It was a ‘Wild Kingdom’ kinda day at the golf course

Image courtesy of Flickr user Dennis Church by way of a Creative Commons license.

When I want to experience nature in the flesh NATURE’S flesh, that is, not mine – I don’t hike in the woods. I go to the golf course.

Such was the case the other day when Scott, my golfing accomplice, descended on a local course for “a day at the links.” I say “accomplice” because Scott is one of the few people I can actually beat, provided we both cheat in a consistent manner. Once, Scott hit his ball in a sand trap and took so many strokes trying to get out that the course manager demanded he purchase drilling rights before continuing.

But enough of ridiculing Scott, who owns a 5-iron that would probably wrap nicely around my neck. On the day in question we approached the first tee with all the happy expectations of any golfer who has not actually struck a ball yet. There had been a terrible storm the night before. Trees were down all over the course. We dubbed it “Road Warrior Golf.”

Our playing partners, two guys “from Hurlburt” (I didn’t know if they were here for a little R&R after blowing up bridges in Iraq or bagging groceries at the commissary) told us there was a dead possum in the garbage can on the fourth hole.

Sure enough, when we reached the fourth hole there lay the possum, nestled amid the banana peels and Coke cans. I’d never seen a possum anywhere but beside a major highway, flattened to the thickness of a video rental card, so I was curious. … Actually, I was horrified, because Scott used his putter to poke the thing and it bared its fangs and hissed, which in possum means the same thing as rattlesnake, as in “Climb the nearest tree.”

Well, Scott turned over the garbage can and the possum trotted off in the direction of a nearby four-lane highway, where it was probably flattened by a truck.

Meanwhile, on the fairway we found another creature. Can you guess what it was? A rabbit nibbling on fresh grass blades? A goat? A herd of bison? Oh, you readers are so comically unimaginative. Of course, it was a FISH, dried to the hardness of a space shuttle re-entry tile. Apparently a nearby canal had flooded during the previous night’s storm and when the water retreated the fish was … well, ha ha, it was like a fish out of water!

But even that doesn’t compare to what awaited us on the next green. Let’s just say it was short and fat and had a forked tongue and two venom-filled teeth. No, you cynical readers, it wasn’t Roseanne Barr! It was a water moccasin. (To tell the truth, I don’t know the difference between a water moccasin and a plumber’s snake, but I do know one I’d pick up and the other I’d run over with a golf cart.)

This snake was major-league angry, possibly because I was clubbing it with my putter. When it tried to BITE my putter, I decided to “return to the game,” which in golf parlance means, “Leave the snake alone and putt out, since there are golfers backed up to the parking lot waiting for you to get out of the way so they can club the snake.”

So it was a “Wild Kingdom” kind of day at the golf course, and I’m trading in my spikes for hip-waders.

This column was originally published in the April 4, 1991 Northwest Florida Daily News and is used with permission.

About the author:

Del Stone Jr. is a professional fiction writer. He is known primarily for his work in the contemporary dark fiction field, but has also published science fiction and contemporary fantasy. Stone’s stories, poetry and scripts have appeared in publications such as Amazing Stories, Eldritch Tales, and Bantam-Spectra’s Full Spectrum. His short fiction has been published in The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXII; Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine; the Pocket Books anthology More Phobias; the Barnes & Noble anthologies 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories, Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, and 100 Astounding Little Alien Stories; the HWA anthology Psychos; and other short fiction venues, like Blood Muse, Live Without a Net, Zombiesque and Sex Macabre. Stone’s comic book debut was in the Clive Barker series of books, Hellraiser, published by Marvel/Epic and reprinted in The Best of Hellraiser anthology. He has also published stories in Penthouse Comix, and worked with artist Dave Dorman on many projects, including the illustrated novella “Roadkill,” a short story for the Andrew Vachss anthology Underground from Dark Horse, an ashcan titled “December” for Hero Illustrated, and several of Dorman’s Wasted Lands novellas and comics, such as Rail from Image and “The Uninvited.” Stone’s novel, Dead Heat, won the 1996 International Horror Guild’s award for best first novel and was a runner-up for the Bram Stoker Award. Stone has also been a finalist for the IHG award for short fiction, the British Fantasy Award for best novella, and a semifinalist for the Nebula and Writers of the Future awards. His stories have appeared in anthologies that have won the Bram Stoker Award and the World Fantasy Award. Two of his works were optioned for film, the novella “Black Tide” and short story “Crisis Line.”

Stone recently retired after a 41-year career in journalism. He won numerous awards for his work, and in 1986 was named Florida’s best columnist in his circulation division by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. In 2001 he received an honorable mention from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for his essay “When Freedom of Speech Ends” and in 2003 he was voted Best of the Best in the category of columnists by Emerald Coast Magazine. He participated in book signings and awareness campaigns, and was a guest on local television and radio programs.

As an addendum, Stone is single, kills tomatoes and morning glories with ruthless efficiency, once tied the stem of a cocktail cherry in a knot with his tongue, and carries a permanent scar on his chest after having been shot with a paintball gun. He’s in his 60s as of this writing but doesn’t look a day over 94.

Contact Del at [email protected]. He is also on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, tumblr, TikTok, Ello and Instagram. Visit his website at .


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