A kick in the bucket

Published 2:00 am Saturday, August 8, 2015

Some folks have bucket lists – a list of things they want to do before they kick the bucket.

I don’t have a list like that, but if the notion strikes me, I’ll make one.

What I do have is a fist-full of disappointments in the things that I wanted to do but never got to do and never will.

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When someone mentioned the other day that Sunday will be the second Sunday in August, I felt a little tinge of sadness in my heart.

I had great expectations for the second Sunday in August 2010.

The phone rang one night in the winter of that year, and the voice on the other end was that of Alabama’s legendary storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham.

She said she was 91 years old, and there was somewhere she wanted to go that she had never been and she wanted me to take her.

I could not believe what I was hearing. What an honor. What a thrill that would be to get to share a first-time experience with Kathryn Tucker Windham. What a story I would have to savor.

“Sure, I’ll take you. Where do you want to go?

“To a snake handling. I’ve never been to one and I want to go.”

There was silence on the line except for the sucking of air on my part.

“Are you still, there?”

I slowly exhaled and started to stumble with my words.

“Oh, I don’t know about that, Kathryn … I don’t know anywhere …. and snake handling is against the law. I just don’t think we can do that.”

“Oh, you’ll find a way,” she said. “Just let me know.”

Kathryn didn’t give me any room to wiggle out, so I started asking around. As almost a last ditch effort, I approached a man from up around Sand Mountain at a Sacred Harp singing thinking he might know of a place. I explained my situation, and he understood the importance of what I was asking but didn’t know of any snake handlings. I gave him my telephone number, “just in case.”

About two weeks later, I got a call from the man and he gave me a number to call.

“Yes, there would be a snake handling, the second Sunday in August. And, yes, we could come but only because it was Kathryn Tucker Windham, and there could be no pictures taken and no stories written.

I agreed and requested that we be seated close to the back door, secretly hoping it would be kept open on a hot, August Sunday.

Kathryn was thrilled beyond words and we both started making plans. I would get notes from her asking if I thought the snakes were ready for us.

A co-worker raised corn and chicken snakes and, just for fun, I put a couple of those snakes around my neck and had my picture taken. I sent it to Kathryn saying, “I’m ready. How about you?”

What a great time we had anticipating the snake handling.

Sadly, Kathryn had some health problems that spring and summer, and we didn’t get to go to the snake handling on the second Sunday in August.

That was one of the great disappointments in my life. What I would have given to get to go to a snake handling with Kathryn Tucker Windham and what I would have given for her to get to go.

Kathryn died in June 2011.

I got an email from her daughter, Dilcy, some time later. She had made a trek to Tennessee and had gone to a snake handling in memory of her mom. What a wonderful thing for a daughter to do.

But, I decided that if I couldn’t go with Kathryn, I’d just as soon not go.

I’ll be thinking of that wonderful lady on the second Sunday in August with love and appreciation for the gift of stories that she gave so generously.