The young girl entered the barn. It was midday and the light from the outside shown through the doorways and into the ominous structure. She carried a water jug with her to give to her father, brother and whoever else was working with them. She looked around and seen no one. There were two wagons in the barn already stacked high with green bales of hay. It was left in the fields a few days to dry but was still damp. She knew her father would want to put salt on them to take the moisture away from the bales. Moisture in hay bales caused heat and sometimes caused barn fires. She walked back to the back of the structure. There in the back were a few livestock stalls. One held a pig, which was named Bubbles, because he blew bubbles in his trough. She smiled and reached her slender little hand through the bars of the metal gate and gently scratched the swine, "Good Bubbles. You know where Daddy is?"
Bubbles grunted as he just lapped up some sour milk slop that he hadn't fully cleaned up from his first meal. Bubbles was often fed sour milk or cream that was left in the frig to long, vegtable trimmings from some meal that her mother prepared, chopped corn, corn cobbes, and any table scraps that Valerie, her sister, or her brother didn't clean up. That was a rare confidence. She placed the water jug on a hay bale then, walked over to the tube gate that leads out to the pasture field. Placing her foot on one of the rungs of the red painted metal gate, she hoisted her body up and over, climbing safely down the other side. She then walked into the field a ways and seen the tractors heading toward the barn from the hay fields. Her father and brother along with the Duke men would be coming soon. She hurried back over to the gate and climbed back over. Knowing full well that the men would be a while she waited on a hay bale that was sitting on the barn floor. That’s when she heard the faint sound, “Mew, mew, mew…”
The child looked up in the direction it was coming from. The ‘mew’ sound was coming from a hayloft in the north end of the barn. She was standing at the south end. The youngest walked to the north end of the barn and looked up. There was definitely a kitten nest up above in the north loft. She saw the ladder to the mow that was made into the wall then looked at the fresh wagon of hay beside it. The bales on the wagon were staked only two feet below the mow. One could easily pull themselve’s up into the haymow if they stood on the stacks of hay bales. She looked at the rickety wooden ladder and the hay wagon. It seemed to be the safer and probably the faster way to get up to the loft. She walked over to the hay wagon and stepped on the tongue of the wagon then pulled herself up on the less than a foot width of a ledge that was left on the wagon. She pressed her child body into the hay bales and reached up ward to grasp onto an edge of a bale to pull herself upward.
As the child was going to attempt to scale the stack of bales a sudden surge of pain shot into her arm. She jolted causing her to loss balance and fall backward onto the tongue of the wagon and the ground. Her behind landed first then she fell back hitting her head on the wagon tongue. A curtain of black cloaked her vision and she felt helplessly to the unconscious.
From the child's arm a small snake had lodged it's front fangs into her soft white arm flesh. The snake was small enough that it got caught in the bale when it was baled without much damage. It was injured from the compaction and mechanical processes of the farm machinery. The small serpent had been trapped in the bale and finally found its escape when the human flesh had forced it's self over its head. The snake, only defending himself in an effort of survival, attacked this human invader of space by sinking his teeth into the intruder's flesh. Girl and snake lye on the ground, injured and unable to leave their premises.
* * * * * * * *
Ed Strate drove the tractor toward the barn. His son Enos sat on the mound of bales with his friend Luke Duke. The boys, both twelve had just finished loading a wagon of hay up for Ed. The three where in good spirits and the boys were ready for a cool drink and a short break. Luke smiled as he looked to Enos. The boys grinned wide then Luke belted out in harmonious song.
Catch a wave and yer sitting on top the world…
Enos laughed and joined his friend.
Don't be afraid to try the greatest sport around…
Then both boys grinned and started singing out the Beach Boys tune.
Catch a wave. Catch a wave.
The two friends were still singing when Ed stopped the tractor a few yards from the barn.
"You two still listening to that hippy surfing' music?" Ed chuckled.
"Yeah paw its all the rage it school! The high school kids listen to it!" Enos replied.
Ed just chuckled and shook his head, "Just don't go singing' it around your mother. Besides you two are country boys… ya haven't even seen the ocean."
"Yeah but its just music Mr. Strate." Luke replied.
"I don't have a problem with it. Just don't forget where ya came from." Ed smiled as he offered to help the boys down from their perches on the mound of hay.
"I won't Paw… but someday, I am going to see the ocean!" Enos pronounced.
"Uh huh… Well… com'on boys we got a hay wagon to put in the barn." Ed pronounced as he walked into the doorway of the barn. He looked at the wagon that was currently parked in their and seen his daughter lying on the ground in a heap and something was on her arm. He got a sinking feeling in his stomach as he rushed over to the child that was lying on the dirt floor. By this time the snake had dislodged it's self from the child's arm but was still lying by it. Ed seen the bite marks on his daughter's arm and feared the worst, "ENOS!!!"
The young boy who was enjoying himself with his friend heard his father's call and came running, "Yeah Paw?"
"Go get your mother now!" Ed commanded.
Enos seen his twin sister lying on the ground. He knew something was wrong. The young Strate didn't ask questions just raced to the house. Luke saw his friend run out of the barn like a bat and raced after him.
Ed knew he had to get his daughter Valerie out of here and to a doctor, but the snake still lye on her arm. He took up a pitchfork and gently flicked the reptile off of her arm and onto the dirt floor. He then pierced its skin and moved it far distance away from his daughter's body. Whether she was dead or alive he didn't know yet. Ed then quickly came over to his daughter and put his hand under her nose. He could feel the child's warm breath being exhaled from her nostrils. Praise the Lord! She's alive! He then gently scooped the little girl into his arms. Her eyelids flickered open and she wearily looked up to see who was carrying her, "Paw…"
"Ssshhh…. It's alright honey. Just save your strength, Pappy is going to get you to the Doc soon. Just save her strength honey and stay awake. Just stay awake." Ed rambled to her as he carried her to the red pickup. She was lying in his arms fairly limp. Ed didn't know if the snake venom had immobilized her or if she had fell from the wagon or what her problem was. He just knew that she needed help and now. As he approached the pick up and opened it with one of his hands while holding his child, his wife Joanne had raced up behind him.
