The Gum-Chewing Rattler

By Master Storyteller Joe Hayes

From his book “The Checker-Playing Hound Dog”

When I was a kid, I had a bad habit: I just loved to chew bubblegum. I always had a juicy wad of bubblegum in my mouth—two or three pieces at the same time, just chomping away.

My teacher would see the wad in my mouth and snap, “Get rid of that gum!” I would have to take the gum out of my mouth and wrap it in some paper and throw it in the waste basket. But I didn’t really care, because I always kept another package of bubblegum right in my shirt pocket.

But my mom was the one who would really get mad at me, because I would forget to take the gum out of my pocket before I threw the shirt in the wash. It would come out of the washing machine with a big, gunky stain around the pocket. My mom would say, “Look at this! You’ve ruined another shirt!” But then one day something happened that changed her mind, and she never got mad at me again for carrying gum in my shirt pocket.

One day I was walking around out in the desert, kind of daydreaming—chomping on my bubblegum and not paying attention to where I was going. And I stepped right on a rattlesnake’s tail!

Well, the snake couldn’t rattle and warn me, because I was standing on his tail. So he didn’t even worry about warning me. He just came striking up through the air, aiming his fangs right at my heart. He hit me—bam!—right on the shirt pocket. And that’s where I was carrying my spare bubblegum. The rattlesnake’s fangs stuck in the bubblegum!

There I stood, with my foot on a rattlesnake’s tail and with his fangs stuck in my shirt pocket. He kept thrashing around and whipping up against me, and I was so scared I couldn’t move. I just stood there, staring into his beady little eyes. Those eyes were just looking hate at me! And he was working his jaws, trying to get his fangs out of the gum so that he could get back at me and bite me good!

But of course, as he was working his jaws to get his fangs out of the bubblegum, the gum kept getting softer and softer. And the next thing I knew, there was a little pink bubble coming up out of his mouth! It got bigger and bigger, until it was the size of a basketball!

I got up all my courage. I brought my hand up slowly and—pop!—I burst the bubble! The snake went flying back and his head hit on a rock. It knocked him out cold.

But that did take all my courage. I fainted and fell down in the other direction. I didn’t come home for lunch, and my mom came looking for me. She found me lying on the ground, fainted out cold. And lying nearby was the unconscious rattlesnake.

She woke me up, asked me what happened, and I told her the same thing I just told you. And you know what? She didn’t believe it, either.

Copyright © Joe Hayes
Order Joe Hayes Books at Cinco Puntos Press

Joe Hayes, Storyteller

Joe Hayes, professional storyteller and SFAOL contributor, has performed in hundreds of schools, libraries, museums and parks. He tells folktales from many cultures, and among his favorites are the local cuentos, the Hispanic tales of New Mexico. A highlight of every summer in Santa Fe, for children and adults alike, are his storytelling sessions outside the tepee at the Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe.

In 1982, Mariposa Printing and Publishing company in Santa Fe presented 10 of these stories in "The Day It Snowed Tortillas." Now in its ninth printing, the book has become a regional favorite and has brought delight to readers throughout the country.

From the melodic song of "La Hormiguita"to the classic lament of "La Llorana," "The Day It Snowed Tortillas" is a collection that will captivate hearts for years to come. If you enjoy the stories of Joe Hayes on SFAOL, you can order this book or others he has written by visiting Cinco Puntos Press.

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