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 the snake's head. Only
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, 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, when Erik returns home from an errand, 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 to visit with me. He 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!
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 heard that
good news, Erik decided to go over there and see if he can spot any snakes. I heard him yelp
and imagined he had seen something. I thought that was pretty goofy idea and told him so--
you don't go LOOKING for trouble! But he hollered because he was suddenly covered with
ticks--I believe I picked 63 of the things off of him. The snake hunt was off til another day.
Now I must say we don't like killing things. But neither of us are fond of snakes--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 young kid. I'd step on the tails and my friends would pick up the snakes
(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, covered with an old coat of mine. Of course the thing smelled 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
brought 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 garter 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
flying horribly solo this time. I had to step on as many snake-tails as I could find in the
cluttered attic, picking up the lacey reptiles up 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 had reached out to grab those
straps in the semi-dark of the barn, and suddenly realized that they were covered with two
large intertwined, mating black snakes!
He snags the pitchfork and removes the snakes to a place in the yard, and that ends that day's
(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