The early morning darkness fades as the new day dawns. A beam of sunlight illuminates the haystack where Clyde lingers between sleep and consciousness. These past few days have been emotionally exhausting, making it all the more difficult for Clyde to face another day. He slowly blinks and wonders where am I? He blinks a few more times to gather his wits and remembers oh that’s right. I’m with Harold and we stopped here to sleep last night. He places his arms outside the bedroll and stretches with all he has. As he does, he feels movement down around his feet. He tilts his head and wiggles his toes while he mutters to himself, “What in the world is that?” Moving his head from side to side, he pops his neck and slowly lifts the top of the bedroll to investigate. Peering down toward his feet, he sees two beady eyes look back at him and panic sets in. Frozen in place, his breathing becomes short and fast as he stares down to see a split tongue waving back at him. Before his voice can, his mind screams snake! As it begins to uncoil, he lets out a scream his sisters would be proud of. At least he learned something from them.
The sunrise is beautiful as Harold looks toward the eastern plains. Realizing they have to get a move on before the farmer comes out to work his fields, he slowly rolls out of his bedroll. As he scans the field for a place to relieve himself, he hears an ungodly scream, unlike any he has ever heard before. Looking around, he thinks who in the world can that be? His heart racing, he quickly processes that it can only be Clyde. He sprints to the other side of the haystack, not knowing what to expect. As he rounds the corner, he’s shocked to see Clyde still lying in his bedroll, white as a sheet.
Coming to a quick stop next to Clyde, he asks, “What’s wrong? You about gave me a heart attack!”
Still in shock and lifting the top part of his bedroll, Clyde points toward his feet. Harold slowly bends over to peek in and begins to laugh. He reaches down, grabs the snake just behind the head and says, “You ‘fraid of some little ol’ gopher snake?”
Harold flings it to the other side of the haystack as Clyde leaps from the bedroll and hollers, “I hate snakes, don’t matter what kind they are. I hate snakes!” He stands there and pumps his legs like a sprinter running the 100 yard dash. It’s more than Harold can take. He doubles up with laughter and places both hands on his knees to keep from falling over. Just when he thinks he’s composed himself, he looks up, sees Clyde’s face and starts all over again. By the third time, Harold has tears rolling down his cheeks and Clyde’s clearly not amused. He stands there closed-mouthed and doesn’t say a word as Harold tries to catch his breath.
Clyde finally hollers, “Don’t laugh! It done scared the life clean out of me!”
Harold can’t help it. “Clyde, it’s a gopher snake! It don’t do no harm. There’s probably more in there and all around here.” With that, Clyde picks up his feet and scans the ground for more.
Seeing Clyde’s reaction makes it hard for Harold to talk. Panting, he says, “He was just looking for someone to cuddle up with, ya know, a warm body.” Clyde shivers, looks down at the goose bumps on his arms, then gives Harold a dirty look. Still laughing, Harold staggers over to Clyde as he wipes the tears from his eyes. He slaps him on the back and confesses, “Ain’t had a hoot like that in a long time, but we got to get a move on. Got a lotta road in front of us.”
As Harold heads back to take care of his business and grab the bedroll, he hollers back, “Make sure his mate ain’t still in the bedroll. They usually travel in pairs, ya know,” he warns and lets out another loud cackle. With a worried look, Clyde reaches over, gingerly picks up his bedding and holds it away from his body while he shakes it, grateful that nothing else falls out.
...Back on the road and heading toward Denver, Harold can’t get over Clyde’s reaction to the gopher snake. He contemplates saying something and finally gives in to the temptation. “You know that snake this morning?”
“Yeah! What about it?” Clyde snaps. “Well those there snakes love warmth and they’ve been known to crawl up in the floor boards of vehicles.” Clyde tilts his head, cricks his neck, rolls his eyes at Harold and responds, “Oh, ha ha, very funny. You just can’t seem to let it go, can ya?”
“Half-pint, that’s something we’ll be tell’n our grand kids one day.” That puts a big smile on Clyde’s face and he lets out a hoot. Harold, now watching Clyde’s every move, busts a gut when he sees Clyde pick his feet up and place them on the dash.
“Relax Half-pint, enjoy the ride,” he says. Laughing on the inside, Clyde thinks I sure am glad I’m with Harold. Things are going to be just fine.
It’s early afternoon when Clyde gets his first glimpse of the big town of Denver, with a population of close to 300,000. He can’t believe the size of the buildings and how many there are. Each direction he turns it’s one building after another and house after house, more than he’s ever seen before.
As they come up on some very large buildings, Clyde asks, “What are those big buildings over there?”
Knowing this is Clyde’s first experience with a large town, Harold pulls over and stops the truck.“Those, Clyde, are factories. They produce all sorts of things. That one there,” Harold points, “that’s the Gates Corporation. I’m pretty sure they make some parts for these here motor vehicles. And that one over there is Stover Candies. Bet cha can’t guess what they make.”
Clyde jumps right in, “Candy, I love chocolate candy.”
Harold smiles as he starts the truck and heads downtown. Clyde points to a sign and hollers, “Hey Harold look, an Eagle Claw factory. That’s where they make fishing stuff. Wow, this is great! I love big towns. They’ve got everything!”
Harold grins and warns, “Yeah they do, but there’s also a bad side to ‘em. You need to stay close and be careful. Got it, Half-pint?”
“Sure, Harold, I’m with ya every step.”
...Harold drives slowly through downtown Denver, occasionally glancing over at Clyde to enjoy his expressions. His eyes are the size of silver dollars as he stutters and points in awe. They roll up to the corner and stop, straight across from what looks like the largest building in town. Clydeleans out the window, looks up and asks, “How tall do you think that one is?”
Harold smiles, pokes his head out the window and answers, “’bout 20 floors.”
Clyde leans out further so he can see the top and says, “WOW! That’s the tallest one I’ve EVER seen.”
Harold chuckles, “You know Clyde, I’ve heard of a building in New York City that’s 102 floors high.”
Clyde turns to Harold, “You’re joshing me now, can’t be no building that tall.”
“That’s just what I’ve heard. Never seen it with my own two eyes, but plenty of others have.”
Clyde looks back at the bank and says, “You’re foolin’ me! How tall would that be?”
“Well let’s see. If ya take that building right there and put four more just like it on top of it you’d have 100 floors.”
“WOW!” exclaims Clyde. He squints his eyes and pretends to measure the building with his hands, then imagines the others on top. The only problem is that he can only measure two on top before being unable to reach any further. He stops and says, “Ya know, one day I’m going to see that building and maybe even go to the top of it.”
Harold replies with a grin, “I bet you will, Clyde, I bet you will.”