Nicknames

Snake was my teenage nickname. I lived in a little Texas town on the prairie. If you ever saw the movie, "The Last Picture Show", that town wasn't but it could have been my home town.

Almost everybody had a nickname. I think maybe a handful didn't. I don't know how most of them earned their nicknames, but some I remember were Teaball, Potts, Baby Boy, Sugar Pie, Baby Sister, Skad, Chi-Chi, (the last three were my female cousins who are what are called "elderly" now. When Sugar Pie was 65, I talked to her on the phone and asked her what they called her now. She didn't miss a beat: Sugar Pie, she said. There were also Unk, Dip, Booger Red, Bo, and Squeaky and others I don't recall right now.

East Texas was a snake paradise down along the creeks and woods. Some of the most fantastically colored snakes on Earth, some of them quite beautiful. I had a pet Blue Racer I used to carry in my coat pocket. Silky cerulean blue melding over the length of his 5 foot body smoothly to a velvety bright green tail.

One night the Volunteer Firemen put on a dance (they all played instruments some of them really good) for the whole town. None of the girls would dance with me. I was crushed, to say the least. But the next day, one of them told me why. One of the boys had told several girls that I had my pet snake in my pocket.

So from then on, my name was Snake.

My best friend was Hatchet. I do happen to know how he got his name. It was during a spelling bee at school, when the teacher asked him to spell "Hatchet" and he spelled it "H-a-t-s-h-i-t".

It may not seem like it in this 21st Century, but those were wonderful times. We weren't just playing cowboys, we WERE cowboys. Nobody had a car, we all had horses. Mine was a highly trained Cutting Horse that had been so wild that the rancher sold him to me cheap, because he said it took six mounted cowboys to rope him, get a saddle on him and make him work. I think that was a reflection on their misunderstanding of the hors, Pinto was his name. I guess I was kind of what they now refer to as a kind of "Horse Whisperer" I talked to him and brushed him, and we were friends. When we rode out onto the prairie to herd cattle or doctor a wounded cow or something, all the other boys took along a steel stake and drove it into the ground when we camped so their horses wouldn't wander off in those 20,000 acre treeless pastures. I didn't stake mine. He stayed wherever I was, laid down on the ground beside me, put his head on my blanket and slept with me.

When I went to my High School 50 year reunion, one of the ex-teenageers told me he had always thought I was weird. I didn't tell him I still was.