I remember reading comic books about people getting stuck in quicksand and slowly being pulled down until finally all that was left was one hand waving feebly over the surface. I read once that if you acted quickly you could throw yourself prone and very slowly “swim” across the quicksand to firmer ground. Probably not but I was prepared to try it.
Anyway, back to the creek. Another one of my chores was to take one or two big enamel buckets down to the creek to get washing water. I had to walk to the end of the two-plank boardwalk out to mid creek and dip in the buckets to fill them then totter back to the house. They were heavy.
That was a good place to fish too. Dig up some worms and rig up a cane pole with a bobber and a little hook. Stand on the end of the boardwalk and lightly swing the line upstream. Let it drift down and around the boardwalk. Try to maneuver it up close to some lily pads. Things waited under the lily pads. Hopefully a fish but could be a snake or even a gator.
One day I was getting water and when I got to the creek there was a huge cottonmouth moccasin. I put the buckets down and backed up a ways and then turned and tore ass for the house. I slammed open the back screen door coming in and started yelling, where’s the shotgun, where’s the shotgun? Granny said in the bedroom and asked why. I ran in there and she followed me wiping her hands on her apron. I grabbed the 410 and ran back out the door.
“There is a big cottonmouth,” I yelled over my shoulder.
When I got back to the creek I started to creep toe to heel just like the Indians did so as not to make a sound. I edged out to the boardwalk and he was still there, fat and dull black in the light dancing off the water. As I came closer he felt something and started to slither off. By then Granny had caught up with me and took the gun. Before he could swim away she threw the gun up to her shoulder and fired, cutting him nearly in half.
The current caught him and took him on down into the darkness of the swamp. Granny lowered the gun. I filled the buckets and we walked back to the house together.
For all of my life the way I have remembered this story is that I shot the moccasin before my grandmother caught up with me. I swear I have a clear physical memory of throwing the gun up to my shoulder and shooting before it was seated properly which caused it to give me quite a big recoil that hurt for days.
My mother said no, it was my grandmother who pulled the trigger but I thought she was wrong. Several months ago I was visiting with a younger cousin who out of the blue said, “Remember when we were visiting Granny and Poppa and you found that moccasin and Granny shot it?”
Just like that, a vivid lifetime memory declared untrue. It sure makes me wonder about the veracity of other things I remember but it does not make me question the emotional truth they have in my heart.
Dorothy Allison who wrote Bastard Out of Carolina once said in an interview with Ellise Fuchs for PopMatters, “People want biography. People want memoir. They want you to tell them that the story you’re telling them is true. The thing I’m telling you is true but it did not always happen to me. It is absolutely true to my experience.”