Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Water Mocassin

I have two water moccasin stories. The first is short. My son saved my life when he was about four years old. We were hopping the creek behind my apartment here in Dallas, and I about near stepped right on one coiled up under a weed. I was in flip flops and wouldn't it have been ironic after all these years to get snake bit in the city!

The other story is my brother's, and I plagiarize without his permission since that's what brother's do.

I mentioned our creek in C is for Creek. It ran along the northwest side of our property and was filled with frogs and fish and snakes that ate those frogs and fish, the most common being the water moccasin, also known as a cotton-mouth.

We always carried sticks or a machete to whack the snakes with. I don't know how many we killed, but it wasn't enough because they still swarmed every time we went down there.

When Bro and I were about nine and ten, third and fourth grade or so, this little guy from Chicago moved into town. He was pretty unlucky to move into our haunt and he didn't last but a year or two before he moved away.

Never seen a snake, the boy said.

We told him we'd never seen a taxicab, and we all exchanged dumb what-the-fuck looks.

We'll show you a snake, Bro said. We grabbed the boy and our troop of six or so boys led the way with Bro in the front down through the pasture, by that big oak out by itself for no good reason other than everything else had been slain to clear the pasture, and down to the creek.

We walked the bank for a while tipping logs and poking sticks into holes until we finally saw one bobbing its black head in a creek pool. The creek was anywhere from a few inches to a foot where it was running, but in a few of the turns it pooled up to about mid-chest on a boy. This was one of those places.

Let's find another snake, Bro said. He was carrying the snake machete.

I want that one, Chicago said. He didn't realize how big that snake was under the water because of its little head, but we all knew. He had a big head. There was lots of body under that water.

Fine, Bro said. He waded into the pool and whacked that water moccasin in the head.

A snake in the water can't be cut, though. He sunk the snake, and a few seconds later that black head bobbed up behind Bro and got another whack. The snake couldn't get out because the creek was pretty well dammed up, and the far shore was a steep bank, and the near shore was full of boys screaming and waving their snake-beaters.

Bro finally got tired of hitting water and looped that water moccasin around the machete and hoisted him up on the bank.

Don't let him get away, Bro said. Pop had said that once when he found a copper head under the house (trailer) and flung it out. Boys, step on it, don't let it get away.

Yeah, fuck that. Bro and I didn't listen to Pop then, and nobody listened to Bro now. That water moccasin was plenty pissed off and it's a good thing they don't have a long strike radius. He was hissing and showing his mouth and striking and we were backing up and trying to hit him with our sticks that were suddenly way too short.

Bro walked up out of the water like he was going to stomp Tokyo. He had that adrenal rush we lacked, from being challenged by some know-nothing city boy, and being in the water with that snake. He walked up behind that thing and whack-whack-whack, sunk it into the mud, couldn't cut through it, and grabbed it with the machete and tossed it farther up onto dry land. The snake was stunned by then and Bro marched up there and finished the job.

Chicago might as well have seen flying monkeys from Mars eating frozen pickles on bicycles. We all thought that boy was going to breathe himself to death. This was a typical creek outing for us, what we called An Adventure, and this was just another water moccasin in a long line of dead snakes.

One of us pulled out a pocket knife and stabbed the head between the eyes. They can strike, you know, even when they have no neck. We pried open its mouth and showed Chicago the fangs and everybody slapped Bro on the back and said we would have done the same thing, which was a damned lie.

That's a big snake, Chicago said. He held that head up and looked at it and twirled it on that knife, one of America's deadliest and most aggressive pit vipers this side of a rattlesnake.

I've seen bigger, Bro said.

Do you have any snake stories? We all have one...

- Eric

PS, I should add this: A few years ago we found a ground rattler in our garage. My wife insisted we catch it and release it and that's what we did. I can't remember the last time I killed a snake, or for that matter, any sort of animal except this rat I found two summers ago in my office. I killed him with a golf club. My wife got mad, but I told her that rat was sick, or the dogs had already gotten a hold of him. He didn't run or scamper but just sat there. Normal rats don't to that.


