It's Real Enough - If You Think It Is

From the Hidden Meadows Archives


I’m not sure if it’s real or if it’s like your daily horoscope. If you’ve done something sketchy and then have something sketchy happen to you, is it really Karma coming back around, or is it like a horoscope where you make the situation fit the circumstances?

And the other two big questions: Does Karma have an expiration date? Does Karma ever forget?

To answer those last two questions, I would have to say no and no.

My Karma moment involves snakes. I was taught at a very young age to be afraid of snakes. I don’t think it was intentional. It was more by observing my mother’s reaction every time she saw one. Pure terror. Worst nightmare terror. Screams that had the neighbors-coming-over-to-make-sure-everything-was-alright kind of terror. So whether it was my witness to this growing up, or just the fact that it was my destiny, I am equally as horrified of snakes.

I can tolerate seeing a snake on TV or in a movie. I’ve even been known to go through the snake house at the zoo (although the last time I did that in San Diego I had a nightmare that I got sealed into that snake house and the glass keeping the snakes in check suddenly vanished. I didn’t get much sleep that night). But on mountain hikes I’ve been known to let out a small yelp, accompanied by a sideways jump, when there was a stick on the trail that might have slightly resembled a snake.

Now you would think I would be sympathetic towards people with a fear of snakes. But for some reason that’s not the case.

As I mentioned, I knew at a very very young age that my mother was terrified of snakes. So one day when I was eight or nine years old, I saw a garter snake out in the garden next to our house. I quickly found a plastic sandwich bag, coaxed the snake into the bag, and took it into the house. Mom was laying on the sofa reading the newspaper and didn’t see me come inside. I stood behind the newspaper, said ‘hey mom’ and when she looked over the top of the newspaper to see what I wanted, she was eyeball to eyeball with that garter snake.

This did not end well for me. She let out a horrific scream while at the same time her arms started flailing, trying to get away from the snake (which was still in the sandwich bag). I was banished to my room for the rest of the afternoon. Then when my father got home, I was in even more trouble. He was upset that I had terrified my mom (although I think he had to work pretty hard not to giggle), but what upset him even more was that the newspaper was in shreds, and he had to go down to Wallach’s Drugstore to get another copy.

The next time I scared someone with a snake, there wasn’t actually a snake. This happened at Meadow Springs CC in Richland, WA. Scott Alexander and I were playing a practice round before the Washington State Open. It was somewhere around the third or fourth hole and Scott had hooked a tee shot into some long grass.

Now keep in mind that Richland is in eastern Washington, which is a desert and a great home to rattlesnakes. Scott was wearing golf shorts, tromping around in the tall grass trying to find his golf ball, and not paying any attention to me. I just couldn’t help myself. I took the grip end of my golf club, brushed his calf with it and made a hissing noise.

I have never, ever seen someone jump so high. Scott’s a great basketball player and has no trouble throwing down a two-handed dunk, so he can get off his feet. But he would have had no trouble getting up and over Kevin Durant with the jump he exhibited that day on the course.

I was rolling on the ground in tears, I was laughing so hard. Scott on the other hand, did not see the humor and it was several holes later before he would even talk to me. To this day, when I bring up that story, he gets pretty quiet.

The third instance where I took advantage of a person’s fear of snakes occurred about four years ago. I came out the back door of our clubhouse and was heading to the driving range to give a lesson.

Suzanne Hartt, who with her husband Wayne, had purchased a membership for the first time at our course that spring. She had just finished her round and was heading up to the parking lot. She had stopped in the driveway behind the driving range tee and was kicking dirt at something, and I could hear her saying, “go away, go away.”

As I got a little closer, I could see that there was a fairly decent sized garter snake on the ground in front of her. She was a couple of feet away from it and was trying to get it to move so that she could get to her car.

Once again, I just couldn’t help myself. A couple of kids that had been hitting range balls had stopped to see what was going on. As I snuck up behind Suzanne I put my finger to my lips, letting them know to keep quiet, then said ‘BOO!’ when I was about two feet behind her.

