Snakes alive … scary tales of encounters
Snakes are scary slithery critters when you come up on them unexpectedly. The first encounter that I had was at the age of four. My parents always kept our family well shod but one hot summer day I left my shoes at home as my brother, Bus, and I headed across a farmed field at a high run to catch a ride home with Dad. Intent on catching a ride I didn’t watch where I was going until I stepped on something that wasn’t sand or stalks. Looking down, I saw a large snake that hadn’t quite disappeared into a hole it was going into. I was airborne for a few seconds as I jumped, and started screaming. Bus came to my rescue with, “It’s just a bull snake.” Although I’m not really afraid of snakes I can still feel that moment in my foot after many years.
Rattlesnakes weren’t too plentiful in the Sandhills where I grew up north of Lakeside, although they had been seen there. Bullsnakes, vipers, and water snakes were plentiful. Around 10 years of age my grandparents had me visit for a few days. An older cousin, Doc, and I would go to the small lake near the ranch house and catch water snakes. Then he got the bright idea of killing and skinning them. We decked ourselves with green and yellow snake skin bracelets, necklace and belts. We wore these adornments until they started to deteriorate from the hot sun.
People usually kill every snake they see. Bullsnakes kill the rodent population but also eat many birds and their eggs as well as chicken eggs. Water snakes eat grasshoppers, small fish, pollywogs, frogs and toads. One water snake that I met with was eating a fish about six inches long and much bigger around then the snake which was only a foot long and slim as a fountain pen.
My brother and I one day found a small water snake. Thinking we’d have fun scaring someone with it, we went to the hired helps room and put the snake in a shoe that was sitting near the bed. We covered the shoe with a cardboard then waited to hear someone yell. We never heard the screams we were expecting. The snake had crawled out and disappeared through a crack in the floor.
Many bullsnakes were seen while making hay. John, who was stacking hay had one fall around his neck when a load of hay was pulled to the top of the stack. He yelled and danced around nearly falling off the stack while the rest of the hay crew laughed.
One day while I was raking hay I saw a large bullsnake wrapped around a ground squirrel. Drops of blood were coming from the corner of each eye as it was being squeezed by the snake. Stopping the tractor I came to the ground squirrel’s rescue. As it ran to a nearby hole it squeaked at me. I’m positive it was a ‘thank you.’ Pooch, the dog, ended the bullsnake’s wanderings when he shook it into two pieces.
Son, Kurt, lived on Mutton Creek in Garden Co. I stepped out of his house in time to hear the chickens squawk. A mother hen had her babies with her, all but one which had a bullsnake wrapped around it. A nearby sturdy stick ended the bullsnake’s life. The chick was petrified with fear as I picked it up and headed toward the mother hen.
At times I left my screen door open for my little dog to come and go. One day, after driving to the mailbox, I tossed the mail on my kitchen table and started to sit down. A loud buzzing from under the table changed my mind, The sound wasn’t like a rattlesnake. A very unhappy bullsnake was making the noise. The day must have been a bad one for him because his temper had flared so quickly. Trying to sweep him out the door didn’t work. I pushed him out with the broom after he released his muscles from the floor. He went out of the door. Two weeks later he met his demise when visitors drove over him.
The guineas we raised often warned if there were predators in the area. One that had her nest of eggs in a fence row near the house gave a warning that brought all of the other guineas together to fight a bullsnake that was trying to eat the eggs in the nest. The snake had its head picked raw, but was still after the eggs. My husband shot it.
At the river shack west of Oshkosh where I lived we watched carefully for rattlesnakes. They were also in the river. One day a log floating down the river next to the bank had a beautifully marked rattlesnake laying on it. It must have floated down from Wyoming since its markings were different than the ones in our area. We let it continue its journey. As I started to enter the chicken house a rattlesnake was coiled in the doorway sleeping in the sun. I ran to the house for the shotgun thinking I’d have another set of rattles to add to the quart jar. After shooting the snake I never located the head or the rattles. The shotgun destroyed the snake.
One time, daughter Denise, ran out of the east porch door. As she turned around to come back in she saw a rattlesnake stretched across the step. It’s rattles had been damaged so it made no noise. How thankful we were that she saw it. Denise came in one dark night from being outside and said, “I think the gas tank is leaking, I can hear it.” As I walked to the door to check I could hear the rattle of a snake on the porch. Opening the screen door wide enough to get my hand out I flipped on the porch light. A rattlesnake was coiled and rattling by the step. The two Airedale dogs were corned flat against the wall of the porch. I opened the screen door between the dogs and the snake. Both dogs hurried into the house. While I ran to get my camera Johnie came around to the outside of the door and killed the snake: No photo was taken.
Once while in the process of painting a picture I stretched back in my chair and looked out the window. Looking back at me was a bullsnake. I grabbed my camera and took its picture. I then went outside to see how it had climbed to the window and took another photo of it.
Snakes can be slithery little critters or they can be terrifying large creatures such as the large fifteen to twenty foot long boas that have invaded the swamps of the south … the pets that people no longer wanted and turned loose in the Everglades. I prefer the rattlesnakes anytime.