Anne Gallagher said...

Two stories --

A friend and I were traveling on a mountain road in Nevada. A snake was sunning himself in the middle of the road. (Mind you, this was a very narrow road and the truck would have run him over.) I told my friend to stop and pitch the snake out of the road. I didn't want him to get run over. My friend said, no, it was a rattle snake. My eyes lit up, I had never seen one. I said I would do it. He said no, he would do it. (I was a dumb city slicker girl.) He got the rake out of the back of the truck and pushed at it for a few seconds. I heard the rattle. Something I will never ever forget for the rest of my life. He pushed it over the cliff. He of course, thought I was a very dumb city slicker girl, I told him, the snake was one of God's creatures and he deserved to live because he wasn't doing anything but trying to get warm.

I moved to NC a few years ago. I have an old shed in the back where I keep the lawn tractor. One day I went to get the gas can on the shelf and the handle moved. I thought I was flashbacking on an old acid trip. I reached out again and then I saw the whole thing uncoil around the handle. I thought, okay, he's gone. I reached again and the whole shelf moved. Mama and baby's took up the entire shelf. Needless to say, the grass didn't get cut. They were only rat snakes, but still, they scared me bad.

Sarah Ahiers said...

we don't have venomous snakes in MN. Wait, not entirely true. We have one species of rattler, but they're ridiculously rare.
We used to hunt garter snakes and red bellies in the summer. The red bellies were always tiny and cute.
I go bit by a garter snake once. Right on the back of my hand. They have backwards facing teeth, so he just worked his mouth down the back of my hand, leaving four bloody gouges, until i got his mouth pried off. It didn't hurt or anything and we let him go afer that, because we felt bad we'd scared him bad enough to bite me.

Wine and Words said...

'Nuff said
about snakes

Stephanie Lorée said...

We have green/yellow garter snakes here. Harmless and lame. We have water snakes too, NOT Mocassins, and also lame.

But then there's the Copperhead. Big, venomous bugger, and pretty common if you grew up surrounded by corn fields like I did. They love the mice, who love the corn.

I used to dig at the edges of the fields, for what I don't know, buried treasure or something. I distinctly remember collecting shiny rocks...

Anyways, I was out digging and my Mom was doing some yardwork within eyesight. She tip-toed up to me, voice all smooth and soft saying, "Stephanie, don't move. Now back away slow."

I was around six at the time, so my mind's perception might be skewed, but Godzilla-Copperhead stared at me from a few feet away in a forest of cornstalks.

So I did what any six-year-old lacking a machete would do: I screamed bloody murder and ran like my ass was on fire.

Too bad your Bro wasn't there to save me. Or take the hit. I'm of the school of thought that I don't have to run faster than the predator, I just have to run faster than his lunch. :)

Julie Musil said...

OMG, I must have my son read this. He'll love it. This is one crazy snake story. We live in the mountains of southern California, and we're in rattler country. We've caught a few around here (when I say 'we' I mean my husband catches it, chops off its head, shows it to my sons who ooooh and ahhhh, while I watch behind the window)

dolorah said...

A Cotton-Mouth isn't a rattler? Huh; you'd think I'd know more, being from California and all. All my snake stories are more of the cutsie type: the favorite cat that left goffers as presents in shoes left outside; snakes that looked like the handle of the hoe. My dad would kill a rattler without flinching, but screamed and ran like a 3 year old from a spider.

This was a fun story. Love your voice in these quips :)


Snowbrush said...

I haven't seen a poisonous snake the whole time I've been in Oregon (25 years), and I can live with that, although I do miss copperheads, which aren't deadly poisonous anyway.

Cindy said...

Only poisonous snakes we had where I grew up in central VA were copperheads. Not that I ever saw any. We thought we did a few times and caught them in buckets and called animal control, but every time it was a similar looking but non-poisonous snake.