"My baby!" She gasped.
"Joannie, I'm taking her to Tri-County. She's been bit by a snake." Ed replied.
"I'm coming with you!" Joanne demanded.
"Who's gonna stay here with the kids?" Ed barked. He didn't mean to yell at his wife but the panic that was rushing in his mind made him snap at her.
"Jesse, should be coming back from the field with Henry and Josephine is inside. She's sixteen Edward!" Joanne replied back.
By this time Josephine was outside on the porch she seen her mother and father by the red truck and hop into it. Her mother called out the window, "Josey! You're in charge! We're taking Val to the hospital!"
Josephine looked in shock as her parents backed out of the drive and spend down the road, narrowly missing the tractor and hay wagon that Jesse Duke and his brother Henry were on. Jesse pulled the wagon into the drive with the old Case tractor and shut it off. He judged the scene. Josephine was standing on the porch clueless; Enos and Luke were sitting on the steps. Enos was now crying as Luke sat by his friend comforting him. Ed and Joanne Strate had left in a hurry in the red pickup and almost hit the wagon he was driving.
* * * * * *
A few hours later, Valerie was sitting in the red truck again on her way home with her parents. She looked at the bandage on her arm and looked in the truck mirror at the on that was around her head.
"I'm sorry…” she whispered softly.
"Oh, sugar! Ya gave us quite a scare back there!" Joanne smiled and wrapped her arm around her daughter and gave her a light peck on the top of her head.
"We're just glad you're ok, honey." Ed smiled thankfully as he kept his eyes on the road, "You really did scare your mother and I tho' but we're glad your safe. Next time, use the ladder, sugar."
"Yes, daddy. I will next time." She replied with a smile on her face, "Like Mrs. Crumb my teacher says, 'Haste makes Waste'!"
Joanne and Ed laughed at the their daughter's humor. They all felt thankful that the event that just occurred ended better than it could have. Joanne smiled as she looked at her daughter, "Any more bandages they put on you and you'd look like a mummy!"
"Mom I can't be a mummy." Val replied.
"Why can't you be a mummy?" Joanne asked.
"Cause you're the mummy, mummy." Val giggled.
They all laughed again at the simple joke. Sure it was corny but sometimes the corniest of things could make you realize just how lucky you are.
"So a non-poisonous snake bit me, right?" Val asked.
"That's what Doc Applebee said. The tests for venom in your blood came back negative and he said you wouldn't be alive now if it was something poisonous." Ed replied.
"Huh… Well, can I keep it!” Val asked.
"Keep what?" Ed asked.
"The snake daddy! Can I keep it for a pet?" Val asked.
"Valerie, sweetie you can't keep every animal you find for a pet." Joanne replied. She didn't care for the idea of her daughter having a wild snake or any snake for that matter as a pet, especially if it was going to be in her house.
"But, that's how we got Bob the duck, and Sassy, Blackie, Tigger, Snowie, Coalie, and Gingersnap! They were all stray cats! Plus, Dad found Chief the dog at Mr. Rhuebottom's store!" Val whimpered.
"Valerie, that snake hurt you. You don't want something dangerous as a pet." Ed replied, knowing fully well that the snake was most likely dead from being pierced by the pitchfork.
"But, it's not dangerous! I just frightened him because my arm was in the way." Valerie whimpered again.
"Valerie… please sweetie, you don't want that snake for a pet." Ed replied.
"But, I like snakes. They are neat. I've found a few down by the crick before and they didn't hurt me. Daddy I just startled the poor snake that's all. You know God's creatures all got a place. I love animals. Why can't I love this snake? He could use a friend." Val replied.
"Val… the snake is dead." Ed replied flatly.
"What!" she shrieked.
"I killed it when I seen you were bit by it. I'm sorry honey but I thought it was dangerous and I didn't want you, Enos, Luke, or me getting hurt by it. How would you feel if Luke Duke died because he got bit by a poisonous snake in our barn, that I didn't kill after seeing my daughter get bitten by it?" Ed replied.
"I can't believe you killed him." The child answered with venom in her voice.
"Valerie, baby, listen to us. Your father did what he thought was best at the time. He was only trying to keep you safe. Just like your snake friend, who bit you, was trying to keep himself safe." Joanne replied.
"So that means Dad's dangerous too…" Val replied with her arms folded.
The truck pulled into the drive and stopped. Everyone inside was silent. Ed took his keeps out of the ignition and looked blankly at the driveway. He then spoke in a cold monotone commanding voice, "When we get out of the truck, Valerie you are going to your room. You are to stay there until suppertime. You will eat supper then when desert comes you will go to your room. You will do your homework then go to bed. You are not to come out of your room until you realize what you just said."
Everyone in the truck was silent. Then Valerie spoke, "Yes sir."
* * * * * *
That night everything went the way Ed said. Val had spent the rest of the day in her room. She cleaned her room since she was up there. She was now sitting at her little wooden desk in the corner that her father made for her. She looked out the window and to the yard to see Enos and Luke playing football in the yard as the sun was setting. She sat there and sighed softly as she just looked out the window. Picking up her bird book she decided she would read ahead a few chapters. There was nothing better to do. Besides she couldn't be out there anyhow with Enos and Luke. She was injured and was suppose to take it easy. Although she could be down there on the porch watching and keeping score.
"God, I'm sorry I sassed back to Daddy today." She prayed aloud softly as she turned the pages in her book, "I suppose he's right. But he shouldn't have killed Mr. Snake."
