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March, 2001


Valerie and friend, Joliet, Illinois, 1961.
Although it is spring here in Texas right now,
this photo was chosen in deference to those
northern readers who are still blanketed in
the remains of their winter precipitation.

Originally from Moments by Valerie, a collection of memories (1961-1983), written in 1986 and presented to Larry on their first anniversary.

The area around Lemont (where I grew up), as part of the Cook County Forest Preserve District of Illinois, had numerous abandoned stone quarries that were now swimming/fishing/hiking/ice skating/picnicking facilities for the general public. Limestone quarries are excellent habitat for snakes, with large flat rocks for them to sun themselves on or hide under, and deep crevasses in which they hibernate. I often found snakes when I went hiking. One kind sounded like a rattlesnake but was actually non-poisonous and simply vibrated its rattle-less tail in dry leaves, grass, or even gravel to produce the warning sound. Garter snakes, although common, had beautiful stripes and looked like bright plastic in the sun.

We once found dozens of tiny newly-hatched watersnakes hiding in the moss of a shallow inlet at one of the quarries. My sister and I collected all we could find and put them in a big bucket. They were black and white striped and no more than 6 to 8 inches long. When we let them all go, it was like watching pretty streamers blowing away in a breeze.

Original drawing from Moments which accompanied this story.