When it would rain in our little town, as long as it was only rain, us kids could go outside and play. We went on grand adventured and explored the "sea life" of the Ozarks that typically remained hidden during long hot summer days.
Crawdads, now called "crawfish', were favorites to locate and do battle until one would lose a claw, we'd toss them aside and go look for others. If it was a down pour, forget finding crawdads, we ran to the ditches where we would ride the waves of fast moving water like snow sleding in winter. We'd dodge broken bottles, old tin cans, litter and all sizes of limbs too weak to hold on against the deluge.
At times one of us would get caught in a whirlpool and would have to be rescued by the rest of us running in to grab them. We'd yank them up and out of the rushing flood water and wait as the rescued cough, spitting out grass and mud. Crisis averted, we'd run back to the outspout where the drain shot out water like it was shot from a cannon. When I jummped in from above the outspout during a downpour, I can't recall ever feeling the grass hit my feet and of course we were all barefoot.
As the rain slowed, it allowed for a more intense search of the area Papaw told us to look for the most magically transformed creature animal know in the Ozarks,.....living horsehair. Papaw told us that big storms brought big magic in such a way that it could turn horsehair to life. He said we would find these rare animals if we searched the gutters as they would stand out. If we looked in the grass, we would never find them. The gutters hypnotized the transformed creatures. His eyes would almost glitter, as my Papaw rarely smiled with his mouth, he would lean forward then whisper as we all leaned toward him, fearing we would miss some tip that would let this living horsehair ellude our grasp, will be the hind end of the horse, the tail. The secret was they were so rare because they took longer to come to life, they were longer, it took more magic.
Us kids would search for these horse hairs and would rarely find one but once it was found, we'd watch it squirm, flipping this way and that way in the shallow water for what seemed like hours before one of us plucked it from the water and tossed it into a jar. Because it was a sea creature, we kept the jar filled with water. If I grabbed a horsehair and got it into my jar. I would watch it swim in it's watery home and think, this used to be something else, something that swatted flys away from the rear end of a huge beast but now with the magic of the rain, was a prized sea creature and I head home. Wet, cold, it was usually getting dark, I was always hungry and I wanted to show Papaw my prize catch.
The next day, it would inexplicably be dead! I didn't wail over a dead sea creature that may have been magic but never did anything magical for me, I saw dead things all the time. I would toss what at that point looked like a piece of over cooked spegetti noodle in the garden out back, wash the jar and put it back into the shed.
It wasn't until years later that I discovered these were really baby snakes that had washed from their nests into the gutters. The only possible way to catch snakes this young was when they were trapped in gutter water. I also learned the older the snake, the longer it was. Magic my hind end. We was tricked into snake hunting for my Papaw!!!
It was still great fun or I wouldn't be smiling right now writing about these adventures. I remember after a hot bath I would climb into my bed, crisp sheets smelling of outdoors after hanging on the closthsline before the rain. I would place the jar on my dresser and my gum on the back of the bedpost feeling very safe and content. I fell asleep after my prayers thinking it was a most perfect day, the best day ever to find a most magical thing in the Ozarks.