By Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
It’s funny seeing what my son remembers and associates with me. He loves the water, so I planned on taking him for a walk to wade in the creek over the weekend. But when his mom asked him if he wanted to get ready and go for a walk in the woods with daddy, our three-year-old, who has gone morel hunting with me every birthday since his first, piped up, “To look for mushrooms?!?”
He was so excited, and though I knew we weren’t likely to find anything edible, we kept our eyes peeled for possible chanterelles or chicken of the woods, and checked out all the neat non-edible mushrooms we saw along the way.
This summer I introduced him to the Tom T. Hall classic “Sneaky Snake,” and he fell in love with it. He makes me play it on repeat in the car. He pulls his wash rag through the bath water pretending it’s Sneaky Snake.
So, I wasn’t too surprised that when I told him some small, unidentified white mushrooms weren’t for us, he replied, “These are Sneaky Snake’s mushrooms. He eats them. He eats them with root beer. We leave them alone.”
When we got to the creek, the mushrooms were forgotten. Sneaky Snake, however, was not. He kept looking around for Sneaky Snake as we waded up and down the banks. While I’d skip stones, he’d pick up rocks and throw them in the creek, laughing at the splash. Then he’d pick one up, examine it, think better and put it back down.
“That’s Sneaky Snake’s rock.”
When we climbed up past the deeper hole, and started to follow the bedrock creek bed into an open area with fewer trees and more overarching briars, he stopped, turned, and said to me, “This is where Sneaky Snake lives.”
A little further up the creek, where the brush was even thicker and unpassable, was, “where Sneaky Snake’s papaw lives.”
I wonder if that was because we were following the creek in the same direction we drive when we visit his papaw’s house. Regardless of where it came from, he insisted that we respect the sanctity of the serpent’s abode, calling his puppy back from the brambles and back toward the small waterfall that empties into his swimming hole.
So it went as we explored and played and had fun, him shifting seamlessly from fantasy to fantasy.
Sometimes I was daddy. Sometimes I was Hulk to his Spiderman. Sometimes his puppy was Superdog. Sometimes he was the Green Goblin. Sometimes I was the Green Goblin.
Always he was giddy with the joy of discovery. With the feeling of cool water on his feet and sand between his fingers.
There were some tears, a lost ball, and a boo boo or two too. These things happen. But when it was time to head home, he didn’t argue. We took the hill back up slowly. We got a bath for him, and a shower for me. And when it was time, we curled up under a cozy quilt, and he put his tiny hand on my shoulder, and we slept content and sound.
It was a good day. The kind of day I live for. Now, if I could just find my root beer.
Jeremy D. Wells can be reached at email@example.com