so I'd have an idea of what the poisonous snakes in the area look like.
So it's a beautiful, balmy Spring day and I'm out in our large "garden." On the soil lay a
beautiful necktie -- a tan and orange and coppery strip of color I thought was an empty
snake skin. But it was a sleepy snake, sprawled out flat on the dark dirt sunning himself.
These crawlers are hard to spot when they are in oak leaves, but this one was in the
plainest sight I could ask for!
Now let me say I am no fan of snakes (although later I will relate a story from my childhood
about "snake collecting"). I happened to have a sledgehammer in my hand, as I was putting
in some planting stakes. The hammer has a big head and a handle about two feet long.
My mind races through the prospect of calamities that could result from allowing this
invasion of a venomite to continue. I become intent on killing this beautiful creature.
The sledge hammer is already in hand; all I have to do is swing it and hit the right spot: the
snake's head. I take aim and begin the descent of the hammer onto it. Only problem is, the
head of the hammer lands next to the snake's "neck." The necktie comes out of his stupor
and turns his head and top half of his body around to face me.
I swing again and I don't remember where the hammer hits but it is decidedly not on the
snake! The critter looks ready for business.
I'm getting desperate and reason that I do not have to aim between the snake eyes; all I
have to do is hit a larger part of the body. I take aim at the snake instead of its head this
time, and finally bring the hammer down on some meat.
Now, you probably know that snakes twist and curl and act like they are plenty alive
sometimes even if you cut them in two. This one is no different. I'm really getting freaked
and hit the snake several more times with the hammer while he writhes and twists.
I begin to feel somewhat sorry about my killing spree, but the adrenaline is moving and my
legs are shaking.
Hours later Erik returns home from an errand, and I tell him that I killed a good-sized
copperhead in the garden. I show him the death tool. He says that the hammer has way
too short of handle to be using the thing on a poisonous snake.
I don't tell him until much later that my first two attacks with the hammer missed the mark!
A day or two later I'm planting day lilies by the big pond. Erik again comes home from town.
He waltzes down to where I am working to visit with me. He casually says, "there's a
cottonmouth right behind you in the water."
Now ya see, cottonmouths are often aggressive (unlike the copperheads) as well as being
poisonous. I decide to get out of there and I do!
Another day I make one more attempt at finishing the lily planting at that same spot by the
pond. Erik comes with me to watch my back. Sure enough snakey comes a callin'.
Erik throws a rock at him and he disappears. And so do we.
After (of course) we bought this farm we were informed that the area over by the woodshed
in our front yard is the copperhead capital of this neck of the woods! After we hear that
good news, Erik decides to go over there and see if he can spot any snakes. I'm thinking
that is a pretty goofy idea and tell him so -- you don't go LOOKING for trouble!
I hear him yelp and imagine he has seen something.
I then learn that he hollered because he is suddenly covered with ticks--I believe I picked 63
of the things off of him. The snake hunt was off until another day.
Now ah do say we don't like killing things. But Erik isn't any more fond of snakes than I am --
maybe it's because of the Garden of Eden story, I dunno. But I went snake collecting with
the neighbor boys when I was a kid. I'd step on the tails and my friends would pick up the
zig-zagging varmints (see?--I didn't like touching them even then).
We brought a big mess of garter snakes home from the yard of the haunted house a few
blocks away, and "stored" them in my family's garage attic. The snakes were in a topless
cardboard orange box which was covered with my jacket. Of course the whole caboodle
got to smelling to high heaven of garter snake urine.
Our garage attic was a place to store more than snakes. It was where my mother kept her
canning jars. One day not long after the snake-hunt she needed some of the bottles and
let down the attic stairs from its slot in the ceiling.
The next thing I knew she wanted to know if I had any idea how a bunch of snakes got in
the attic. She said she had gone up the stairs to get some jars, and encountered several
snakes. One of them met her face-to-face, as it was perched on a step at her eye level.
She was not happy. She ordered an immediate end to the snakefest and that I catch them
and remove them to their former home.
I don't remember the neighbor boys helping re-catching the snakes; for some reason I was
hunting horribly solo this time. I had to step on as many snake-tails as I could find in the
cluttered attic, picking up the stringy reptiles with gloved hands.
I was probably eight or so years old and, as you see, I have not forgotten that not-so-fine
day long ago. Never again did I send reptiles to live in my family's garage attic.
Snake stories continue but with Erik as the star in this one:
One day he decides he needs the big tie-down straps for the flatbed trailer. The
bright-yellow straps lay on the shelf of a large stainless steel sink we we're storing in
the barn. Erik heads in there.
I hear a girl-like noise and know it's Erik's snake scream!
He relates the tale of how he had reached out to grab the straps in the semi-dark of the
barn, and suddenly realized that they were covered with two large intertwined, mating black
He snagged the pitchfork and scarcely able to look their direction, removed the lovemaking
snakes to a place in the yard.
(The foregoing is property of Five Ponds Farm and is not to be copied or reprinted without written
permission from the author).
|The Copperhead Murder Story
|For the "Farm Wife Afternoon" story, click HERE!