Just as she was turning some more pages she heard the door creek open. The child turned around to see her father standing in the doorway, “Can I come in?”
“Yes sir…” she replied soberly.
Ed walked into the room and sat down on the child’s bed. He then patted on a spot beside him on the bed, “Have a seat.”
“Kay” she obeyed and sat down next to her father.
“Val, you’re a good girl. I know that. You do what is asked of you. You rarely sass to me. You brush your teeth before bed like you’re supposing to. You got the cutest little smile.” Ed chuckled as he gently pinched her cheek. She giggled and rested her head on his shoulder, “And if anything ever happened to you… I don’t know what I’d do with myself. You’re our baby. We love you sugar.”
“I know daddy. But I don’t approve of Mr. Snake’s execution.” She replied softly in a light tone.
Ed sighed. He knew this was coming, “Val, you know snakes are not liked by everyone. Your mother hates them. Enos is scared to death of them and Joe well… if Joe was in the barn at the time Mr. Snake was…”
“I know Dad but I don’t want to see him get killed because of my stupidity.” Val replied.
“Honey, is that what this is all about?” Ed asked his daughter.
“Kind of.” She answered.
“Val, it was an accident. It was an accident that you climbed up there and got bitten. It was an accident that I killed Mr. Snake. Val, even though things are accidents, they need to happen.”
“Because, maybe it was Mr. Snakes time. Maybe Mr. Snake had more things wrong with him than we know about. Maybe you getting hurt like that prevented you from playing football with Luke and Enos. Lord I hope this doesn’t happen, but who knows maybe if you would have played with them you would have been hurt even worse. Val some things we can’t answer and we can’t ask.” Ed replied as he touched her chin. His eyes were misty and he looked at his little girl and a single tear rolled down her cheek, “I love you Daddy.”
“I love you too honey.” Ed replied and gave her a huge hug.
“Can I go out of my room now?” Val asked.
“Did you learn your lesson?” Ed asked.
“Yes, sir” She smiled but deep down she felt a little hint of guilt.
* * * * * * * * *
She rushed up the courthouse steps as she held the hat on her head. The wind was picking up and the raindrops were the size of quarters. It was a stormy July morning. The Game Warden wasted no time getting into the courthouse but now she was damp from the rain. She frowned realizing she was tracking water down the hallway. She got to the glass bubble door that had gold letters printed on them. It was only her third week as Game Warden and already her desk was starting to look like Mount Everest.
“It’s a good thing I took that typing course in college.” She replied to herself as she took off her raincoat and hung it on the hook on the wall in the tiny office. She then removed her hat and hung it up as well. She sat the leather satchel down on the floor beside her desk. It was wet on the outside but inside all her files were nice and dry. She smiled as she realized water proofing that bag was a good investment. Taking a seat in her office chair, she pulled a pencil from her desk and opened up some folders. As began reading through reports her office door opened quickly, “Val, I need your help.”
The Game Warden looked up to see the Sheriff of Hazzard County standing in the doorway, “Yes sir. What can I do for you?” she answered as she got out of her seat and put her pencil down.
“There’s a horrendous crash at the interchange. A pet store truck was involved and I need you to come with me out to the crash sight. Since Enos is in L.A. packing up his things to come back home, I could use a hand. And this is your area animal control… and uh… I think these little critters need some one in control.” Rosco replied.
Val nodded, “I’ll get the cages and follow you out.”
“Yeah, and if there’s anything you need help with I can help ya.” Rosco replied as he then went back to his office to get a clipboard and the papers needed to file a report.
She nodded and went about gathering her equipment. She packed a small back with a few tranquilizers, a small first aid kit for critters, her papers she needed to file reports a flash light, a pliers, thick leather gloves, and some needles to administer the tranquilizers with. She put on her coat and hat again and headed down the hall with her equipment. She put her bags in Cricket then went back into the courthouse to get the cages she needed. She went down the hall to a small supply room in the courthouse. From brooms to bullet proof vests were in the room. However everything was neatly organized on shelves. Some of the items looked like they haven’t been removed from their positions in a couple of years. Val found the new metal cages, which she invested in with some of her budget money. Rushing down the hall with two medium sized metal cages in hand she made it to the door. She made several trips to and from the supply room with cages to and from her Chevelle.
Soon the Game Warden was in her Chevelle and following a white Hazzard patrol car that was in front of her. She had a red mounted light on the hood of Cricket and proceeded to follow Rosco. The windshield wipers swished back in forth as the rain was cleared from the glass. Her long white fingers curled around the steering wheel as she took a deep breath. This would be her first case as a Game Warden. Before she never really had to deal with traffic accidents and in a way she was glad Rosco was going and wasn’t sending her out cold, but of course it’s his jurisdiction as well. Probably more than her’s. She was just there because animals were involved. She parked the maroon Chevelle on the side of the road behind the white Plymouth and stepped out. Rosco was out of his vehicle and looked to Val with a somber look on his face. He looked to Val to see if she could handle it.
The look of apprehension filled the Strate’s face but she knew what her job was and pulled out one of the cages with her equipment. She bit her lower lip as she moved toward the tipped over twisted pet truck.
“You ok?” Rosco asked quietly to the new Game Warden.
“Yeah.” She nodded, “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it.” Rosco replied flatly as he went to the driver of the pet truck. Then he talked to the driver of a car that appeared to have been smashed into by the pet truck. The driver was holding his nose, as it appeared to be bleeding. Rosco called for a squad to help the driver of the car. The pet truck driver was all right but he seemed startled and distressed. The Sheriff handled the human matters while the Game Warden got to work on the animal problems.
Val put on her leather gloves as she peered into the back of the truck. Cages were scattered all over inside the truck. Bent wires from the cages were sticking out everywhere. She saw plastic bags and water lying on the floor of the truck. Dead and dying gold fish lay in the shallow puddles of water. There were some streaks of crimson running down many of the wires and the back of the truck was a tangled mess of wire animals and fluids. The smell of the giant pet carrier was not inviting, unless of course you were a turkey buzzard.
