Americana is a music genre that might be a little tough to pin down but it can be loosely described as a diversified mix of traditional American music. Recently I was listening to some of it while working my way through the dustier corners of my music collection, and I stumbled across one I hadn’t heard for a while — “Little Animal Blues” by the Dixie Club Ramblers. It’s a deceptively simple country-fiddle tune, the kind of music that always sends my thoughts spiraling back to my rural childhood, and in this case the title of the song also played a part in my recollections.
Little animals were always a part of my childhood — and I’m not talking about dogs and cats (which we had too) but rather such critters as hamsters, mice, fish, turtles, lizards, frogs, and snakes. I think I almost always had some kind of little creature living in a cigar-box or jar in my room. Most of them creeped out my mom but she valiantly allowed me to pursue my interests, even after a white mouse I had trained to hide in my shirt pocket decided one day to peek over the top at her.
I had a small snake that did something similar, except that it would usually ride coiled up in my pocket with it’s head out all the time — sort of like a miniature periscope. I loved to walk around the neighborhood like that, hoping I’d just happen to see some other kids — especially girls.
Snakes were always my favorites. I told everybody that I was going be a herpetologist when I grew up, and I even bought a book so that I could identify the various specimens I found when camping or on other trips to the country. Of course, my collecting didn’t always go smoothly — I remember one time when we went out into the woods and I found a little snake and put it into a paper bag for the trip home in my aunt’s car. Unfortunately, when we got there I discovered that the bag was empty. We looked everywhere but couldn’t find the little snake, and for months she was unable to drive without worrying about it biting her ankles.
Even as a teenager I still had my eye open for snakes. Once on a vacation trip in the West, we were at a popular tourist stop and I caught a snake and wrapped it around my neck, posing for a picture for my family — but was soon being photographed by lots of other people too. Maybe my cowboy hat and sparse beard made them think I was part of the show, but I have to admit that I enjoyed the attention.
Unfortunately I didn’t pursue my goal to become a herpetologist and I haven’t had a small pet for many years, but if I’m ever out walking and see a snake, I just might try bringing it home to see what Mrs. BigGeez thinks of it.