A young garter snake, Sylvester, lived with his mother on the edge of a lake. Every day he learned something new as he climbed on the rocks following his mother.
One day Sylvester felt very grown up. He asked if he could go sun himself on the shore of the lake.
“Yes, you may go alone. But be careful, Sylvester, and don’t stay away too long.”
Sylvester slowly climbed up the rocks along the shore looking for just the right place. When he had found a comfortable spot he stopped and curled up.
A few minutes later he heard voices. “May we go down and wade in the shallow water, Mother?” Sylvester knew these were children. Even though he had never seen any before, his mother had told him about them.
“Yes, you may go down by the water. But be careful and don’t stay too long.”
Sylvester didn’t know what to do. The children were heading right toward him. He wanted to act brave but he was beginning to be frightened. They were making so much noise. He lay very still until the children came close.
“Oh, let’s hurry,” said one. “The water looks great.”
Suddenly Sylvester heard a terrible noise. A boy’s scream. “Let’s get out of here. There’s a snake!” The children ran back to where their mother was waiting.
Sylvester was frightened. He quickly slithered along the rocks, hurrying home to his mother.
“Oh, Mother,” said the little snake, “something awful happened.” And he told her about the children.
“Sylvester, I’m sorry it frightened you. But the children ran, too. They were just as afraid of you as you were of them. I will go with you tomorrow and we’ll see what happens.”
Sylvester reluctantly returned to the rocks the next day. His mother stayed a few feet away. “What shall I do if they come back, Mother?”
“Don’t do anything. I’ll be right here if anything happens.”
Sure enough, the same children were on the shore. “Mother, what if that snake is there?”
“Don’t bother him and he won’t bother you.”
The children slowly walked to the rocks. “There he is,” whispered the little girl. “Let’s see what he does.”
“Oh, Mother, whispered Sylvester, “here come those children. What shall I do?”
“Just stay where you are and see what happens.”
The children gingerly moved closer to the rocks where Sylvester lay. They didn’t scream. Instead, they just looked at him.
Sylvester lay very still and looked back at the children. Now that they weren’t screaming they didn’t seem so bad.
“He’s not a very big snake. He’s just a little fellow.” They began playing and didn’t bother Sylvester.
Sylvester lay still and suddenly realized he wasn’t afraid.
Later, when the children had gone, his mother said, “Well, Son, I hope you have learned something today. We can all live happily in this world if we just treat others as we would like them to treat us. We are all different, but when we respect others and treat them kindly they will usually do the same for us.”
“You’re right, Mother. Let’s go home now. I’m hungry.”
by Diane Primm McClellan
Diane Primm McClellan was born on 17 July 1935 in Springfield, Missouri, United States of America. She became a school teacher and a writer of children’s stories. Diane Primm McClellan passed on at 78 years of age on 6 October 2013.