By James Earl Turner
Blind dates are one of the greatest fears of a single person. It’s usually a mother or a good “friend” that’s trying to set you up with a date. When you ask what they look like, you sometimes hear “he/she has a great personality.” That’s always scary.
I was getting along just fine in the summer of 1983 with dating. I was one of those people that had a real problem approaching women to ask for a date or even to just go have a Coke. I married two weeks out of high school, barely 18 years old. We dated for the last couple of years of high school and then got married on the day I last shaved my mustache. After 8 ½ years and having our two sons, we split up and I ended up single. All this to say, I never learned how to ask someone for a date.
I had a friend at that time that told me he had a similar experience when he was younger, and he finally got to where he had no problem approaching a girl to ask for a date. I told him I didn’t think I would ever be able to do that. I had no problem talking in front of people, just not to a woman to ask for a date.
Well, my friend was right. I gradually got over the shyness around women and back to the summer of 1983 I dated different women and wasn’t afraid to ask if I saw one that I knew was available and I was interested in.
Now for the blind dating part of this story. I was living in one of my Mom and Dad’s apartments and had a friend living next door. At the time, he worked at one of the grocery stores in town. He told me about a girl that had been in the store who was in town visiting with her sister and brother-in-law. We discussed it, and he ended up calling her sister so that I could visit with her. I asked if she would like to go get something to drink, but she said it was too late that evening but would the next evening.
The next evening, I showed up at her sister’s house with my fairly long blond hair (yes I had hair then) and my black goat roping hat. She later told me that she wasn’t sure what she was getting into when she saw me. I was in the best shape I had ever been in and have been. I could climb a rope or chain up to the second story of the job I was working on hand over hand and had a tan that made me look like a beach bum. She was trim, good looking and had that “good personality” to boot.
At the time I had a membership at the country club where they had a restaurant, so that’s where we went for dinner and a drink. A couple who were good friends of mine stopped by the table and visited for a few minutes before leaving. I was later his best man at their wedding and he at ours.
After dinner we went by my apartment to show her my place and check my answering machine. While there, my dad called to tell me that the deputy on the patrol that had been mine the previous two years was broke down on the mountain, but had killed a rattle snake and had it for me. I told her what the call was about, and she asked if I wanted to go get it.
Now let me explain. I am pretty much terrified of snakes, whether it be a garter snake or a water moccasin. I had been with friends when a rattle snake was skinned and I had cooked and eaten rattle snake but to handle one was not on my list of things to do. However, this WAS a blind date, and I had to be macho to impress. So we loaded up in my Olds 98 and went up the mountain. We found the deputy, and sure enough there was a 3-foot rattler in the back of his truck. I cut the head off the snake, picked up the body and put in the back floor of the car (shiver).
When we got back to the apartment, I got the snake out and promptly went into the apartment next door where my friend was already in bed. I woke him up with a snake in his face. He didn’t seem to appreciate that very much for some reason.
I started skinning the snake from the head end and after pulling a couple inches of skin down tied it to the porch post to finish skinning it. If you have ever messed with a snake, you know how they just seem to stay alive for ever, wiggling and drawing up when messing with them. At this time my blind date said, “If you will get something I’ll hold it.” Shocked, I asked “What?” She said, “If you will get a napkin or paper towel or something, I’ll hold it’s tail down while you skin it.” So, I got a paper towel and she held it down while I skinned it.
That was the last date with someone new. I knew I could not just let this one go. My first wife wouldn’t even help skin a squirrel, much less a rattle snake.
One year to the day after that blind date, on a Friday the 13th, Ewanta and I were married. That’s been 36 years ago. We’ve had our ups and downs over the years, lived in a lot of places and done a lot of things but we’ve never skinned another rattle snake.