Thursday, March 13, 2008

Finicky Frenchmens' and Poles' Fear of Snakes

I can appreciate the early La Reunion colonists’ concern about snakes in North Texas. I live in a 1912 farm house built about one-half mile from the Elm Fork and have seen my share of snakes. The poisonous ones are water moccasins, copperheads, and coral snakes. The most common one around the house is the rat or chicken snake. And I have found one of those little green snakes in my bathroom—with all these nests living under my upraised floor. Also in my bedrooms, one slithering around just a month or so ago.

One of the primary sources of La Reunion history is the translation of the diaries of Kalikst Wolfski, a Polish immigrant who wrote of the early trip of vanguard colonists from Galveston to Dallas and the first months of life in the settlement. We are indebted to the brilliant researcher and translator Marion M. Coleman, who published these translated accounts, first in the history journal Arizona and the Southwest, and then in a book published by Cherry Hill Books, Cheshire CT, American Impressions, a copy of which is available at the TWU library.

From Coleman’s translations:

May 4, Today, early. We went up to the big house and sat down with our companions for breakfast at the long table. Except for the two who had been selected to do the cooking and the two who share the duties of serving , there was room at the table for all, with no one left out. . . . We were anxious to follow right from the start the regulations worked out in that colony, hoping later to be able to make ever better ones of our own. After a long chat at the table, about ten o’clock we separatd to rest a little on our beds. Very great heat began to persecute us, and from ten in the morning until three in the afternoon it was not fit to work. . . . In general, in the whole of Texas this period of the day is devoted to resting. Whatever work, whether of hand or mind, is done in the morning from four until ten, and then resumed from three until evening. Everything would still have turned out well, if it had not been for the sight of those unbearable snakes, which were hard to get used to. Just in this
one day we have killed more than a dozen of them.

Illustration from the book

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