To say she was startled would be an understatement, and I was lucky not to get whacked with a golf club. She ended up being good-natured about it, but when her eyes narrowed and she said, “I WILL get even with you,” she’s had me looking back over my shoulder ever since.

The other day, Karma decided it was time to make a visit to me at the golf course.

I was getting the irrigation system set up for the evening and was pulling hoses onto the greens. We have an box set into the ground in the vicinity of each green where we roll up the hoses when we aren’t using them. I had Alex and Cannoli with me (a shepherd/hound mix and a lab). It gives them a good run and I usually have peace and quiet for the rest of the night. That’s presuming they don’t sniff out a skunk or porcupine.

The box for the hose on #6 is set off the fairway a little bit, and is in some heavy brush. I pulled the cover off of the box, reached down to pick up the sprinkler, and unbeknownst to me there was a snake underneath the hose. You guessed it, I picked up the snake along with the hose and was eyeball-to-eyeball with that serpent when I pulled it out of the box.

So you know how all of the birds in a forest will get quiet when there is danger lurking nearby? While I am unable to give justice to describing the noise I made when I had the hose and snake in my hand, it was loud enough and shrill enough to make all of the critters in the woods go silent.

I quickly dropped the hose, did some kind of really bad dance move with my feet, had my arms flailing back and forth, and took several quick steps towards the 6th green. I still get a shiver in my shoulders and neck every time I think about it.

I wish I could say this was the end of my terror, but noooooooo. Alex and Cannoli normally mind me about as well as a typical teenager would mind their parents, and will never come when I call them. But apparently the noise I made got their attention, and they quickly came to investigate the fuss I was making.

Apparently snakes must not have ears since the noise I made did not scare it away, and it was still on the ground where I dropped it. Cannoli found it and thought it would be a good idea to bring it over to me. He started chasing after me with the snake hanging out of his mouth.

Now I’ve never been accused of being a fast runner, but I can be pretty quick in spurts when I am absolutely scared to death. I quickly realized that Cannoli wasn’t going to give up until he had presented me with that snake. I was able to get to the golf cart that I’d been making my rounds with, but with Cannoli in full sprint I was not able to stay ahead of him.

Cannoli is normally pretty timid and in the nine years that we’ve had him, we haven’t been able to coax him into a cart for a ride. Lucky for me he picked that night to see what riding in a golf cart would be like, and jumped onto the passenger seat while I had that thing floored.

With the snake.

Still in his mouth.

Without thinking or any hesitation at all, I bailed out of the cart. I went rolling into the weeds and the cart careened off to the right. When I looked for it from the fourth tee, which is where I had sprinted to without looking back, the cart had ended up coming to a stop in a low spot in the 7th fairway, some 150 yards away from where I was standing.

Things finally settled down and both Cannoli and Alex trotted up to see why I was warily eyeing them from a safe distance (this in itself is some form of Karma as well). Cannoli no longer had the snake. I’m not sure if he dropped it in all of the excitement or if he decided to have a quick snack before dinner. Neither option would surprise me.

Unfortunately the story did not end with the disappearance of that snake.

The next evening when I went out to pull hoses again, I approached the box on #6 with great apprehension (think of Brad Pitt’s famous line ‘what’s in the box?’). I slowly pulled the cover up off of the box and nearly had heart failure. It took me several moments to realize that Chad, our greens superintendent, had put a new black and red hose on #6, and that it wasn’t a monster-size garter snake waiting for me. However, all of the critters in the woods went silent for a second consecutive night.

Is Karma real? While the existence of Karma may be debatable, the possibility that it is real will forever influence any decision I make involving scaring anybody with a snake ever again. I can only hope that Karma’s paybacks are not on a one-for-one basis. Otherwise I have “Revenge of Karma” and “Karma Strikes Again” to look forward to.