Chicke Snakes, Two Sisters, and ‘Falling-Outs.”



“Chicken Snakes, Two Sisters, and ‘Falling-Outs.’”


I was told this story years ago. It’s still one of my favorites.

Two brothers were excellent carpenters and built houses together throughout the hill country near Fredericksburg, Texas.

 But one day, they had a falling-out, and the result was that they stopped speaking to each other. Despite that, they continued building houses together.

They knew each other’s work from years of building side by side; they could do it without speaking. They talked around each other and, as needed, “sent messages” through co-workers. 

They continued building houses together for nearly a decade without speaking a word. And it was all because of that falling-out ten years ago. No one knew what their falling-out was over despite the long shelf life of the grudge,

Then, one day, out of the blue, one of the brothers laid down a 2×4. “You know what I haven’t seen in a long time? A chicken snake.’’

Moments passed as the second brother stood in thought, hammer at his side. “You know, come to think of it, I haven’t seen one either.”

That broke the ice, and the dam burst. The brothers enjoyed each other’s company and good conversation for the rest of their lives. I guess you could say they buried the hatchet (or the hammer).

A falling-out was repaired.

Fall-outs are much more than disagreements.  Disagreements are part of life, but a falling-out results in a broken relationship. There’s a stubborn unwillingness to forgive and move on.”

Left unchecked, disagreements will fester into fall-outs, and the longer a falling-out, the more bitter it will become.

And nothing good can come out of bitterness. It’s the most deadly of all human emotions.

I’ve seen fall-outs of all flavors in the Pineywoods, but many have come from two sources: land and dogs.

I’ll save dogs for a future blog.


Many family and neighbor fallouts involve land or possessions. 

A disagreement over a property line, hurt over the division of inherited land, an argument over who gets Momma’s china or Daddy’s beat-up old 1964 Chevrolet truck.

None of these should happen, but they do.

My observation is that most fallouts continue because of pride. No one is willing to give in and make the first step.

I want to add a disclaimer: even if you step up and attempt to reconcile, it doesn’t guarantee the other will be open to closure. 

Reconciliation can be messy. Sometimes, despite your sincere effort, you may be rebuffed and seem to make things worse. (l have personal testimonies on that).

But if you make the first step, call or visit, you will have done your part.  It’s no longer in your hands. You can go to sleep at night knowing you did your dead-level best to make it right,


Our second story, “Two Sisters,” illustrates another falling-out:


Sometimes, it takes a storm to heal a falling-out.

I’d known the two sisters and several generations of their clan.

When I heard they had a falling-out, it saddened me. I don’t like to see Dry Creek families on the outs.

I don’t know what they fell-out over. I wonder if, after these years of stony silence,  they even remembered what lit the fuse of their disagreement.

Even sadder, their children also fell-out.  Two sisters and a line of cousins became estranged. No Christmas cards. No family reunions.

One sister lived in Dry Creek, the other an hour away in Lake Charles. It might as well have been a thousand miles.

They’d dug in after falling-out, and it seemed destined to last.

But in 2005, a storm changed all of that.

Her name was Hurricane Rita. Rita was Katrina’s younger sister, and she struck SW Louisiana about three weeks after her Big Bad Sister Katrina.

I rode out Rita. She was a bad girl, too.

Ahead of Rita, a mandatory evacuation was ordered for Lake Charles and surrounding Calcasieu Parish.

Dry Creek sister picked up the phone and called Lake Charles sister. 

“Where are you going for the storm?”

Lake Charles sister said, “I’m not sure.”\

“Well, I know where you’re going. You’re coming to stay with us in Dry Creek.”

And that’s exactly what happened.

The days and weeks after Rita were tough in Dry Creek. There was no water or electricity, and the storm’s aftermath made every everyday task difficult. But according to one of the sisters, it was a sweet time of forgiveness and sharing.

They’re both dead now, but I can attest they stayed friends and sisters to the end.

I’m still moved by the story of those two Dry Creek sisters. Even writers get tears in their eyes when they write from the heart.

I hope you’re moved both figuratively and literally.

Moved and stirred in your soul.

Moved with your feet if you need to make the first step on any fall-outs around you.




A Final Word 

If you’re in the midst of a falling-out, Don’t Wait.


Last year, I sat by the deathbed of a dear friend after a major stroke.  From my chair,  I observed my precious Aunt and Uncle, who, although not related by blood, had been closer to my friend than family.  

As their friend lay dying, I saw tears but no regret from them. They’d been life-long friends, and nothing had been left unsaid.

Sadly, I observed blood-family members arrive who’d not spoken with their sister in two decades. 

They had lots of tears and a ton of regret.  

It’s hard to restore a falling-out when one party is lying unconscious. 

I’m sure there were two sides to this falling-out.  There nearly always is.

 My friend died estranged from her sisters. That’s a burden they’ll have to bear.

That makes it even sadder.


Don’t wait.

Be the brave one and take the first step. Find some way of breaking the ice. 

If you can’t think of something, there’s always chicken snakes and hurricanes.



Feb. 13, 2024


The best stories come from the woods.


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