Monday, October 6, 2014

the last book I ever read (Oranges by John McPhee, excerpt five)

from Oranges by John McPhee:

“There aren’t many,” he said. “Rabbits come in and out. They gnaw the bark of the trees. Wildcats hunt the rabbits. People with dogs hunt the wildcats. Deer eat the leaves. Cows sometimes come in and eat the fruit. There are mice, of course, and rats, and what you call land turtles (we call them gophers), and what you call gophers (we call them salamanders). There are chicken snakes, gopher snakes, and rattlesnakes. They don’t live in the groves; they just come in to eat the mice. We used to have a fellow in the crew who was called Snake Man. His real name was Walter Henderson, but no one knew it. He was a tree planter, a sprayer, a grove man. They called him Snake Man because he always caught snakes and scared the others. He couldn’t stay away from snakes. One day, Snake Man picked up a little old ground rattler and waved it at the boys. It bit him in the thumb, and the foreman told him he had to go to the hospital. Snake Man said it was nothing and he wasn’t going. They finally got him there, and his arm swelled up three times its size, and they thought he was going to die. He was in the hospital a week, and a few days after that he came back to work. When the other boys saw him, one of them called to him, ‘Hey, Snake Man, how are you?’ Snake Man stopped, and he looked at the whole bunch of them, and he said, ‘My name is Walt.’”

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