The last day of grade school was generally around May 15th and we returned to school the day after Labor Day each year. From May 16th until Labor Day, we rarely wore shoes during the daytime unless we were working with hoes or rakes in the garden, feeding the livestock, or going into town for some reason.
Bare feet in the summertime meant freedom. Freedom from the hour long bus ride to school, from spelling bees, school lunches, and homework. It was glorious. Aside from the occasional stubbed toe or sticker patch, walking on rough dirt, grass, or gravel rarely caused any issues.
One day while walking from our house toward my grandmother's house a few hundred feet across the road, I felt a tingling sensation on my right foot. I thought little of it, but glanced down quickly to look. I must have jumped two feet in the air and hopped, skipped, and clamored around something fierce, because my mom stepped out on the porch and asked me what was going on. It must have been a sight to see.
I stepped on a garter snake laying in the shallow grass near the edge of our graveled driveway. Harmless yes, but I'd been raised to hate snakes. Seeing one twisted around my foot temporarily frightened me. To this day, they still make me squirm. In the zoo, behind glass walls, or in the wild, it doesn't matter.
I guess it's a good thing I didn't grow up in South Florida. They've got snakes that are 19 feet long that have been discovered digesting small deer and even aligators. The problem is so concerning, that they are considering implementation of a bounty program to encourage hunters to kill them.