The Rattlesnake

by Martha Roelofson Caffee about her great grandparents, Lawrence Roelofson and Mary Smith Roelofson.

Among the early pioneers of Kentucky were your great, great, great grandparents, Lawrence and Mary Roelofson who were married in 1796. They were the maternal grandparents of your great grandfather, John T. Gowdy.

One sunny spring morning, Mary [Smith] Roelofson carried her big feather bed out of the log cabin [in Henderson Co, Kentucky], and laid it on the grass in the yard to sun and air. Toward sundown, she rolled it up, carried it in, and made it up for the night.

When bedtime came, the fire in the big fireplace was carefully covered to hold the coals for morning, and they went to bed.

As they were settling themselves, they heard the hiss of a snake, and soon they knew that somewhere about the bed was a rattlesnake. What to do they did not know, for the cabin was absolutely dark. They may have had a tallow dip, but there were no matches in those days. The only way to get a light was to go to the fireplace, uncover the coals, stick in a splinter, and blow it to a flame. And while they were doing that, in the dark, what might the snake be doing?

They decided that the only thing to do was to lie still and wait for daylight. It was a long, long night. They dared not go to sleep, for every time either one moved the snake hissed. At last the sun came up, the cabin grew light enough for them to creep very carefully out of bed.

They each got a club, and then carefully pulled the bed apart. There in the folds they found a big rattlesnake. It had evidently crawled onto the bed during the day, and found it a soft warm place to sleep. But how she could have carried in the bed, and made it, without finding the snake, Grandmother never could understand.

Rewritten by Elizabeth Gowdy for Elsie Odell Bennette
May 2, 1932

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