Val cringed slightly but it wasn't like she wasn't use to these types of scenes. It was the fact of the magnitude of the event. She began detangling the wire cages with her gloves on and the pliers that she brought. She gently removed some of the wires and removes some of the pets. Some of the little critters were unharmed but where mentally distraught. She pulled a whole cage of hamsters that was physically unharmed but they were cowering in the corner in fear from the trauma. She realized that most of the goldfish were lost. She took note of the number of fish on her clipboard. The insurance companies would need this information for later use. It was amazing to her, that humans couldn't be replaced for a simple dollar figure. Yet when it came to gold fish, a gross could be replaced for a mere five bucks. Funny.
Piece by piece the Game Warden removed cages, and animals. She jotted down her findings as she went along. Recording the number of dead, alive and injured. There were several that she realized she had to put down due to the amount of injury done to the critters. It was not a pretty sight. As she neared the end of truck when she came across a coiled snake in the corner of the truck. He was bleeding slightly from a small quarter of an inch-sized gash in his side. He was no bigger than a foot in length from the looks of him. His color was a lime green and hissed at her as she hovered over him.
"Sssshhh… Easy fella." She replied as she neared him with her leather gloves on. He gave off an offensive odor, which caused the Game Warden to wrinkle up her nose. He raised his head and hissed at her. The female game warden backed up a step. She looked at the snake and realized if he was going to strike her she wouldn’t be able to move out of the way fast enough without getting hit or getting caught on some twisted metal of the truck. She frowned. She needed a cloth bag, she realized. It’d be the best way to get the little reptile out of the truck. She knew though that this snake wasn’t poisonous by judging the size and shape of his head. She gently bit her lower lip as she see the snake was going into a defensive mood.
“Not good.” She replied chewing on her lower lip to herself. She made her way back out of the truck. She bent down as she crawled out onto the road. Bringing herself to her feet she met the gaze of the County Sheriff again. She was on all fours as she looked up at Sheriff Coltrane and sheepishly grinned out of awkwardness, “Uh… Howdy.”
“Need any help?” Rosco asked her offering a hand to her.
She accepted his hand and stood up, “I could use some help getting this little snake that’s in the corner of this truck. He’s frightened and needs medical help.”
“A snake?” Rosco got a little pale when the Game Warden spoke those words.
“Yeah, he’s only ‘bout a foot long. Not big at all. Really handsome little fella, lime green and really cute! You got a burlap bag on you or some type of cloth bag?” She asked.
“No, I don’t.” Rosco replied looking a little confused.
Val frowned a little and walked over to Cricket. She opened the trunk to see if she might have a burlap bag tucked away some where inside the Chevelle. She finally found one waded up in the back of the trunk. She pulled the bag out and quickly ran over to the pet truck. She climbed back into the metal structure and tossed the bag on the little snake. Then with one swoop, she snatched the bag up and sninched it tight at the top. She then crawled out of the twisted metal structure with the bag in her hands.
Wiping away some perspiration that was on her fore head she looked up to see Rosco and the Pet truck driver standing there watching her.
“Hi…” the Game Warden smiled wearily and held up the bag, “I gott’em!”
The Pet truck driver looked at his truck and all the mangled mess that the Game Warden went through to retrieve the living of his living cargo. He scratched his head and looked at the Game Warden, “What am I suppose to tell my Boss?”
“I have paper work here for them. I have reports that they can send to their insurance company and get reimbursement for there loses. I also have reports on the animals that needed to be put down.” She replied in a professional manner then paused and drew a deep breath; “I also am sending the injured animals to a qualified veterinarian. This way they can recover. If your employer doesn’t want them anymore because they are ‘damaged’ there are some release forms they can sign. The animals will be sent to local shelters and hopefully receive good homes.”
“Alright. Thank you… Ms….” The truck driver thanked Valerie as he took the paper work from her.
“Ms. Strate… Hazzard County Game Warden, Valerie Strate, sir. If your employer has any questions or any type of issues regarding the case, just have them contact me.” She replied with a smile that was laced with professionalism. Then she turned to Rosco, who was waiting to see if the driver or her needed anything. Valerie bit her lower lip gently and proceeded to tend to the animals that needed care.
“Well, if you need a ride into town to contact your employer, I can take ya.” Rosco to the driver. The driver obliged and followed the Sheriff to his patrol car. The truck driver and the Sheriff left. An ambulance had already tended to the injured in the car and taken them to Tri-County as Val was working on the pet truck.
She was now alone with the animals. She loaded the cages in her Chevelle, got into the car and headed to town. The black wipers swished back and forth, interrupting her focus on the ominous gray skyline and the road. Valerie hand her two hands gripped at the top of the wheel and her posture was poised. She drove the Chevelle steadily. She then glanced to the bag that sat in the passenger seat next to her. The burlap squirmed around for a bit then slowed down as the creature inside realized that it wasn’t going anywhere. Forcing an uneasy smile onto her face, the Game Warden knew that the snake in the bag would soon be in good hands once the vet looked at him. He was the only snake the pet driver had on the shipment. As she thought about the snake she realized that she was now reminding herself of an old memory. A memory that was lost in the depths of her psychic. She stared off at the road as she drove and a tear rolled down the side of her cheek. Bringing the sleeve of her long sleeve brown cotton shirt she wiped it away. Soon the Chevelle would be approaching town and there was no room to make a scene in her job. The Hazzard Game Warden was now in front of the Hazzard Animal Clinic. Fred Herburt, a seasoned veterinarian of twenty plus years ran the clinic. He worked on everything from cows and horses to the pet gold fish.
