As the title eludes, I like to think I have a defense from fear. Many long years ago, my eldest son was about three. Our yard was fenced in and the best place for him and his sister to be in the summer. Our house was not air-conditioned. This particular day I was visiting with a neighbor in my kitchen, while her children and mine played in the backyard. After a while, my son came in hollering “nake Mom” “nake Mom”! As it had rained overnight I was sure the night crawlers were emerging and told him it was just a worm. He said “NO Mom it a NAKE”. I went to the back door and my brave young toddler pushed past me and jumped the one step out. Immediately he turned facing the house, pointed and hollered “See it a NAKE”. Just below me at the door stoop was a ‘Snake’. I somehow mustered the strength to step over it, to be between it and my son.
There was a garden hoe leaning against the garage and I made all the kids to go WAY back and to stay there. About the time I grabbed the hoe, my neighbor was at the back door, the snake coiled below her and flattened it’s head appearing very cobra like, then hissed. She screamed “Oh MY GOD” it’s a spreading ‘Puff Adder’! I needed no further encouragement, the evil intruder was soon breathing his last. While I was defeating the ‘DRAGON’ my neighbor called Animal Control. He arrived soon after, wanting to know where the snake was. I showed him the animal’s remains which were chopped nicely into bite sized pieces suitable for snake stew, perhaps. He picked the unfortunate one up. It looked like a slinky or an accordion as it came apart. The gentleman from Animal Control was very amused (this was indicated by the smile ear to ear) but professional. He asked if I thought it was dead enough? I couldn’t help but laugh myself by then. He informed us that it was NOT a Spreading Puff Adder, but merely a baby Hognose. He had already been called to clear out a nest up the street. Apparently this one was moved away by a water surge from the earlier rain. After all was calm, this snake was all of six to eight inches long and I felt very foolish.
What we were thinking…………………….What it really was……..Doesn’t it look like a cuddle buddy?
My experiences with snakes up to then was minimal. I can remember my folks telling me to be careful when we were exploring in the wooded areas and the parks. We were told to beware of the Water moccasins (why are they called moccasins?), Cotton Mouth, Copperheads, Rattlers and the dreaded Blue Racers. Don’t ever runaway from a Blue Racer, because he will take the challenge and chase you down and devour you.
Water Moccasin Copperhead
Missouri Timber Rattler
For my entire childhood, I don’t recall seeing any snake other than a Ring Neck Garden Snake. We found a snake-skin once which had rattles on it (where you ask, that was at Wyeth Hill in St. Joe, MO). We didn’t stay in that spot long, cause he was probably close by. The most knowledge I acquired, leading to the point of killing that poor baby snake, was through word of mouth and the St. Louis Zoo.
There’s a reason I am sharing this true tale with all of you. Today, my eldest Son (now 47 years old) was on my front porch steps to get some rays in the warm morning sun. He has spent the last couple of months with me, because of sudden blindness from cataracts in both eyes. We have been taking care of him and I have been dealing with unending paperwork and applications in order to get him fixed up again. OK, back to the story at hand. He was feeling his way to sit on the steps and thought he heard a hiss, but dismissed that and began to sit down. He then felt something (this gives me goosebumps) he was sure he just placed his hand on a snake, but called out “Mom”, “Mom” “Come Here” “Is this a snake”? I could see it’s head and upper body and just a flick of tail. By the time I got my son in and the dogs restrained, the snake had nearly completed a disappearing act into the Periwinkle that surrounds the porch.
These nearly thirty years I have lived rural and have gained a higher respect for these creepy crawlers. I know that venomous snakes have heads that are like an arrowhead (triangular). Their eyes are ‘Sauron’ like. I know that many are beneficial (even the poisonous ones) as they eat mice, rats and other disgusting beasts, who all like the countryside as well. Today, our visitor was a baby ‘Missouri Speckled King Snake’. I have met his elders on many occasions and given them right away when mowing my yard. These grand royalty also eat other snakes, like Copperheads, etc. I am very good for that!
The only big freak out, I have had, was about sixteen years ago. We had just bought our current home. While fixing a small corral for the horses under a grove of Elms, there came creeping down a neon lime green denizen of evil. Again, my lack of knowledge did me in. The only green snake I knew of was from the deep dark jungles of South America and were very venomous. The ‘Crocodile Hunter’ said so. Well, it seems Missouri has it’s version which is NOT venomous, they only cause ‘heart attacks’. This would be the Missouri Green Snake.
So, I hope you take a look at the pictures and learn that the old adage “The only good snake is a dead snake” is really outdated a bit.