XI – Mom

Easter Sunday

“You call that a snake stick? You could beat an army with that.”


“I use a dandelion digger.”


“You should get a dandelion digger. How far do you plan to go?”

“Oh, an hour.”

“I can’t walk that long. I’ll sit here and wait for you.”

“You don’t mind, mom?”


“OK. We’ll see you in an hour.”

They followed the trail along the stream. The dogs splashed in the water. 

The old woman sat on the bright green grass of the hillside which, in August, had been burned brown and barren with drought. Now the whole world was washed and reborn. Flowers bloomed one on top of the other, amazed at their own being. The sun dipped quickly, it was March. The two turned back before they wanted.
Truffle was the first to notice the woman who watched the direction her child had taken away from her. She stood on the hillside, a pale shape against the glowing green grass, the sun behind her, lighting her hair.
“Go find Helen, Truffle. Go get Helen!”

The dog ran ahead, dragging her leash.

My mom only visited the Good X and me in San Diego three times. She didn’t like the dogs much, but she did like Truffle who was calm and strangely humorous — something I can’t explain. My mom thought house dogs should be small and manageable, not the giant, hairy beings we lived with. She didn’t understand much about me or my life, but there she was. She was crazy about the Good X.

The snake stick debate continued at home. My mom had the idea that a long-handled dandelion digger would allow her to kill a snake by stabbing it behind the head. Maybe that would work. My theory was that a long hiking stick would make it possible for me to warn the snakes ahead of time that I was on my way so I wouldn’t have to see them at all, and, if I did, a long enough stick would make it possible to move them away. Her dandelion digger was only about 3 feet long. My stick was about five feet long. I’d learned by then not to get into a dispute with my mom because it would end with, “Well, Martha Ann, I guess you know everything.” And, of course, I do. 🤣

These are all stories from a folder I found in an old trunk. As I was busy shredding them, I stopped to read. This turned out to be something I didn’t want to shred. I’m sharing it here and I have also put the stories into a little book. The stories are from the very first years I lived with dogs and hiked on my own, with dogs, in the California Coastal Chaparral of San Diego. The stories are a kind of record of the beginning of the best things I’ve done in my life — hiking in nature with dogs. I wrote these stories in my late 30s.


18 thoughts on “XI – Mom

  1. I’d prefer not to see the snake, instead of screaming in terror. (Except for garter snakes, which are generally small and harmless.)

  2. It is always a battle between Mother and Daughter to have the last word.

    The plan next weekend is to go rattlesnake “hiking” with a guide in Grasslands National Park. I don’t much care for snakes but this has been one of our goals in my hiking group. We’ve been unsuccessful on our own so far.

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