Valerie parked the maroon Chevelle in front of the clinic, which was located along Hazzard Square. She got out of the Chevy and headed to the glass door of the clinic. The rain dripped off of the awning that was over the door in a steady stream. Her long slender fingers wrapped around the metal door handle and pulled the glass door open.
The clinic had white linoleum floors and the walls were painted in a fresh clean off white color. A few chairs were sitting against the walls and a coffee table with magazines sat in the middle of them. There was an admitting desk and to the left of the admittance desk was a hallway. A younger woman sat at the desk busy typing something.
Valerie approached the desk, “Is Dr. Herburt in?”
“Yes, one moment please.” The receptionist replied. The young woman got up from her seat and walked out from behind the desk and down the hall.
The damp Game Warden put her hands into the pockets of her jacket and looked around the room. To the right of the admittance desk was a bulletin board with pictures of animals on it with phone numbers. The range of species that covered the board was a wide one, from Jack Russell puppies for adoption to guppies for sale. Val even seen there was an ad for a potbelly pig. There were also notes for the normal farm animal for 4-H projects. One of the notes was an ad from the pound, saying how they have several strays ready for adoption. Val knew that if some of those strays weren’t adopted they’d be put down. Some how this made the Game Warden cringe. The young woman came back to the desk, “Doctor Herburt will be out shortly. He’s with a patience.”
Valerie nodded, “Take his time… um, how long has some of these postings with the exotic animals been up?”
“The exotic postings stay up there pretty long. Most people don’t want potbelly pigs after a certain age, turtles, reptiles or exotic fish, so they don’t come down very quickly.
“Yeah, then they get released into the wild if nobody takes’em…” Val whisper to herself as she looked at the postings.
“Sadly, yes… a lot of people do that. You probably have to put up with that don’t you?” The girl at the desk asked when she over her the Game Warden’s mumbles.
“Yeah… that’s also illegal to do that too.” Val replied.
“Illegal? I didn’t realize releasing animals into the wild was. I knew it was bad for the animals though because domestic animals even if they aren’t native to the area, aren’t use to the wild but I didn’t know it was illegal.” The desk clerk replied.
“Yeah, it’s illegal. It’s introducing a new species into an eco-system with out governmental consent. It happens a lot and it goes undetected. Most times the animals die because they aren’t use to the area. But every once in a while you get an out break of animals you can’t control, because they don’t have a natural predator in the area. Then it’s a mess. Exotic animals everywhere eating up the native species and habitat.” Valerie said looking at the pictures on the wall. And that’s where that injured snake I got in my car is going to end up because nobody is going want an injured boa.
“Wow… has there ever been a major out break of some exotic animal like that in Hazzard?” the young woman asked Val.
Valerie just grinned slightly, “As far as I know, no. But I’ve only been Game Warden for three weeks now. So there’s a first for everything.”
Just then an older balding gray haired gentleman emerged from the hallway that was to the left of the admittance desk. His stature was short and medium build for an older man. He wore wire rim glasses on the edge of his nose and a white lab coat covered his attire of blue jeans and a plaid cotton shirt. He was removing some rubber gloves from his hands as he looked up to see the Game Warden standing there patiently waiting.
“Howdy, Val… what can I do for ya. By the way congrads on the Game Warden job. Leland always said you were a smart one.”
Valerie grasped the veterinarian’s hand and smiled, “I have some animals that need fixing up. They are out in my Chevelle if you’d come take a look. I’d like to know if there is anything you can do for them. By the way, how is Leland doing? I haven’t seen him since he was at OSU with me. Didn’t he get a job out west somewhere?”
“Well, I can take a look…” The older man replied, “He’s doing ok. He’s a vet for a huge cattle operation out west. They pay him decent wages and provide him with room and board.”
“Wow, sounds like he went a long way, and I’d appreciate that…” Val smiled as Dr. Herburt walked out of the clinic and to Cricket. The Game Warden pulled out some of the cages “They were in a pet truck accident. I recovered them and brought them to you. I hope once they are recovered that we can find’em good homes because I don’t believe the pet company will want them back because they are injured.”
The Veterinarian looked at some of the animals with a sullen look on his face, “I’ll try my best Val.”
Val looked up at the veterinarian and extended her hand, “I know you will.”
Fred shook Valerie’s hand and smiled. The Vet and the Game Warden took the injured in to the clinic. Val signed some paper work for Dr. Herburt, and then she bid the veterinarian well, and walked out of the clinic. She arrived at the red Chevelle and placed the key into her driver’s side door to enter, when she seen the burlap bag on her passenger seat. Valerie picked up the bag and hastily returned into the clinic.
“Oh, Doctor Herburt! I forgot something” Val replied holding the bag.
Fred looked up from some papers he was looking at on the admittance desk, “What’s in the bag Val?”
“Please take care of him. He’s the only snake on the truck and well… I got kind of close to him.” Val answered soberly, as she gentle showed him the snake in the bag. Fred took hold of the burlap sack, “I’ll try my best, Val. I have check him over to see how bad he’s hurt. So there are no guarantees.”
Valerie nodded, “I understand… just do what you can. Please.”
Dr. Herburt smiled softly, “I will.” He then grinned again, “And I’ll tell my son, Leland you said hi.”
Val bit her lower lip softly and smiled, “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” Fred grinned. He took the snake and walked back down the hallway. Val then decided she should go. The Game Warden left in her dark red Chevelle. She couldn’t help but remember the snake that bit her so many years ago. She encountered snakes many times in-between that event and now, but something stuck in the back of her mind.
What was going to happen to that snake? Would the pet company take him back? Would he go up for adoption? Would he have to be destroyed?
These questions entered her mind as she drove over to the courthouse and parked her Chevelle. She went inside into her office, made a few phone calls, finished some paper work, and then went home.
