Friday, January 25, 2008

Shooting Snakes

I've never really been all that afraid of snakes.

Don't get me wrong, if one is too close and surprises me, I'll jump, yell, and teeter on the edge of consciousness just like the next person, but if I see one soon enough, I don't get all freaked out like some folks.

Now, if you wanted to see Ol' John well and truly freak out, a close encounter with tarantulas would do the trick for you. (Thanks to a childhood viewing of the old grade B horror movie, "Frogs!" where a guy gets covered by and killed by a whole slew of tarantulas.)

In the time-honored, twisted way my mind works, today I thought of something that I haven't thought of in years.

Having grown up in north Louisiana, if you see a snake, chances are it's a cotton mouth moccasin. Quite poisonous. (That's probably why I jump, yell, and run if surprised, I'm genetically wired to automatically assume than any snake within 5 feet of me is a water moccasin.)

I'm not trying to give the impression that snakes are hanging everywhere around you in Louisiana, but you sure see a bunch of them if you grow up there, so snakes end up being not such a big deal.

What I was reminded of, was one occasion where Don C., Sainted Mother, Big Sis, Big Brother, Myself, and probably Younger Brother (but he'd have been at best a toddler here) went for a picnic in the Natchez Trace just north of Natchez, Mississippi.

The little town we lived in, Vidalia, Louisiana, was a small town on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River directly across from Natchez.

The section of the Natchez Trace Parkway that is set aside as part of a National Park is a beautiful, green, humid, hot, lazy, place filled with massive old trees and lots of Spanish Moss.

Back in the late 60s and early 70s, we would often go over there and picnic, and swim in Cole's Creek, which is now off limits to swimmers.

Cole's Creek ran pretty clear and was fun to walk in too, because many sections were really shallow, and us kids could walk along in the creek, just doing whatever it is kids did back then. Throwing rocks. Whatever.

This was also the only time in my life I have ever seen a trident being used by a person other than someone in a devil's outfit. We encountered a couple of young men walking along the creek, each holding along metal trident and trying to spear fish to eat. I thought that was really neat at the time; I had hither to only been exposed to your basic cane fishing pole or a Zebco rod and reel if you were a fancy fisherman. The tridents were definitely something I would never have thought of but did then and still think is a neat way to try fishing in clear, shallow streams.

On this particular day, we heard a few gunshots, and went back to the picnic area by the creek that my parents had selected, and found that Don C. had shot and killed a snake.

As kids we had a morbid fascination with the dead snake, but then again, we'd already seen a lot of dead AND live snakes in our few years of life, and quickly moved on to play and eat and just revel in being in such a neat place to spend a day.

I guess I don't really have a point to this. I guess blog posts don't really have to have a point or to mean something, do they?

I just hadn't thought of that day in many years and got to thinking about how, though we took (and still take) snakes seriously, they weren't a big deal.

And how growing up around guns, I don't think any more about them than snakes. I know guns are dangerous, but that with care, you won't get hurt, and that sometimes when you need one, they come in quite handy.

My Dad almost always had a gun nearby, and over the years, encountered a couple of situations where showing those trying to bother him that he was packing, saved him from possible harm. Only an idiot attacks a man with a loaded gun in his hand.

Don C. and his guns. Kids wandering the woods and a clear, cool creek. Watching fishermen using tridents. Dead snakes. Picnics for hungry kids and parents who loved and protected us.

Good times, good times.


Babystepper said...

We used to live in West Texas, and oh my goodness, the snakes. I remember catching all the Rattlers every year before church camp with the other workers. (Well, Dad did it. We watched from very far away. Too far for us, and not far enough for our mothers.)

Big Doofus said...

We use the snakes in our church services...I'm kidding. Seriously, I freak out at the sight of a snake. A few years ago I was mowing the yard next door as it was vacant. The grass was very, very long and at one point I heard an odd "thud" from under the mower. I looked to the side of the machine and saw one half of a big black snake--still moving. The other half was under the mower. Yuck. Since we live next to a large farm field, I've run over a few mice in the same manner.

By the way, why is it that you can no longer swim in that water? Is it pollution or gators? Just curious.

JAM said...

babystepper, it seems the poor mothers always take the brunt of things. Kids and Husbands drive them to early graves.

Big Doofus, yeah, I thought about making snakes in church jokes, but since I grew up seeing water moccasins, they don't make very good "snake handler" Pentecostal snakes. Rattlers are best for that, what with that cool sound and all.

I don't know why Cole's Creek isn't open to swimmers any more. It's in a National Park, so pollution isn't a problem. I just know that the last time I went as an adult, there were "No Swimming" signs. I can only guess there was a drowning or something like that, but I don't really know. The place is still hot, humid, and beautiful though.

Qtpies7 said...

I'm not afraid of snakes, either, but if one startles me I am going to scream. I grew up in AZ with rattle snakes.
I also hate tarantulas after living there. And black widows. And spiders in general. Probably not real fond of scorpions either.
Spiders are what will send me over the edge though. Any size, color, furry or not. I'm gone.

The Rock Chick said...

Having been born, raised and still living in Chicago, I can't say I've had much experience with snakes (other than the human kind) except for seeing them at the zoo. I think I'd be scared of any loose snake just because I have no idea which ones could harm you.

I'm guessing if I hear a rattle, that wouldn't be good, right? LOL We don't have any big, poisonous spiders here either. Just the little creepy crawlies that do bite, but are basically harmless.


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