The Question and Answer section for My Antonia is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
I don't know a lot about the author's life but perhaps this link will help.
One day Jim takes Ántonia on his pony so that she can borrow a spade from Russian Peter. Afterwards, they go look at the ten-acre large prairie dog town. Suddenly, Ántonia screams in Bohemian and points at a huge, coiling snake as big as Jim's...
What specific chapters are you referring to?