* * * * * * * * *
Ed Strate sat at the kitchen table reading his copy of the daily Hazzard Gazette. His wife Joanne was busy baking some banana pecan bread in the oven. He flipped through the pages of the paper to the classified section. Ed didn’t read the paper first thing in the morning because he had morning chores to do. No, the paper was usually read in the afternoon before supper and the afternoon chores. The classifieds where his favorite part of the paper along with the public notices. Those two items could tell a citizen of Hazzard a lot about what was going on.
He rubbed his chin as he noticed that Rueburt Banely was selling a dozen laying hens for fifteen dollars. That ad and the fact that he was starting to get a little bit of beard stubble on his face caught his attention.
“Hhhhmmmm….” Ed replied to himself as his hand rubbed over his slightly bristled chin.
“Whachta find dear?” Joanne asked her husband as she pulled a loaf of bread out of the oven.
“Banely, got’s a dozen layers for sale for fifteen bucks!” Ed stated with enthusiasm.
“That’s just a little over a dollar a hen!” Joanne answered him.
“I know… even if they weren’t good layers just the meat alone would be worth the buy.” Ed told his wife.
“Yeah… you can’t buy a whole chicken for a dollar. I wonder why he’s getting rid of’em?” Joanne replied.
“Have you ever seen Banely’s chicken coop? It’s getting quite full. I was there last week returning that come-a-long back to’em.” Ed replied.
“Since when did you borrow Banely’s come-a-long?” she asked her husband when the both of them heard the front screen door open. They looked to the kitchen doorway to see their youngest daughter come walking in from her long day at work.
“Hi, Val what’s cooking down at the courthouse.”? Ed asked.
“Not much… just had to help Rosco clean up a car wreck.” Val replied removing her olive colored jacket and her hat.
“Oh, honey… was anyone hurt?” Joanne sympathized as she cut a slice of warm fresh banana bread and placed it on a small plate. She then spread some butter on the bread, which quickly melted into the cervices of the bread and soaked into its spongy form. Joanne then poured a glass of chocolate milk and took the plate and sat it down at the table, “Here, have some…”
“Thanks mama…” Val smiled slightly and sat down to the place set before her, “A car hit a pet truck. The people in the car had only minor injuries and were taken to Tri-county. I took care of the pet truck mess.”
“Was it pretty bad?” Ed asked softly as he looked at his daughter sensing a slightly troubled vibe from her.
“There were quiet a few causalities on the pet truck. At least five dollars worth of gold fish gone, a few mice and hamsters, some parakeets, and a few guppies, more wounded than dead though. There was one snake on the shipment. He was a boa, had a quarter inch gash in the side of him. I took the injured to the vet. Fred said he’d take good care of the lot.” Val replied then took a sip of her milk.
“How is Fred doing?” Ed asked changing the subject.
“He’s doing ok I guess. He said his son Leland (the one who graduated with me at OSU) has a job as a vet out west with some cattle company.” Val answered.
Ed chuckled, “Yeah, Val, he’s been working out there. About as long as you been in Ohio.”
“Oh! Well, nobody told me that!” Val answered sharply.
“We figured you knew, sweetheart, or either you didn’t care.” Joanne explained to her daughter.
“I sure do care! Leland is…was a friend of mine. Geez a lot has changed.” Val sighed and pulled off a hunk of bread and put it into her mouth.
“Mmmm, yeah, a lot has changed my dear.” Ed grinned softly at his youngest.
Val sighed and took down another drink of her milk. Joanne finished making the banana bread then walked over to the dryer and pulled out some clothes and put them in a basket. She began folding the clothing on the unused part of the kitchen table.
“So, when are you or your brother going to get a spouse and settle? You know, those Duke boys are still bachelors.” Joanne hinted as she folded one of Ed’s t-shirts.
Val put on a forced grin, “I haven’t even found my own place yet Mama and you want me to think about a husband?”
“Well, Val, you get a husband he may have a place that you can already settle to.” Joanne smiled, “You should take some time to yourself sometimes sweetie. You’ve worked hard for at least thirteen years now. Now you’re home and you seen the world like you wanted to. So why don’t you settle down here now in Hazzard and have a family of your own.”
“Mama, the Duke boys are unemployed and still live with Jesse. Yes, I’ve work very hard for thirteen years and I’ll work hard for thirteen more if I so desire. I’m not going to just marry someone to have a family, Mama. I’m waiting for Mr. Right.” Valerie stated to her mother as she picked up the empty dishes and walked over to the sink.
“It’s just a suggestion Val. We don’t mean you should just marry anybody and just settle down. We’re just concerned that maybe you aren’t even looking for a ‘Mr. Right’.” Ed told his daughter in a gentle tone.
“I’m looking Dad, but I’m not really ready, yet.”
“We understand sweetie. Just so you aren’t wasting those beautiful Strate looks away with all that hard work you do. You know I would like more than two grand kids.” Joanne replied.
Val grinned at her mother, “Yes, mom. I know.”
After setting her dishes in the sink, Valerie walked to the doorway that would lead into another room then to the stairwell that would take her upstairs. She stood in the doorway and turned to her parents, “I’m going to go change. Umm, are we having supper in a few?”
“Yes, there is ham and cabbage cookin’ on the stove.” Joanne answered.
“Alright, I’ll be down in a bit.” Val called back as she walked to the stairwell and up to her room. She walked into the bedroom that she uses to share with her older sister when she was a child. The walls were changed from watermelon pink to off-white. It was now just a guest bedroom. Boxes of Valerie’s items from her Ohio apartment were stacked against a wall. A twin-sized bed sat in the corner of the room. A patchwork quilt was spread over top of it. An armor was in the other corner across from the bed, inside where some of Val’s clothing. She pulled the dark blue curtains shut on the window that over looked the driveway and shut her bedroom door. She then removed her uniform and slipped into an ash colored t-shirt and a pair of dark blue, blue jeans. The soft heavy denim felt good against her legs. She sighed lightly as she rubbed her hand across her shin. She changed her black socks for a pair of soft thick white cotton ones. She then looked at her reflection in the full-length mirror that was mounted on the back of the door. Oh, it’s so good to be home from a long day at work.
