Jean Willard saves the babies!

Growing up I was really close to my Grandmother Jean Willard. I never really had a chance to see the resort she started with my Grandfather on Blue Lake when they owned it but loved listening to the stories of my families life. One story that gets told still to this day is about the time my Grandma was sitting outside on the steps by the ice machine. This was a favorite place for her to sit and I have pictures that shows the whole family sitting on the porch, usually with a dog or two close by. It was a warm spring day and already there was a little drip of water from the ice machine creating a spot of water in the dirt below. That’s when she noticed something… a baby snake. She reached down and gathered it up in her hands.. taking the wriggling baby across the driveway and depositing it in the bushes. She went back to where the drip was and carefully pulled back the brush and she could see a few more baby snakes, less than a dozen but more than a hand full, and they were pretty docile in the cool morning sun. Looking around the porch she saw a bucket that she grabbed. Reaching down into the small bunch of snakes she started catching them and placing them in the bucket carefully so as not to harm any of them. Soon she had eight or ten and made her way over to the bushes across the highway this time, over closer to Blue Lake. When she got there she turned them all loose in a grassy spot next to some bushes. The rest of the day proceeded as usual, chores, a few tourists, and almost like a routine as the shadows grew longer a familier State Park Department car pulled up at the resort store and out climbed Dick Hoyt. He was a friend of the Willards and often stopped by just to hang out or get a cup of coffee. He sat down at the counter and my Grandma poured him a cup of coffee telling him the story about how she rescued a passel of baby snakes from the front yard by the ice machine. Dick’s ears perked up a little about the mention of snakes, he knew many things and had many experiences, but snakes seemed to be his specialty. Bitten over a dozen times, once he told my Mom if he was bitten one more time, it would be lights out for him because once you are bitten, some of the venom stays with you forever. Whether that is true or not, I am unsure. It seems like the 1950’s were a whole different reality sometimes with a different set of universal laws and physics. Either way, Dick Hoyt knew his snakes enough to capture and give lectures at schools were he would sometimes bring a live specimen. He was eager to hear my Grandma’s description of the baby snakes. He shook his head as she described them… brown… small… sluggish…

“Can you show me where you released them?” He asked

“Sure” she replied since there was no one else in the diner but the two of them. She put on a light jacket and lead the Park Ranger to the bushes by Blue Lake pointing out the spot. Dick poked the bush a little, didn’t see anything. Then he leaned over and got a little closer, real quietly he peered into the bush, and sure enough, he soon saw what he was looking for. “Jean” he said to my Grandma “You rescued a bunch of baby rattlers”

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