Snake-handling makes the bucket list

Published 3:00 am Saturday, February 28, 2015

Life is filled with disappointments.

Everybody has them, and I’ve had my share.

Most of the time we can, as my granny would say, put disappointments to rest, but sometimes a disappointment keeps on gnawing and gnawing.

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I’ve got one of those.

The reason it’s still nipping at my heels is that it was a shared disappointment.

Back in early, 2010, I got a phone call from Kathryn Tucker Windham. At age 92, she was making a bucket list. There was somewhere she wanted to go, and she wanted me to take her.

My heart did a flip-flop at the thought of taking a bucket list trip with Alabama’s legendary storyteller.

I was in. Where did she want to go?

“I’ve never been to a snake handling, and I want us to go to one,” she said.

A snake handling? A ‘rattlesnake,’ snake handling?

“Lord, Kathryn, I don’t know if I can do that. And, snake handling’s not legal anymore,” I stuttered and stammered and tried to find a way out. “I just don’t think we can do that.”

She didn’t back down. “Oh, you’ll find a way.”

I didn’t have any desire to go to a snake handling but I certainly didn’t want to disappoint Kathryn so I started asking around.

“You want to go where?” Are you crazy?”

Then there were the comforting words, “They don’t have snake handlings anymore.”

But I wasn’t going to disappoint Kathryn until I had exhausted every lead. Then, by chance, I met a man from Sand Mountain at a Sacred Harp singing. He knew of Kathryn Windham, and I explained what she wanted to do and why. He would see what he could find out.

Several weeks passed, and I heard nothing from him. I could honestly tell Kathryn I had done all I could.

Then, the phone rang.

The good Samaritan had arranged for us to go to a snake handing on Sand Mountain the second Sunday in August. But, only because it was Kathryn Windham. And, yes, we could sit right by the back door of the church.

Kathryn was thrilled. She could hardly wait.

I started making my bucket list — snake boots, snake gaiters, a snakebite kit, and a snakeskin handbag.

Kathryn sent me a card, “Are you ready to go to a snake handling?”

A co-worker raised snakes for show and sell. He brought several colorful corn snakes and draped them around my neck. I got my picture snapped and mailed it to Kathryn. “I’m ready!” I wrote on the attached note.

She got a kick out of that.

Sadly, health problems plagued Kathryn that spring and summer. We didn’t get to go to the snake handling. It was a great disappointment for her and for me.

In June 2014, I got an email from Kathryn’s daughter, Dilcy. She had made a trek to Tennessee in memory of her mother to see “such a thing.” It was utterly fascinating, she said.

I was thankful that Dilcy made that trek and relieved that I was not along. Only with Kathryn Windham, Alabama’s legendary storyteller, would I have done such a thing.

On March 5, the late Kathryn Tucker Windham will be inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame at Judson College in Marion. Wish I could be there but I would much rather have been at that snake handling on Sand Mountain.