“Can You Top This” was a front porch game of my youth. In this game, a person told a story in which one of their relatives was the hero/heroine. Each person would try to top the other person’s story and show their kin as prettier, braver or wiser than the others. Some of these stories were easily believable. Others were suspected of being yarns. A few were so wild that they defied belief. Nonetheless, everyone enjoyed them.
Lots of folks believed that the story that my brother often shared was a yarn. However, those who knew our Mama easily accepted the story as fact – which it was. Mama was an unusual lady and my brother’s tale simply highlighted it. He and Mama loved to fish in Mobile Bay, near the mouth of D’ Olive Creek and this is his story:
One afternoon Mama rolled up the legs of her Levi’s and waded out into the shallows to do some bait-casting out into the Bay. While in the shallows, she spotted what appeared to be a large log. This log caught her attention because it appeared to be floating against the current. As it got nearer to where she was casting, she realized it was a ‘gator and she judged to be about 12 feet long. She called out my brother, “Look, over yonder, you ever see that guy around here before?”
“No, I would remember if I had seen one that big.” They were still discussing the size of the ‘gator, when a neighbor who owned a summer home nearby wandered down to water’s edge. He was a nice fellow but he spent most of his time indoors and rarely wandered down to the bay shore, thus he didn’t know that ‘gators hung around the area. When Mama and my brother explained what it was, he offered to go get his shot gun and shoot it.
Mama exclaimed, “Whatever for? Shotgun pellets would just bounce off his hide, unless you got a lucky head shot and hit him in the eye. Besides, he’s not botherin’ us.”
“But isn’t he dangerous?”
“Not really”, but if you’re worried about him, I’ll shoo him away.” With that, she grabbed a piece of driftwood, walked over to the ‘gator, and prodded him a couple of times on his back. The ‘gator turned and looked at her, then swam docilely away. This didn’t surprise my brother, who just continued fishing. However, the neighbor walked briskly back up to his porch and never came back to the shore. .
Except for house flies, ants (in the house) and cockroaches, Mama respected all critters. Her attitude was they have as much right to inhabit this earth as humans do. She often said, “If they stay out of my way, I’ll stay out of theirs.” This ‘gator, like most critters sensed Mama’s attitude and heeded her gentle attempts to shoo him away.
When it comes to yarns, folks would be wise to withhold judgment until they can verify or disprove them. Keep in mind that yarns, like other things in life, don’t have to be completely factual to be fun. Personally, I don’t think that my brother’s story was completely true – I doubt that the ‘gator was actually 12 feet long.
Betty Freeman Haines, an author and award winning columnist, lives in Mesquite, NV. Her books/e-books, Reluctant Hero and Grieving Sucks or Does It, can be ordered from amazon.com.