Garden Shed


As usual, it was a kick to experience our everyday world through the eyes of the young.

The most ordinary daily experience–finding a snake skin in the garden, for instance–becomes the thrill and horror of a new day in the country for our grand daughters.

Here, the older sends the younger into mock-panic, even though the original resident had left the building, and the skin is no more a snake than a fingernail is a person.

But what a strange way to do things, don’t you think? To molt an epidermis all at once (we slough and shed epidermal cells constantly) so that you leave husks of your former self hanging about they office, gym or family room–now that could be the subject of much conversation.

And would we be inclined to save little Johnny’s skins as he grows up–a kind of integument of memory to scrap-book our lives? But I digress.

Here’s one of our locals undergoing the process at this very moment. I just checked the wood pile. This gray rat snake is staying put, since he (it) is not able to see very well just now, the conjunctiva of the eye is also cloudy and about to be exchanged for a new one.



So I had this moment of terrible imagination: can you see it–a family of today’s supersized Americans who all shed their intact skins at the same time–and leave skin-tents draped from any convenient itching post at the local mall. The horror!

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Chris, all I can say is this should be a lesson to stay away from cable at 3 AM. I hope it never comes to NetFlix, because I know I would be compelled to watch.