MY BRAVE aunt still lives out there on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska and I hope she is doing two things: covering up real good and keeping her eyes open for snow snakes.
It's been nearly 20 years since my only Alaskan visit and when I was there with Abe Lemons and his basketball team we only thought we detected a chill in the air.
That's the time, in Fairbanks, I asked the coach to stop the car so I could take a picture of a bank sign that flashed the time and temperature. The temperature was a modest minus 38 at the time and I had never gotten a thermometer to go that low, even when laying one on a 25-pound block of ice in our family's icebox on the back porch.
So I got out of the car, snapped the photo, and hurried back to the car.
"That'll be a fine picture," said Abe. "When we get back home you can show that picture to friends and say, "Guess what? When me and Abe was in Fairbanks, Alaska, it was 11:15 a.m. one day.' " In view of the minus 60s and minus 70s and worse currently being posted in Alaska, I telephoned Abe to see if I had forgotten any details of our trip. I hadn't.
Abe has not returned, either, and the fear of the deadly snow snake likely is one reason.
Nobody is any more afraid of snakes than I am, unless it might be John Nelson.
John was a member of that Oklahoma City U. basketball team and it was while in Alaska that he asked what I considered a very unintelligent question.
"Tell me," he said to the man who was showing us some of Alaska's frozen sights, "do snakes live in Alaska?"
I knew they could not possibly live in such a climate. You never hear about rattlesnake roundups up there. So I knew better than to ask such a silly question.
"Oh my, yes," said our host. "Have you never heard of the snow snake?"
John, who was a gift to us all from the fine city of Wynnewood, admitted that he had not.
"Are snow snakes poisonous?" John asked, which I now decided was a very intelligent question.
"No," said the man, "worse than that. They just climb up your pants leg and freeze you to death."
Actually, he did not explain it in family newspaper terms, which made it even more imperative that he used extreme caution the rest of our stay there.
So I hope my aunt is being mighty careful this week. BIOG: NAME:Archive ID: 375460