By Neveah Baranko

Submitted photos

There’s a common myth that girls are afraid of a lot of things, including snakes, but I have found that snakes can give great opportunities for fun and mischief. Bull snakes are a common sight on a ranch in North Dakota, and one day while I was still at school, my dad found a dead bull snake on the road. He set it up at the bottom of the stairs as if it were sunning itself, hoping it would scare me. I didn’t have much of a reaction when I saw it as I got off the bus other than, “Cool!” 

My mom and sister, however, were about to give my dad and me a good show. They were inside the house when he put the snake by the steps and had not been outside yet. We were about to leave the house to go to town when my mom opened the front door. She noticed the snake and scrambled back into the house, letting out a string of words I cannot repeat. I had to shush her, to prevent my sister Tashina from hearing her. Tashina’s reaction was the one I wanted to see the most. She came into the entryway and got ready. When she mentioned that she had hiccups, my mom and I replied that we were sure something would stop them. Tashina is deathly afraid of snakes, so once she saw it, she really freaked out. She ran back into the house, screaming. 

“See,” my mom said when Tashina stopped making such a ruckus, “getting frightened really does get rid of the hiccups.” 

Tashina wouldn’t even step over it when it was time to leave; instead, she went all the way around the back of the house to get to the car.


Although scaring family members with snakes is great fun, chickens can also provide much entertainment. When we’re bored, my older sister Katya and I enjoy racing chickens. One of us stands on the far side of the alleyway in the corrals and the other holds a jar of corn. Before my sister lets the two chickens go, I shake the corn and call to them. Most of the chickens don’t fully understand or get distracted, but at the end of the race, they get some food. 

At first, none of my chickens could beat Katya’s chickens. I chose a couple more, but each one failed to become champion. After many tries, I finally found one that could beat Katya’s chicken. We decided to band them by putting a plastic ring around their leg. This made it easier to identify which ones were the racing chicken.  After a couple more races, we decided to try to race roosters. After many fruitless attempts, we caught two roosters. They made it halfway down the alleyway but were quickly distracted. 


When we get bored of chickens and bull snakes, we head to Plum Creek, the creek that runs through our land. We have a joke with our neighbors that the creek is either “plum empty” or “plum full.” In the spring, the creek often floods over. Sometimes the water rises above the bridges. This spring was no exception. The weather got warm and we got some heavy wet snow, causing the creek to flood over.  Once the creek wasn’t flooding over the bridge, we went and checked it out. Many large logs and branches had washed up. The best part was climbing on all the huge chunks of ice that had gotten stuck in the dirt when the creek’s water levels lowered. It was amazing to think that these monsters were almost completely hidden under the water, and that one could only see the tip of the “iceberg.” Seeing the ice, we finally knew the huge crashing sounds we’d heard were the large chunks of ice hitting the bridge underneath. At night for many days, we could hear the creek rushing along. 

By June, the creek is usually low and green. Last summer, the creek was deep and slow enough that we could go swimming. We floated around in a small natural pool of water until my dad led us downstream. Here the water was less deep and more stagnant. Where the water was the shallowest, I would skim on my belly along the rocks to keep out of the hot sun. Trees and plants overhead provided a jungle-like feeling. From this point of view, the scenery was beautiful. At one point, we looked down at our legs and arms and noticed we had small leeches everywhere. Our creek’s banks are too steep to crawl up, so we had to swim all the way back through the places where the leeches were to get out of the water. Surprisingly, we all stayed calm as we swam back. Once we got back, we all jumped onto our little raft and began pulling off all the leeches. Though this experience wasn’t the most fun, it created some good memories and many laughs. Surprising as it may be, we are thinking about possibly going back and swimming in the creek this year.

Neveah and her sister Katya riding horses