* * * * * * * *
A few days had past since the pet truck wreck. Val contacted the company that owned the pets to see what their plans were for the animals. The company told her that they received money from their insurance company and was going to call the whole ordeal a loss. The pet company released all the animals to the custody of the state. Valerie knew it was now up to her and the Hazzard Human Society to find homes for the animals. She had been checking up on the boa daily. Fred told her that the snake was going to make a full recovery but he wanted to keep it at the clinic till the wound was pretty well healed. That didn’t stop Val from checking up on the little reptile’s progress.
One morning, Val stopped in at the clinic to see the boa. She noticed an infamous bright orange Dodge charger sitting in front of the clinic. She entered the clinic and seen Fred talking to the two Duke boys, Bo and Luke.
“So Doc, if we find a mother cat that just had kittens, she may accept our kittens?” Luke asked Dr. Herburt.
“Yes, if you find another mother cat, that just had a litter you may be able to coax her into accepting your motherless kitten’s as well.” Fred answered Luke, “Oh, hello Val. How are you doing?”
“Good. I’m doing well. Um, how’s my little boa friend?” Val asked.
“I’d like to keep him one more day. Then tomorrow if his vitals are fine, I’ll let him go to you.” Fred smiled.
A huge grin spread across her face, “Um, do you think a five gallon fish tank will be a good cage for him?”
“That’d be a perfect home for him. You know he needs a heat source, a hiding spot in the cage, food, water and some type of substrate should be used.” Dr. Herburt explained.
“Who in Hazzard would wanna snake for a pet?” Bo asked.
Val looked to Dr. Herburt then looked to Bo, “I found the snake in a pet truck wreck, and I think I might just adopt him.”
“Oh… well, a snake’s a (coughed lightly)… a good pet.” Bo replied.
“It’s better than having him be put down because nobody wants him, or someone irresponsible getting him and releasing him into the wild. This way he has a solid stable home and he’s not causing trouble or getting into danger.” Val answered, “By the way if you need a mother who just had kitten’s, the mama cat out at the farm just had kittens. She might accept’em if you bring them out. Be sure to spread butter on their heads when you bring them. This way she’ll be to busy licking the butter off of them to notice them sneaking a drink.”
“Huh… and that works?” Luke asked oddly looking at Val.
“Yep. Seen it done before.” Val replied then turned to Fred, “So, if that snake is ready to go tomorrow I’ll stop by and pick him up.”
“Alright, Val. I’ll give you a call if something changes and I decide he needs to stay longer.” Fred smiled.
Val grinned, “Ok, see you tomorrow Fred. Bo, Luke, you can bring those kitten’s out tomorrow if you like. I’ll be home after three. I’m going to close the office up early tomorrow.”
“See, ya then Val.” Luke smiled and waved goodbye along with Bo, as the Game Warden walked to the door and out of the clinic.
Dr. Herburt grinned as he watched the Chevelle leave the parking space. Just then the vet’s receptionist tugged lightly on his lab coat, “Dr. Herburt, Leland isn’t coming home tomorrow like you both planed. He said he had a cow have a uterine prolapse and he has to stay the weekend and watch her.”
“Blast!” the veterinarian cursed softly, “Now, he can’t drop that boa off to Val as a surprise.”
Luke looked at the good doctor with a grin, “You mean, Leland was coming home and you were going to have him go visit Val and drop that snake off to her?”
“Yes, I was going to call her tomorrow morning and say that the snake wasn’t feeling well. Then have my son, Leland take him over to Ed’s place and surprise Val. You do know they were close in school.” Fred replied.
“Yeah, I remember. They were good friends.” Luke replied then got a sly look on his face, “We could deliver that boa for ya Dr. Herburt. This way she wouldn’t have to stop in and we are going that way tomorrow anyhow.”
“Well, I don’t know… I mean, I wanted my son to surprise her.” Dr. Herburt looked at the boys with uncertainty.
“You still can surprise her. It’s just that Leland won’t be able to do it.” Bo replied.
“Well, I suppose. Just be here tomorrow about two-thirty so you can make it to her place shortly after three.” Dr. Herburt answered.
“We’ll do. Since when have ya known the General to be late for anything!”? Bo chuckled.
“Alright, I’ll see you boys tomorrow.” Dr. Herburt replied.
“Yep, take care Doc.” Luke smiled as he shook Fred’s hand.
“Catch ya later Doc.” Bo waved and headed out the door after Luke.
* * * * * *
The next day Dr. Herburt called Val and told her that the green boa couldn’t go home with her. He wanted to keep the snake one more week to be safe. Then when two thirty rolled around the Duke boys came rolling up to the vet clinic with the General.
“Doc, I sure am glad you’re allowing us to surprise her.” Bo smiled, as the vet was about to hand the blond Duke the box with the snake inside.
“Oh?” Fred replied looking oddly at the boys.
“Yeah, Bo and I are going to be leaving for the NASCAR circuit and we won’t see you all for a while.” Luke confessed.
Dr. Herburt got a sullen look on his face but then smiled and understood, “You will be missed around here. But who’s going to help Jesse with chores? All those animals to feed can be a handful.”
“Coy and Vance are going to come stay with Jesse and Daisy till we decide to come home or they aren’t needed anymore.” Bo replied.
“Ah… well, maybe it’s best that you two surprise Val then. She was and still is you boys’ friend too.” Fred smiled softly.
“Thanks Doc…” Bo grinned and tucked the box under his left arm and shook Fred’s hand with his free right hand, “By the way, what’s in the box?”
“The snake.” Dr. Herburt grinned.
