(6) A snake episode.
This is another story which, as a young boy, I loved to hear from my father.
Though grandfathers farm was more suitable for animal raising (beef cattle, horses and sheep) it also produced some crops, mainly maize (corn). In those early decades of the 20th century the farmers, which farmed in the hinterland (far from town) sold their entire crops “retail” (direct to the consumer). As bartering was still “the name of the game”, the farmer would travel with the ox-wagon still further into the hinterland till the road ended and there the consumers would come with their cattle, goats, or horses to barter.
When I was already a missionary I discovered that about 20 km further from town than we were; there were legendary stories about my father having saved their lives in years of drought. On the farm they had two large grain tanks where the crops could be stored for a whole year or more; the farm had higher ground with better rainfall and more chance of producing crops in dry years (drought).
One day, on such a bartering trip, a green snake, which was busy crossing the road, was caught by surprise by the wagon and it dived into a hole (probably a deserted ant-hole). Now green snakes in that area are looked upon with respect because it is most likely; in this instance; either a tree snake, crossing on the ground as there were no trees where the ox-wagon tracks were; or a green mamba; both varieties are highly poisonous. My father had a long whip in his hands; that is how an ox wagon is steered; the “driver knows just how to, and on which side to; crack his whip and what to say (usually more sing than say) for the oxen to respond. A good ox-driver is one who speaks kindly, encouragingly and urges his oxen on.
The hole was not deep enough, and the green snake’s tail stuck out; and father caught it. This was way before the present time where “animal rights” often seem to exceed “human rights”. Instinct taught the human to kill a highly dangerous animal; which was also what father’s intention was.
To be on the safe side he tied the end of the whip onto the snake’s tail and stood well clear (the “driver’s whip always had a long stick; similar to a long fishing rod). He then began gently pulling, and then to apply more and more pull. Suddenly the snake released its grip and came out.
The natural thing for father to do was to swing it in a wide circle and then to alter the whip’s direction to a semi circle to an arc high above his head, thereby swinging the snake with a dash to the ground. In practice it was however not all that simple. As he altered the direction of the whip; at about the time the snake was directly behind his back; expecting it to travel in an arc over his head so that it comes with force onto the ground. The snake was doing its own whipping around and writhing, possibly it was also heavier than father had reckoned with, so it did not travel/fly as expected but came “short cut” across and whipped round father’s neck.
Instinct took over and in what was probably a split second the whip-stick went flying through the air (father needed both his hands for something more important) and the snake was ripped in two pieces (as I said before, he was quite strong, and tree snakes are fairly thin).
Two allegories seem to be in this story: the moment you become aware of the devil being on your back or around your neck, waste no time to get him off. God can help you/me. (By that I don’t mean a human being giving you trouble, but a bad habit, or anger, recurring again and again.) If we humans would realize how much influence the devil has in and on our lives (unless we are in God’s highest standard) we would undoubtedly be just as diligent to have, and to know, pure freedom, from yielding to him (the devil) as father had from being rid of the snake.
There is only one way that works; more about that to come.