Neil Shephard
Texas Ruby Red
First Prize Award Winner

W e were on our way to the next evangelist crusade. The headlights caught the rattlesnake winding across the road. "Minion of the devil!" father shouted and aimed the car at it.
The car lifted slightly as we passed over the rattler. Father tromped on the brake and backed up. I expected to see its entrails exploded from the weight of the car. Its gleaming length remained unscathed.
My father got out; I followed, expecting to be ordered back, but not forbidden me to accompany him. The pre-dawn air was cool and dark. The rattlesnake prepared for battle as we neared it. The tail blurred in a warning rattle. Its head and neck were drawn back, tongue flicking, slitted pupils unfearing.
"Satan, I know what I'm doing. I'm a preacher," father told the snake, iron hearted in his righteousness. He selected a large rock from the side of the road, zeal burning in his eyes, cheeks inflamed, teeth bared.
The rock smashed the snake's head and rolled away. The snake resumed its defensive posture, its neck torn, one yellow eye pulped.
Father retrieved the rock and again hurled it. This time he mortally wounded the rattler. It writhed on the ground, defense forsaken, sputtering in its blood. Now father stomped it, pounding the head into a red blotch. When he ceased his chest heaved, his eyes twitched, bubbles of spittle clung to the corner of his mouth.
"Now we can go on," he said to me. "The Lord's work is done."

First published: May 1997