Once Upon a Snail
The Community Chronicle, May 2019
Once Upon a Snail
I have loved to garden for as long as I’ve been alive. There’s just one problem: I have an absurd fear of a certain garden critter, the common garden snail.
Kind of an odd phobia, don’t you think? Apparently, the first time I saw a snail as an infant I became inconsolably hysterical. When I would come home after school, if I saw a snail on the walkway leading up to the house, I would run to a neighbor’s house who would call my mother. Mama would have to get rid of the slimy perpetrator and come get me. She would tell me that I was being ridiculous. While I knew I was I couldn’t wish away the suffocating panic I felt when I saw one. I was pretty sure that I had been buried in a pit of squirming snails in a previous life.
When I grew up and had a home of my own I realized that I had a big problem. How was I going to garden with all those frightening snails and slugs lurking in my garden? I decided that I was going to put on my big-girl panties and be adult about it. I was sure that if I set my mind to it I could deal with this phobia, couldn’t I? At first I was rather proud of myself for putting my fears aside. Yeah, right. They still terrified me.
When Mama was around 80 years old, she stopped by one afternoon to visit. She sat in the dining room chatting with my husband while I finished some weeding.
I was kneeling on the grass, wearing leggings. I stood up and out of the corner of my eye saw a leaf stuck to the side of my leg. Without looking I casually brushed it off, realizing in an instant that my fingers hit something hard. I looked down and saw a ginormous snail on the grass. A snail the size of a turnip (well, maybe a radish) had been crawling up my leg! I let out a primordial scream so loud that I’m sure people heard me in the next county. And I didn’t scream just once, I screamed repeatedly. My husband ran out onto the back deck followed by my slow-moving mother. Mama called out, “What’s wrong, honey?” I couldn’t answer, my voice box had frozen and I was paralyzed. All I could do was point at the grass with a shaky hand. Mama carefully walked down the deck stairs to see what I was pointing at. When she saw the snail, she bellowed -- “Oh for goodness sake! Are you still scared of snails? You’re over 50 years old!” I couldn’t say anything. I just kept pointing to the snail, my whole arm trembling. Laughing, my husband picked up the snail and pitched it over the fence. Only then could I move. Sheepishly I helped my mother up the deck stairs and into the house.
Was I embarrassed? You bet. Mama was right, it was due time that I got over my snail neurosis, but I couldn’t. Not then, not now. And while I can’t change my ways I have come up with methods to deal with them and keep gardening.
These days I keep a supply of snail-killing pellets in the shed. About once a month I spread the stuff around like it’s garlic to keep away vampires. It pretty much controls the snail population, though every once in a while a bold individual makes it past the pellets. Like yesterday, I spied a snail slithering up a wall of the house. I sucked in a big breath, steadied myself and used my shoe to knock him down where he landed on his back. His slimy body retracted into the shell. “Ah-ha! Got you now,” I sneered at him. I picked up a large, flat stone, dropped it on top of him and pressed it hard into the ground, confident that I’d imprisoned him for what little life he had left. I dusted off my hands, quite pleased that I didn’t scream and crater into a sea of nerves. Yep, I sure got this phobia thing licked. Maybe not. I thought I heard my mother laughing from beyond.