One of the neatest things I ever found as a kid was a black rat snake with marbled ivory markings along its belly.
Like most good things, it was unexpected. It just appeared one day in a vacant lot near my parents' house. It was sleek and heavy, gleaming like polished onyx as it basked in the mid-day sun.
It was also very tame, and I took it home.
Later, I showed my prize to another neighborhood kid, Brent Welborn, and demonstrated how the snake would dangle contentedly around my shoulders as I rode my bicycle.
He thought it was pretty cool, too, and he really wanted to own that snake.
I wasn't inclined to part with my pet, but Brent had something I'd always admired: a fine old Benjamin Franklin pellet rifle with a walnut stock and solid brass receiver.
We talked, he offered, and a trade was made. The rat snake was exchanged for the pellet rifle. We even shook on it.
Later, I told my parents what I'd done. I can recall that my mom wasn't a big fan of pellet rifles, but it was far more palatable to her than the snake.
Dad was simply amused.
That afternoon, however, my mom received a phone call from Brent's mom. It was obvious she was not as happy.
"Brent's mother wants you to give back the pellet gun," she told me.
At the time, it wasn't a big deal. I liked the pellet gun, but I also loved having that rat snake for a pet and didn't mind taking it back.
"OK," I said. "If I have to."
Within the hour, Mrs. Welborn's station wagon wheeled into the driveway and Mrs. Welborn came to the door while Brent waited in the car. The pellet rifle lay on a table in the front foyer.
But there was one problem. She was empty handed. There was no rat snake. Mrs. Welborn had ordered it out of the house, and Brent had disposed of it by letting it go.
I told my mom it was unfair for me to return the pellet gun unless Mrs. Welborn returned my snake.
"A deal's a deal," I said. "Isn't it?"
She hesitated for a moment, but she agreed.
"A deal's a deal," she said to Mrs. Welborn, who stared and puffed furiously on her cigarette. There was some idle discussion about perhaps finding another snake, but it didn't go very far.
She left without the pellet rifle.
For many years, things were never quite the same between my mom and Brent's mom, although Brent and I shared lots of laughs over that trade later in life.
But a deal was a deal, and it holds true today. Mom was great at applying and interpreting boyhood logic, even if she didn't always approve of my pets - or my trades.
She wasn't bad at conflict resolution, either.
Somewhere in the back of my closet is a fine old Benjamin Franklin pellet rifle with a walnut stock and solid brass receiver. It's old and tarnished now, but with eight pumps, it can still hurl a pellet halfway through a phone book.
Today is Mother's Day, so perhaps I will enjoy a little target practice in memory of someone who helped me learn some of life's most valuable lessons.
A DAY FOR DISABLED KIDS: Disabled children will have an opportunity to enjoy fishing, archery, shooting and other activities Saturday during Fun & Learn Day in Edgefield, S.C.
The free event is sponsored by the National Wild Turkey Federation with Walton Rehabilitation Hospital, CSRA Foundation and U.S. Forest Service. The daylong event is open to children with any type of disability.
Transportation is available from Walton Rehab in Augusta and the Weeks Center in Aiken. Call (803) 637-3106 for details.
Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119, or email@example.com.
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