Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Snake tales

          When I was a kid, living on a farm far out in what some of my classmates liked to call "hoot owl" country, all seasons except the dead of winter was a snake season.
        That must have been the heart of copperhead land.  They loved the deep sand, post oak region then.. and now. We had no rattle snakes but could usually count on seeing a copperhead every day or two...if we were out and about, and especially in warm weather.
        Mother and I carried a sturdy stick. If you couldn't pound the rascal to death, you could at least scare it away. Dad, with his high topped work shoes, and overalls, didn't bother with arming himself.
        Often when walking to school, a copperhead would slither across the road, and we had to let it go its way, hoping it wouldn't be waiting for us some dark night when we were walking home from a school program. Carry a flash light? We didn't have such a luxury back in the good ole days.We had kerosene lanterns for real emergencies, but what kid in its right mind is going to carry a lantern  to a school function, regardless of the dark, copperheads, and lurking spooky things.
       After I left home, my parents tore down the old house and built a another. Stacks of old lumber made it as far as the backyard fence and remained there for some time. They had two dogs that got perturbed at some of the nighttime roamers that came into their yard and set up quite a racket. One night they seemed especially disturbed but Dad could see nothing needing his attention (by this time their living facilities included things like porch lights and flashlights), so he expected a snake had ventured into the yard, and shushed the dogs and went back to bed.
        The next morning, knowing the ways of dogs and copperheads, he decided it was time to investigate that pile of lumber, so he began moving it aside with a long handled hoe. And when he had finished, he had killed eleven copperheads.
         Another time we were visiting and the smaller children were playing on the front porch. One of them came in, big-eyed and excited, and said there was a snake out there in a bush by the porch. My hubby got his .22 and shot that fellow out of his resting place far up among the limbs of the tall bush. Nothing to get excited about...just another copperhead.

      A few years back, we cleaned out three barns preparing for an auction. They were full of stacked lumber, hay, accumulated junk that made its way to the barn instead of the dump ground or the handy ditches that were nearby. We, I dug, while my husband sorted through the treasures I uncovered, and decided what to sell and what we couldn't do without. I figured I was the experienced copperhead person and I would be careful. He just didn't take that copperhead haven seriously. So I was very careful and was amazed to disturb no snakes. After the auction and the buyers were carrying away their purchases, two big copperheads came out of their hiding place and  met their end before they made it to safety.
        It's not that we're vicious people. A copperhead bite is not only very painful but calls for a quick trip for treatment,  hospitalization and a painful recuperation.A victim is facing tissue loss and probably a period of therapy.

       Then there's rattlesnakes. A friend who lives in a different area...a rocky, hilly place, was enjoying the fresh spring breezes with her windows opened wide. She walked back to her bedroom and did a double-take. She was staring eye-to-eye with a big rattler. Nothing between them but a window screen. So far as I know, she's never   opened a window since.

         My last snake experience was in my house. One evening I glanced down the hall as I walked by and saw something that looked like a belt lying far down toward the end...yet not quite like a belt, and anyway, there was no reason for a belt to be lying on the floor. Nobody was living at that end of the house. Those thoughts took about two seconds to fly through my mind––then the belt wiggled and in that special, quavery voice that comes out when I need help and don't want to admit it, I called my husband.
        "Huh?" he responded from his recliner.
       "Snake," I squeaked.
       That got him on his feet to come over and make sure I knew a snake when I saw one. After all, he knew I was an experienced snake killer––I was the copperhead queen of owl-country. I was the gal that without fear, had tackled three barns of junk in snake-land, so the panicky call was a bit puzzling.
       Well, this was different. Out in the open, if you have no other options, you can walk away and leave a snake alone and hope you never meet again.
        In your house, if you walk away, your can be sure you'll meet again. Your house has become the snake's house, and this particular snake needed watching. It was on the move and it had two choices when it reached the end of the hall––the room directly ahead or the one on the right, which happened to be our son's room packed wall-to-wall with junk. If the snake entered that room. we'd never find it. And there was no way I was going to live in a house with a resident snake.
        Luckily for us, the snake went straight ahead, so hubby fetched a snake handling tool and with the fellow cornered, the situation was resolved and I still have a home.

       A lesson was learned– an open outside door, even one into the garage, is an invitation for a snake to come a-visiting. So even if you're going to be out only a minute of two, close that door. Most likely the snake that ventures in will be a harmless one, but once in, you either remove the fellow or live with the excitement of having a snake slither from beneath the couch or out of your closet, or.........