Friday, August 7, 2015

Snake Tales

This fella was in our chicken house a couple years ago

To my husband the only good snake is a dead snake. I am a little more lenient--I figure if they aren't bothering me, I won't bother them. I have always heard that if a black snake is around, copperheads stay away, so I consider a black snake in the root cellar or the chicken house kind of comforting .

My husband, on the other hand, doesn't like sharing our eggs or being surprised by a sudden slither in the dark. Last summer he went into the cellar to get something and when he tried to close the door, it bounced back open. He slammed it again and something fell from the top of the door onto his head. Yep, it was a black snake. I am sorry to report that the snake did not survive the encounter.

When we were tearing down the last log cabin, Larry encountered another snake while he was removing the chimney stone. He took off one way, 

the snake went the other. 

And I was on the ground laughing so hard!

Then there was the time I was working in my flowerbeds and flipped over a rock to find a copperhead raised and ready to strike. I struck first with my shovel, but unfortunately I didn't cut the snake in two and he was still trying to strike. I was in a tight spot--if I removed the shovel, the snake would probably get me, but I could not stand there all night holding the shovel. I called Larry, who couldn't hear me, apparently, until I said, "It's a COPPERHEAD!" Then he was out the door in a flash and dispatched the snake speedily.

Anyone who lives in the country probably has a close encounter of the snakey kind that provides good storytelling fodder. (This next story was my column in Two Lane Livin' Magazine a couple months back).  Last fall a man told me this story. He swore it was true, and that it happened to some men he knew.

His friends were fishing near a place known as the Smoke Hole. According to legend, the Native Americans used a cave in the area to smoke meat, and the smoke from their fires would rise up and come out a hole in the rocks in the mountain above--thus the name.

Anyway, to go back to the story: It was early spring and the men had a cabin in which they were staying but one night two of them decided to camp by the river to get a good start the next morning. The trout were running and both agreed that early morning fishing was the best. They found a large flat rock on which to build their fire and proceeded to set up camp. As the sun set they sat by their fire and roasted a couple pieces of fish for a late supper.

They were surprised by the sudden appearance of a man at their fireside. The stranger stood just out of good light but they could make out his form and the slouch hat he was wearing. 

"Hello, stranger! Come warm yourself. Care for a piece of fish?" 

The stranger did not move. "You can't camp here. You need to leave, at once!" His voice was raspy and rough, as if not often used.

"Why, it's a free country I reckon!" The younger man bristled and spoke sharply. "I figger we can camp where we want!"

"Boy, I'm telling you, you need to leave. There's a nest of rattlers under that rock where you got your fire. The heat will warm them and soon they'll be swarming out of there. You need to leave, now!" The stranger pointed at the boy with a finger missing its tip. "Go!" His voice roared and echoed against the hills.

The young man was rattled and turned to look at his older companion. "Whaddya think, Pops?" They looked back at the stranger, but he had disappeared into the night like smoke from their fire.

"I dunno, but I don't wanna tangle with no snakes. Let's get out of here. That guy..." The two men did not look at each other as they quickly doused the fire and packed their gear.

Back at the cabin, they told their companions about their visitor. "Never saw that man before but he was one creepy feller, let me tell you. Had part of his index finger missing, and a voice like thunder!"

The other men looked at each other. "Yep, he's been seen before. Can't recollect his name, but people say he camped by the river some years ago, and some days later his body was found, covered in snakebites."

Truth, or legend? I'll leave it to you to decide. I know I will be more watchful around warm rocks. I don't mind snakes, but I'm no fool.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Mac n' Janet said...

Good story. I'm not as lenient with snakes as you are. If they're just passing through, that's ok, if they're hanging around the house or garden, and they're nonvenomous , they are escorted off the property If they're a copperhead they're dead.

Curtains in My Tree said...

I'm with Larry !!!!!!!! hate all snakes

storytellermary said...

Never camping anywhere, ever again . . . .

annie said...

I'm with Larry on this one!

pamela crist said...

I'm reading this very early in the morning, listening to the crickets chirping outside, with only an old-fashioned screened door between me and approaching doom.

I live in a log cabin by the creek, and I am now imagining all the snakes hiding underneath rocks! Thankfully, we have two outside dogs and a cat to warn us of approaching reptiles. They have alerted us more than a few times. I wish I hadn't seen the pic of the blacksnake curled up in the chicken nest. I'll dream about it!

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