We were just outside the kitchen, by the cistern. This was a well, dug by hard labor into the clay soil, dug by hand down to the water table, and the shaft lined with rock. Above ground, the stone table rose about four feet, and was then topped with wood, and a hatch. Above, a rigging, and a pulley with a bucket on the rope.
Alongside the cistern, we were making ice cream.
The ice-cream maker was green-painted wood, and the inner container rolled through crushed ice and rock salt. We took turns cranking the handle. Many of my cousins were there, all come to visit. The afternoon was hot, and we’d stopped running around.
As we waited for the ice cream to be ready, my grandfather came up from the feedlot, through the garden gate, in his flat-brimmed hat and tall boots.
He was dragging, by the tail, a long black snake.
Oh, it was angry! It hissed and curled, curled and hissed. He seemed fearless to me. At any minute, wouldn’t it bite him? I was the oldest cousin, at age twelve. The younger ones were all frightened. So was I. Grandfather smiled.
“It’s a bullsnake,” he said, releasing it. The black snake, suddenly realizing freedom, began wiggling quickly away, back to safety in the garden. Grandfather nodded, “It’s harmless.”
It looked dangerous. I asked him why he didn’t kill it.
“It’ll kill the mice that eat the crops,” he said. “It’ll kill the rats that steal the eggs. It’s a good thing to have a bullsnake around. I thought you might like to see it.” Grandmother fussed about the snake. He said nothing further.
Now, here is my question. The ice cream was now ready. My mother served it up in thick bowls, startling cold, thick and rich, and sweet. Now, after our brush with danger, why did it seem so exceptionally delicious?