Wednesday, April 27, 2011
W is for Water Mocassin
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...
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.