Barry Smith: Irrelativity |

Barry Smith: Irrelativity

Barry Smith
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

“Wanna hear about Uncle Satch’s latest adventure?” my Aunt Sheila asks me over the phone.

Are you kidding? Do I ever! And so do you. Trust me.

For the record, Uncle Satch is a real person, not a fictitious character, and “Satch” is his real name, even though it’s not the one on his birth certificate. He’s my mother’s older brother, an ex-Marine, avid outdoorsman, both cause and displayer of many stuffed animal heads, collector and user of guns. I was terrified of him as a child, even though he was generally pretty cool to me. My grandmother, who had grown too feeble to do any actual beating of the children, would always threaten to outsource our beatings to Uncle Satch. This threat was enough to get us all back in line. And yes, beatings are an important part of child rearing in the Deep South.

Just last fall I visited Uncle Satch for the first time in 25 years. He’s pretty feeble himself these days. A series of health setbacks have left him short of breath, low on energy and walking with a cane, and not walking very well. I remember thinking how glad I was that he didn’t have a cane when I was a kid. Uncle Satch and Aunt Sheila now live on a hunting camp reserve in central Mississippi, hundreds of acres of wooded land teeming with various wildlife, all of it good eatin’.

Now that you know who we’re dealing with, let’s get back to Aunt Sheila’s phone call and Uncle Satch’s adventure:

Uncle Satch is out for a drive when he spots a huge rattlesnake in the road. This is a pretty common sight down South. Snakes like to stretch out on the sun-soaked gravel to soak up the heat. What happens next is not quite as common a site. Uncle Satch pulls his van over, gets out, walks slowly up to the snake and … proceeds to beat it to death with his cane. See? THAT’S why I’m glad he didn’t have a cane when I was a kid. Uncle Satch, wobbly as he is, apparently still has a bit of whoop ass left at the bottom of the can.

He throws the 5-foot rattlesnake carcass in the back of the van and drives around to where some of his hunting-camp buddies are gathered for lunch, excited to show them his latest “project.” They’re all standing at the back of the van as Satch opens the rear door to reveal … nothing.

The snake is gone.

Well, not entirely gone, it’s just not stretched out dead in the back of the van. It’s clearly still in the van somewhere, but a quick check of the obvious places fails to locate it. Now there’s a 5-foot long, angry, vengeful, poisonous snake at large in the van. Hiding. Waiting.

At this point I interrupt Aunt Sheila’s story and ask if she knows of the movie “Snakes on a Plane.” She says no. I say never mind, and beg her to continue.

Well, Uncle Satch does what anyone in his position would do, he GETS IN THE VAN AND DRIVES IT HOME! Did I mention that there’s a rattlesnake still at large in the van? Yes, I’m sure I did.

Satch gets the van back to his house and parks it, then hobbles in and tells the story to Sheila. She has a far healthier appreciation for angry poisonous reptiles than her husband does, and refuses to get in the van until, well, forever.

They find a guy who’s an expert on vehicular snake removal – remember, this is Mississippi, you can find such guys in the Yellow Pages – and he comes and does a thorough check of the van, but the snake is still not to be found. Lots of places for a snake to hide in a van, he says. He suggests opening up all the doors and sprinkling flour on the ground all around the van, so when the snake leaves it’ll leave a track in the flour, then you’ll know the coast is clear.

And that’s where things stand as of Sheila’s phone call – their snake-filled van is currently parked out front with a powdery white circle around it, looking like some voodoo ceremony is being conducted, and Uncle Satch is in his recliner, bemoaning the fact that he’s just not able to beat things to death like he use-ta could.

Barry Smith’s column appears Mondays in The Aspen Times. See more at

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