The Nature Trail

When I am a lad about the age of ten,
my mother takes my older sister and me
to visit a park to which we’ve never been.
“It’ll be fun. You’ll love it, just wait and see.”

The place is fantastic! It has a lake, a swimming pool,
even horseback riding...and for old folks, a nature trail.
After lunch, Mom insists we do the trail. Like a fool,
I argue that I don’t want to waste my no avail.

We join a tour, guided by an older girl of college
age. There is this flower, that flower, and look .. a tree.
So boring! I should be swimming. Then we come to a ledge,
a place where the path narrows to five feet across maybe,

with a sheer wall of rock on the left. The ground steeply drops
down about eight feet to a shallow, rocky creek on the right.
The guide is leading, until beside some old bush she stops,
lifting a branch to show something or other. The sight

of a seven-foot-long coachwhip snake lying at her feet
causes her to scream and run - she could be a track star!
The poor, harmless snake is startled out of its sleep...
and takes off “running” also, catching up before very far.

Looking down, seeing the snake along side, she accelerates... does the snake....still neck and neck upon their coming
to a fork at the end of the narrow ledge, neither hesitates,
the snake going left, the guide right, with both continuing

to run until clear out of sight. Our small group still stands
in shocked surprise....then laughter erupts. As we start to
continue along the path, another park guide, this one a man,
comes riding over from the horseback riding trail to do

what he can to assist. When he asks what has happened here,
my sister lifts the bush’s branch to explain...and out comes
a second coachwhip, startling the horse to see a snake so near.
He rears; the guide falls over backward, begins doing some

somersaults down the incline, before splashing face down
in the creek, letting out some curse words I had thought only
old sailors knew. It was great! went the day that I found
out Mother was right about how much fun nature trails could be.

Harry Edward Gilleland      09.18.02