Harlan: Snakes and Horses – Chapter 3 of 6

Written by Harold McNeill on October 12th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Red Sided Garter Snake

Photo (Web) This red sided garter snake along with hundreds of other species can be found by the thousands across the prairies. The snakes are great for scaring people.

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Early Summer, 1949

One thing that is etched in my memory from our months in Harlan was the millions (perhaps trillions) of ‘garter snakes’ that thrived in the grass and bush land throughout the area. Most of these little snakes measured between 8” and 18” in length and although not poisonous, they could sit back, hiss and flit with the best of their forked tongue relatives.

While many people have a built in aversion to snakes (probably stemming from that incident in Garden of Eden), Stan and I had no such qualms. We took great pleasure in chasing down those slithering, twisting, hissing and flitting reptiles, grabbing them by the tail and putting them in a pail or box for ‘later’ use. That use usually involved chasing the girls at home and school.

I never lost my love for these little garters and was, one time later in life, expelled from school for a day for leaving a couple in the desk of a young lady to whom I had taken a fancy. Seems our friendship never moved forward after that little episode.  Some girls just do not understand when a guy is trying to make a favorable impression.

Cousin Betty, of course, was no more understanding. I was sure that at one time Stan or I had sneaked up behind her and wrapped a snake around her neck and scared her senseless (well not totally senseless, she is OK today).

Betty has since told me I was wrong:

“I remember you and Stan and those stupid snakes and know you would have done something stupid like that if you thought you could have gotten away with it. You and Stan would never have dared, you were not that brave. Either I would have beaten you over the head or would have just told Warren. He would have given the two you holly whatever. Actually, the idiot who wrapped the snake around my neck was my step-cousin Richard Harwood.”

Just for the record, Betty was not the little saint she would have people believe. One time (before Harlan) when visiting Betty and Stan when they lived for a short period at Marie Lake, she, Stan and I were out riding one of the old horses. It was Stan’s turn to ride so Betty and I walked ahead. A little later we heard Stan coming down the trail so we hid in the bush beside the trail.

When Stan came by we jumped out and hollered “boo”.  The old horse reared back throwing Stan to the rocky trail, breaking his arm. Not a good move and we both got it from Uncle Warren and Aunt Liz. I was only seven and Betty about ten, so I am sure she must have talked me into that evil deed. I would never, ever have thought of doing such a thing all on my own!

Betty remembered that incident well (it still burned in her buttocks I suppose):

“Warren always bought old horses to feed to those miserable mink that would bite you every chance they got. The mink normally ate fish but if they “went off their feed” as it was called, Warren had to feed them red meat and one of the old horses would bite the dust. I was not happy about this as I always made pets of those old horses and then they would end up being ground into feed for those miserable mink. It really upset me.”

Harold McNeill

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Comments

  • Harold McNeill

    January 15, 2021 |

    Wow, Graham, I was taken by surprise (but then again that’s not too hard). Having all you fine folks (my children by other fathers and mothers) would have been great. I’m hopeful that sometime in the not too distant future, we can reprise that trip. Perhaps we’ll just set aside a time for someone else’s landmark day, and we can surprise them. Love to you two. Harold

  • Graham and Nazanin

    January 15, 2021 |

    How could we miss this historic event my friend!!!
    Nazy and I were booked for that cruise Harold, we were looking so forward to it.
    We will be together soon! We both wish that continued unconditional love you receive from everyone to continue as you are that special someone that makes a difference in this world.
    Happy birthday sir, cheers!

  • Harold McNeill

    January 7, 2021 |

    Glad you found the site and that Dorthy enjoyed. I’ve added a lot of school photos in other locations linked to the High School Years stories. Cheers, Harold

  • Shelley Hamaliuk

    January 2, 2021 |

    Hi there, I am Dorothy Marshall’s (nee Hartman) daughter. Mom was quite excited when she discovered this site while surfing the net yesterday, so excited that she told me to have a look! She quite enjoyed taking a trip down memory and seeing old pictures of herself.Keep up the great work!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.

  • Harold McNeill

    April 12, 2020 |

    Hi Susan,

    Glad you had a chance to read. I decided to update these stories by proofreading as there were several grammatical errors in many. Hopefully, many of those glaring errors have been removed.

    Many of the stories carry a considerable amount of social comment regarding the way the criminal justice system is selectively applied. Next up involves a young woman from near Cold Lake, Alberta, who was abducted by an older male from Edmonton. Her story is the story of hundreds of young men and woman who have found themselves alone and without help when being prayed upon unscrupulous predators.

    Cheers, Harold

  • Susan

    April 8, 2020 |

    Great read, Harold!…and really not surprising, sad as that may sound.
    Keep the stories coming, it is fascinating to hear them.
    Love from us out here in the “sticks”, and stay safe from this unknown predator called Covid.

  • Harold McNeill

    February 17, 2020 |

    Update:  Times Colonist, February 16, 2020, articles by Louise Dickson, She got her gun back, then she killed herself,” and,  Mounties decision to return gun to PTSD victim haunts her brother. 

    Summary: I don’t know how many read the above articles, but they contained the tragic details about young woman, Krista Carle’, who took her own life after suffering for years with PTSD. While tragedies such as this play out across Canada every week, the reason this story resonates so profoundly is that the final, tragic, conclusion took place here in Victoria. Continued in the article.

  • McNeill Life Stories Index to Police Notebook - McNeill Life Stories

    February 16, 2020 |

    […] Part I, Police solidarity and the push for amalgamation. Part II, Comparing police cultures and implementing change Part III, The past as a guide to the future Part IV The integration of police services […]