“Ahhhh! Luke, I think you wanna carry the box!” Bo nervously passed the box to his cousin.
“Bo!” Luke snapped but it was too late. The blond Duke was making his way to the door and the orange Charger. Luke shrugged and bid the veterinarian farewell and followed his cousin out the door.
* * * * * *
The General Lee was now on it’s way to the Strate farm. The orange Charger kicked up dusted as it traveled the dirt roads till it came to a brick farmhouse with an old huge red barn standing beside it. A gravel drive was separating the land between the two structures.
The boys parked the Charger and slipped out of the car through the windows the way they normally did. Luke carried the white cardboard box as he followed his cousin up the sidewalk to the porch of the brick farmhouse. Bo carried an armful of three little barn kittens. The boy’s reached the screen door when they seen the familiar face of the Game Warden.
“Hi, boys. What brings you two this way? Oh, that’s right those kittens!” Val replied and then walked out onto the porch. She was in a white and purple-checkered cotton shirt, blue jeans, and bare feet. She scooped up one of the kittens into her hands and gently petted the little creature in her cupped hand, “Oooooh, yer so cuuuuuuute!”
“Yeah, we figured they’d be better with someone who could support’em.” Luke grinned as Val loved up the kitten.
“Let me go get some butter to rub on his head and I’ll be right back.” Val stated then disappeared into the house with the little fuzz ball in her arms. She re-appeared with the kitten and some butter. She rubbed some of the butter on the baby feline’s head when she looked toward Luke and seen the white box, “What’s in the box?”
“Well…” Luke was about to explain when his cousin beat him to the draw, “It’s that green boa!”
“Bo!” Luke chastised.
“The green boa? Doctor Herburt said…” Val started to tell them about the message that the vet gave her.
“He did it so he could have us surprise you. See!” Bo sat the kittens down and took the box from Luke and opened it so Val could see the snake inside.
“Oh! Wow! He is healed!” Val giggled as she peered at the little boa. The little green boa was not happy about being confined in his current quarters. He snapped at Val with his fangs. Val stepped back to avoid getting struck. Bo nearly dropped the box, “Easy Fangs!”
“Fang? Hhhhmmmm, Fang… I’ll call him, Fang.” Val replied.
The boys looked at each other and shrugged. Val put the kitten she was holding down. She then took hold of the box Bo was holding; “I have a spot for him. Follow me.”
The boys followed Val inside. She led them down to the basement, which was warm enough but still cool. There was a glass fish tank sitting on a table. Valerie took the box and set it on the table. She pulled out a leather glove and placed it on her hand. Gently, the Game Warden pulled the boa from the box and placed it in the fish tank.
“There, he’s home.” Val then took off the leather glove and smiled at her handy work. She then turned to the boys with a huge grin across her face. She gave each one a big hug, “Thank you so much.”
“Aaaawww, shoot Val, all we did was bring ya the snake.” Bo grinned.
“I know… but that says a lot, for you two to bring a snake to a friend just to surprise her. Thank you.”
“Well, it’s the least we can do for you Val.” Luke smiled softly.
Val looked sincerely at the boys and just smiled, “Come on upstairs. I’ll get you two something to drink.”
“Ah, that’s alright Val. We have to be heading home soon anyhow.” Luke replied.
“Oh, ok… I guess I’ll see you boys around then.” She said as they all made there way up the basement steps and up into the kitchen.
“Well, ya might not.” Bo replied sheepishly.
“Bo…” Luke hissed quietly to his cousin.
Val looked at the boys as she shut the basement door after they had all reached the kitchen, “What do you mean?”
“Val… we’re not going to be around Hazzard for sometime.” Luke confessed.
She looked blankly at her friends.
“We’re going to race in the NASCAR circuit.” Bo replied.
“Oh!… I see. Well, good luck.” She replied and gave them a semi-forced smile.
Bo then pulled the Strate woman into a hug and squeezed her tight. Val accepted and bit her lower lip to keep from showing any type of tears. After Bo hugged her, Luke did as well out of obligation.
“Well, I guess that means that you won’t get to see Enos when he comes home for good from L.A.” Val told them as she looked at the floor, trying hard not to show any disappointment.
“Coy and Vance will be coming to help take care of the farm. So if you need anything give’em a call.” Luke told Val.
“Yeah, well you two best be on your way. You probably have to pack and all that good stuff.” Val told them. With that the boys nodded and realized she was right.
“Take care Val.” Luke said and headed to the door.
Bo looked at the long slender woman that stood before him. He wanted to say more to her but all that came out was, “Bye…” He then followed Luke out the door.
“Bye.” Val said and then walked to the door after they were already walking down the porch steps and to the General Lee. She took in a deep breath and breathed out, “I’ll miss you…”
The General then took off out of the drive and left. As she watched them leave a single tear escaped her eye. She slowly closed the door and wiped the tear away. Fang now had a home and she was his guardian. Some how it seemed bittersweet to Val, almost unfair. She was just getting settled back in Hazzard, Enos would be home in a few weeks. Now Bo and Luke were going to leave Hazzard for their chance to complete their dreams. Kind of ironic, and Val felt like she’d miss more than just the boy’s friendship.
She walked back down to the basement. It was a good thing her parents were out because she didn’t want to make a fuss over Bo and Luke in front of them. She reached the fish tank with her new pet.
“You know it ain’t fair, Fang. I come home and my friends leave.” She sighed softly, “Well, who says life is fair… but it’s filled with second chances. Maybe, I’ll have a second chance someday. Just like, you’re my second chance at making up for when that snake bit me.”
The boa didn’t respond to any of her babble, but for Val it felt good to talk to him as if he was listening.
Now Val do ya really think the Duke boys will be gone for good? Stay tuned all for more adventures…
Finished June 2003 - Written by Marie E. Roach.