I’m looking at a picture of a long haired teenager in a blue flannel shirt and jeans holding a snake. I can hardly believe that this is me. I’m standing in the local gym in Fitzgerald, GA for the annual Rattlesnake Round-Up. Could be the fall of 1973. The snake I am holding is not poisonous.
I’m not horrified by snakes, but I’m not particularly fond of them. I am not a believer in my Mama’s philosophy that the only good snake is a dead snake, but neither do I think of them as pets.
When I was a kid, Charles Pendley was known to be a snake handler. Not the Holy Roller type, but the fearless type who didn’t mind snakes. I never went in his house, but I heard that he caught snakes on a regular basis and kept some of them just for fun. I always had the idea that one Sunday, just out of the blue, he might whip one out of his pocket at church and scare the beejeebeez out of the rest of us. I kept a close eye on him.
My Mama had a deep seated fear of snakes. She referred to them all as “Highland Moccasins”. That was her term. In her mind all snakes would chase you down and bite you until you were dead. It didn’t matter what size or color, they were all bad.
She walked through the den one day from her sewing room to the kitchen and caught a glimpse of a snake running for cover in the house. She called Dad at the foundry.
“You’ve got to come home right now. There’s a snake in the house.” So, he left work to go home for a snake hunt.
“Where did he go?”
“Over there behind that chair.”
Dad moved a few things around. Shaking his best voodoo at various objects in the room, the snake ran out from cover. He was solid green with a yellow belly and about 8 inches long.
Mama screamed. “Get him! Get him!”
Dad, being the wise man that he was tried to calm her down. “Oh Mama, he’s just a little bitty old green snake. He can’t hurt nobody.”
She was not impressed. “I don’t care. I ain’t staying in this house unless you get him out of here.”
The snake ran up under the paneling in the den through a small crack in the baseboard. Dad knew that there would be no peace at home or in their marriage until he dealt with that snake. He got a can of Raid bug spray and shot a dose up inside the crack. The snake ran out and hero Dad who just said that this snake couldn’t hurt a flea, took his brogan work boot and stomped that sucker flat.
A little green snake smushed flat is a sight to see. He was wider than he was just a second before. His eyes were bigger. But it was over. Dad scooped him up, tossed him out, and went back to work. Mama’s breathing settled down by the time lunch came around.
“Lord, I hate snakes.” She just kept repeating that the rest of the day.
I live in the woods. Snakes live in the woods. So, I have had numerous snake encounters over the years. I even found a snake skin one time up inside our attic. When my wife found out about it, she wanted to know where he was. How big is he? What kind of snake is it? Is he inside our walls? Is he going to crawl in my bed at night? Her radar was on high alert for weeks.
In addition to snakes, we live in a world of spiders. I have the same feeling for spiders as I do about snakes. I walked out the kitchen door early one morning, got tangled up in a spider web and start flailing around in a spastic fit. I knew there was a tarantula sized beast going down my collar looking to bite the starch out of me. Pretty sure it was an African Murder Spider.
If there is a spider in the house, my wife expects me to get rid of it, which is my God-given job in this relationship. I am a shoe slapper, when it comes to spiders. A rolled up magazine is not as effective. The small ones can be pinched up in a paper towel. The fat juicy ones require a little more cleanup effort.
Before you start in on me, I am well aware that spiders and snakes eat varmints and critters and bad bugs of all kinds. Snakes and spiders are our friends. I get that. In fact, I have used that argument with my family on several occasions.
Last month, my son was helping me move some firewood up on the back porch. We weren’t building a fire. It was hotter than the asphalt in Panama City. I just needed the space. I heard my son gasp and saw him grab his chest. His eyes as big as saucers. He had just laid down a stick of wood on the pile and a Wolf Spider was sitting on the wood he just had in his hand.
Wolf Spiders can be about as big around as a baseball. They are intimidating, to say the least. I am told that they are harmless and eat up a ton of critters that we don’t want around. But I don’t care. He is wicked and evil. He got what he deserved.
Two weeks ago we found a snake sunning on my wheel barrow parked right up next to the back of the house. He slithered off. I got a text at work. “We have a snake.” I knew what that meant. “Leave him be. If he’s still around when I get home, I’ll deal with him.”
Our back porch is high off the ground. When I got home he was stretched out across a ladder I had hanging from the floor joists of the porch. He was 6 ft. long, easy. I poked him with a stick. He didn’t move. No buttons on his tale. Small head with round pupils. No reason to be overly excited.
I was hoping I could get him down and push him toward the woods. When he did move, he went for a hole in the concrete block at the base of the fireplace. He slithered out of site before I could do anything.
“Where’s the snake?” My wife asked. I told her he was gone.
“Where did he go?” She wasn’t buying it. “Is he in my house?”
That was two weeks ago. She told me last night that she has thought about that snake every day since. Poor thing, she has been flailing at snakes in her dreams.
“He’s just a harmless old snake. Probably keeping mice out of our crawl space for us. He’s a good snake.”
“Not in my house, he’s not.” My Mama would agree.