Monday, February 21, 2011

The Rattlesnake and the Rabbit - A Lesson in Life and Problem Solving

On the weekends that my 4 year old grandson stays with us it seems like I have a shadow attached to me. Every time I stop he is saying something like, "Papa, let's work in the yard" or "Papa, let's go to the store" or "Papa, let's do this or that." Then it is off we go on another adventure.

This weekend it hit me that he is a lot like I was when I was his age. From as early as I can remember, until I discovered girls, I loved being with my granddaddy. I was lucky that I got to spend a lot of time with him, having fun, learning and gaining wisdom from him. I especially remember riding around in his truck and talking.

Granddaddy was a very quiet man, like all of us Gray men, and did not talk much except when it was just him and I riding in the truck. He was always telling me something about the farm, the old days when he was a young man, nature and wildlife, and about life in general. It was always like show and tell story time when we were in the truck or working on the farm.

There was one event we shared together that stuck in my mind and I still smile and marvel at the wisdom of his explanation. I was around 8 years old and we were riding in his truck on what we called the Swamp Road going to the field we were working at. This was an old sandy dirt road which was typical of most roads in the area.

I was daydreaming as we rode along not really paying attention to anything when Granddaddy suddenly slammed on the brakes and came to a stop in the middle of the road. He then turned off the engine and just sat there. I looked at him questionably and he pointed at the road as he told me to be quiet and watch.

About twenty feet in front of the truck sat a huge rabbit with the biggest rattlesnake I have ever seen coiled loosely around it. The snake was coiled up in a strike position and they were staring at each other, eye to eye. Neither one was moving, not even a twitch.

I asked Granddaddy what they were doing, even though I knew that rabbit would soon be snake food. Granddaddy looked at me and said, "Watch, the rabbit is charming the snake."

I chuckled and replied, "Don't you mean the snake is charming the rabbit."

"Just watch," was all he replied.

We stayed there for what seemed like an eternity watching the drama of life and death play out before us. Even though I knew it was the way of life in nature I could not help but feel sorry for the poor rabbit. It was at this point I learned a valuable life lesson.

After waiting and watching the snake and the rabbit locked in a death stare, neither moving a muscle, the unbelievable happened. In the blink of an eye the rabbit leaped to its freedom and the snake was still sitting in its strike position staring at an empty place.

I remember the shock I felt as I asked Granddaddy what had just happened and him laughing at me and saying, "I told you the rabbit just charmed the snake." He then proceeded to explain several life lessons to be learned from this.

The first lesson he taught me about the rattlesnake and the rabbit is never judge a book by its cover. It is very easy to judge your opponent or a problem as being overwhelming. Even though they form the backbone of our rating system, first impressions are not always the best.

The second lesson is running away from problems will not solve them. The rabbit had tried to run but in the end had found it was trapped and unable to run from its problem. It was at this point the rabbit realized it had to deal with its problem face to face in order to solve it. No longer could he ignore the issue, run from it or dance around the issue at hand.

The third lesson is to never give up. Even when all the odds are against you, you need to keep trying to overcome. The rabbit was obviously trapped in a no-win situation completely surrounded by its enemy, the snake. It did not let fear overcome its desire for life so it turned to the last resort effort of rearing up on its hind legs and staring its enemy in the eye, daring it to blink. If it had shown any fear it would have been killed.

Another lesson to learn is neither the strength of the snake nor the speed of the rabbit determined the outcome. Sometimes it takes finesse to solve an issue. In life we are taught that strength and money can solve most issues. When you get out into the real world you soon learn you have to use your intelligence and experience to overcome most situations.

The last point that Granddaddy made was, when the prize is at hand and you have your enemy where you want them, strike! Don't sit back, waiting and mocking your opponent. How many times has a great victory been lost in history because the perceived victor hesitated and let its victim get away? Do not celebrate until the final whistle is blown.

After he finished explaining all this to me Granddaddy looked me in the eye and said, "The story is not over yet, come with me." We then got out of the truck and he grabbed a shovel from the back and we killed that huge snake.

He then told me, "Never leave a live rattlesnake (problem) if you have the means to kill it." With that he began to teach me about rattlesnakes, their fangs, and their rattles, but that's another story for another time.

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