.
In another house in Khon Kaen, I had placed about 20 books on a shelf over a staircase. We went up and down those steps regularly and never saw a sign of termites. One day, however, I pulled a book out. The whole inside was eaten! In fact, almost all the books were totally destroyed-full of dust, crumbled pages and stacks of termites. Only the bindings remained intact. The termites even bored through a steamer trunk in a screened-in porch. New sheets, blankets and towels that I had saved for the children to take to boarding school were filled with small holes, chunks of dirt and, of course, the termites. In addition to snakes and termites, there were also small lizards and larger ones called "dukgaas" that ran up the insides of the walls of our houses. I didn't mind the little, harmless ones, but the larger ones that could give a nasty bite we chased out.
All this was part of life in the tropics. These experiences did not make me wish I had never gone to Thailand. But they did make me thankful for people who prayed for us and for God's watchful care over our family.
And, yes, I still hate snakes and I always will!
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