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Bynum, The Snake-wrestling Grandpa

Bynum, The Snake-wrestling Grandpa

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Published by Wayne Damron
-- Bynum was a good ol'boy who would do anything for those little grandkids of his: but, would he really go down into a den of snakes to get back grandma's watch that the kids dropped down there?
-- Bynum was a good ol'boy who would do anything for those little grandkids of his: but, would he really go down into a den of snakes to get back grandma's watch that the kids dropped down there?

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Published by: Wayne Damron on Jan 07, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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01/07/2010

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Bynum: the snake-wrestling grandpaIf you head east out of Fresno, cross the Kings river at Centervilleand then climb the first long grade into the Sierra Nevada foothills, you will come to Squaw Valley. If you turn off the highway at theSquaw Valley Fire Station, and take the narrow winding road up themountain, you will see a forty-foot trailer house perched on the sideof a very steep hill. The trailer sits in a notch carved out by a bulldozer and has a big wooden porch built across the front of it. Theporch, with its railing, runs the entire length of the house. The porchis twelve feet wide and decked with 2x6’s that are spaced one-half inchapart. It is enclosed around the bottom by a concrete retaining wallthat is about five feet high on the front side and slopes up to less thanthree feet where it joins the trailer. I am bothering with such adetailed description of this porch because it is here, on and under thisporch, where our story takes place. A fenced-in yard spreads out in front of the porch. An old oak clings to the mountainside at the edge of the yard spreading its welcomed shade over the homestead. Beyond the yard, the landdrops off into a ravine that is littered with broken piles of graniterocks and manzanita brush; in other words, it is good snake country.It is here that John and Mary Bynum brought together theirchildren from previous marriages and made a home for themselves.The kids are all grown now and have moved on; but the grandkidsoften return to spend time with grandma and grandpa.John Bynum (who everyone calls Bynum) recently retired fromthe Sierra School District as their trusted bus driver. He raisesparakeets now; but otherwise, has become a man of leisure. Since hehas become a man of leisure, he has also become an accomplished babysitter – or as his wife, Mary, likes to put it, “Bynum has anopportunity to get to know his grandchildren.”One such opportunity came last Saturday when the grandkidscame up to stay for the weekend. The older two, Jesse and Theresa were playing up on the porch while Bynum sat in his favorite lawnchair under the oak tree with little Buster up on his lap. “Am I yourBuster, paw paw?” Buster, who was going on two, asked Bynum.
 
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“Yes honey, you’re paw paws Buster. Now hold still,” Bynum wastrying to buckle a sandal on Buster’s little foot, “ hold still ‘till we getthese new sandals on. There, now you won’t get no more stickers in your feet.” A breeze eased its way down the mountainside under the growingheat of a late morning sun and everything was going along just fineuntil one of the kids dropped something down a crack between the boards on the porch.The kids came crying to Bynum, “Grandpa, we need to get underthe porch.”“No way, Jose,” Bynum shook his head. “This time of year, there’sliable to be rattlesnakes down there. You’ll have to wait ‘til winter –they’ll be sleepin’ then.”“I told you,” Jesse poked at his sister, “we’re in for it now.”“In for what – with who?” grandpa asked.“Grandma”“Oh –oh, what is it you kids dropped down there anyways?”Things got real quiet until Theresa decided to land the first blow.“Jesse tried to grab it from me.”“No sir,” Jesse said.“He knocked it out of my hand and it fell through the crack.”“I never touched it,” Jesse fought back.“Yes you did. He wanted to tear it apart to see what made it tick.”“Tick? Tear what apart?”“Grandma’s watch.”“What watch?”“The little gold one.”“Oh, no! That’s your grandma’s grandma’s watch. What in Christname are you kids doing with that one?”“Playing dressup.”“Dressup? Does your grandma know you have that watch?”Ignoring the question, Theresa said in her best pleading voice,“Will you go get it for us, please, grandpa.”Now Bynum knew the answer to that question was ‘No’; but forsome unexplainable reason he could not quite bring himself to say it.He tried, he really tried, but then he tried to slip around his
 
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granddaughter with, “How am I suppose to find a watch in the dark?It’s dark down there, you know.”“You could use a flashlight,” Jesse, who is ten, made a helpful butsomewhat sarcastic suggestion.“Where is the flashlight, Jesse?” Bynum asked.“In the kitchen drawer.”“That’s right. And where do you suppose your grandma is thistime of day?”“In the kitchen fixing dinner.”“Right again. Can you see the problem, son? If we go to the housefor the flashlight, your grandma will ask, ‘What do you want with theflashlight this time of day?’ And you know as well as I do that itdoesn’t do any good to lie to your grandma. (Bynum knew he hadthem there.) The kids both hung their heads.But then, that little granddaughter of his started bouncing up anddown with excitement, “I know – I know; I’ll take my necklace withthe cross and hang it down through the crack, so you can use theguiding light of Jesus to find your way.” She was so proud of herselfor solving the problem. “Jesus will help us - right grandpa?” Well,she had him there. They kept after him like kids do and finally,against his better judgment, he gave in - like grandpas do. Everyone was happy; except Bynum, that is.Theresa, who is eight, took Buster by the hand and went up on theporch where the kids had been playing. They knelt down on the deck.She took off her necklace and lowered it reverently through the crack  between the 2x6 decking to mark the spot. She took Busters littlehand, closed her eyes, and began to prey.Jesse helped grandpa lift the cover off of the crawl hole; they bothpeered down into the darkness. “Get me that stick,” Bynum pointed with his chin to an arm-long stick leaning against the house. WhenJesse fetched the stick, Bynum poked it down into the hole, probingaround and listening for the bone-chilling buzz of an agitated rattler –he heard nothing.Bynum has killed over three hundred snakes since he moved uphere. He usually kills one with a shovel by pushing the shovel blade infront of its face. After the rattler strikes at the blade, its head willdrop to the ground as it draws back to recoil; that is when Bynum

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