Let me start by saying, I grew up on a ranch in the heart of Texas, the Hill Country. It wasn't a huge, working cattle ranch, like Poineer Woman, but it was 100 acres with pastures, barns, a bluff, a dammed up creek and plenty of livestock and wildlife. I lived there until I was eleven.
My Strongest Childhood Fears:
1) The Rattlesnake. I don't know the story behind it (who shot it and where, what happened), but my parents had a real, stuffed rattlesnake that had been shot, taxidermied and displayed in our house. It was about 5 feet long and coiled up, ready to strike. To a little girl, it might as well have been a ten foot tall monster, a nightmare ready to come to life at any moment, something I ran past, not walked, inspired fear in the heart...well, not to all little girls, though, because my little sister, who is two and half years younger than I am, had no problem touching it, moving it around, playing with it. In fact, I remember her placing it under the covers of our house keeper/live-in nanny's bed. And, I remember that poor woman, let's call her Maria, screaming in horror when she found it. My sister wasn't being mean or malicious, just having fun...a trait she inherited from our mother, which is another story altogether for another day.
This snake inspired a nightmare, a reoccurring nightmare I had throughout my childhood, where I was alone in the ranch house, the doorbell rang, I answered the door and lo and behold, the snake was there and chased after me. It was a horrible, horrible dream and to this day when I get super anxious or stressed, snakes show up in my dreams, chasing me. I shudder even now, thinking about it.
2) Pool Drains. As I mentioned above, we had a dammed up creek on our property, very deep and big. My mom was worried about us drowning, so she made us fear water. I don't know what she told us or how she scared us, but I was scared of water and this made learning to swim a challenge, but I did and loved swimming. However, for some reason, I have a huge fear of drains...which are almost always in the deep end. I don't know if I fear being sucked in or fear something coming out of it...I don't know if I saw a movie that scared me or if this is some lingering affect from my childhood conditioning...note to self, find out how mom scared us away from water...
3) Tarantulas. I remember my dad driving us to school one morning, stopping in the middle of the road, hopping out of the car and coaxing a tarantula (huge, hairy spider) into a jar. These jars would end up in our freezer and then onto the display (with the rattlesnake). Eventually I realized the freezer was to kill the spider without harming it's body, so it was intact for display, but opening a freezer and seeing a huge hairy spider is a total freak out for some little girls (read here, NOT my little sister). My parents had some kind of weird fascination with poisonous creatures, I think.
4) The Dark. As is normal for lots of kids, I feared the dark. And, in the country, it is DARK. No streetlights, no city lights, no lights except the moon. And, our ranch house was a typical ranch house...long, one story, lots and lots of windows and sliding glass doors in just about every door that led outside. In fact, every night, before bed, my dad went from room to room making sure all doors were locked. Now, my room was on the opposite end of the house from my parents' room. So, if I woke up scared in the middle of the night, I had to run the length of the house to get to my parents. Oh, I ran alright, ran as fast as I could, leaping from my bed, so that whatever was underneath couldn't grab me, then ducking so that whatever was out there in the dark couldn't see me as I streaked by. I was propelled by pure, 100% fear.
I think I've mostly conquered my fears now. I can walk around my house in the dark without running or freaking out. I can touch a snake (as long as someone else is holding it) and I don't think I'd run screaming if I saw a tarantula. I swim fine in a lake or pool...although I try not to linger over the drain, I admit.