Monday, March 15, 2010

Snakes And Karma

Over the last few decades I have rescued hundreds, maybe even thousand of snakes. Mostly the rescues are relocations, from out of the road to a more favorable environment, but people have called me to come get snakes out of their yards or houses, and people have called me to indentify dead snakes. I have, in my younger days, waded into a snake killing to rescue the snake, and on at least three occasions bare handed a rattlesnake to keep it from being killed.

I've been cussed at, threatened, had a gun pointed at me on two different rescues, had someone blast away at a snake I just released ( he missed) and have nearly been arrested once. I've been told too many times to count I was insane, and likely it's true just not for the reason the serpent-phobes suspect.

But if you really and truly feel as if there isn't anyone going to get within knife range of you, hold a six feet long Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake in one hand and an open bottle of Jack Daniels in the other. They may cuss and scream and call you all sorts of horrible names, but the bastards will be backing up as they do.

I haven't killed a snake since 1979. A cottonmouth took a shot at me while I was holding a shotgun and my reaction was less than polite. Since that day I've stopped and helped every snake I've been able to help, and I will not under any circumstances kill a snake, even if he's loaded and in my yard. I will relocate it. I will flip it over the fence into the pond. But I am not going to kill a snake.

Mostly I believe you ought not kill what you cannot eat when it comes to animals a step up from insects. I believe that we should make more effort to live with nature, and not kill everything that freaks us out. I believe if I live this way, nature won't much give a damn if I do or I don't, and I am as likely to get zapped by a hot snake as anyone else out there, except I can see them better.


 

Honestly, if you believe in any sort of Universal comeuppance I truly have it coming. I beat the Laws Of Averages like a rented mule for a very long time and did things no sane or sober person would do. I've caught rattlers when I wasn't sober enough to stand upright. A man in Lakeland Georgia was bitten by a rattlesnake and when he got to the hospital they asked him how he got bit on his left hand, "I was holding a beer in the right." Most people think that is one weird story. I understand it perfectly.

I quit catching rattlesnakes with my hands about fifteen years ago when they started making faster snakes. Since I quit drinking and driving the opportunity to catch hot snakes while drunk have narrowed considerably.


 

Nature doesn't give a damn about any of this. It isn't good or bad, it simply is. Nature lives the way nature lives and how I live doesn't buy me any leeway when it comes to my fine fanged fellows. But this is the way I have chosen to live. This is the way I have always wanted to live. Long ago, when I asked people why they killed venomous snakes near their homes they would tell me when I got a place of my own I would kill snakes too. I haven't. I won't.


 

I truly and honestly fear one day I'll lose a dog to this philosophy but it is no different than losing a dog to traffic. I truly believe I will not be rewarded by nature, or snakes, or by anything at anytime, and I will get not only nothing out of this but I might lose something in the process. Well, what I will get out of this is living the way I think I ought to live. In 1979 I killed a snake who was trying to kill me, and in the aftermath of that one shot I had an epiphany; we do not have to kill snakes. Left alone, they will mostly leave us alone.


 

Accidents happen. I accept that. I accept one day a tree limb might fall from an Oak and kill me or one of the dogs. I accept my neighbor might accidently fire a gun one day and kill me or kill one of my dogs. I accept one day the risks I accept will harm me in some way, be it living beside a pond with Kitty Cottonmouth, or eating pork. I do what I can to minimize the risks, but I accept there is so much I can, and cannot do.


 

I won't try to explain to you how beneficial snakes are because education is lost on those who are terrified. I won't bore you with the stats that say you are much more likely to be murdered by a family member than even so much as bitten by a snake. Honestly, it's mostly a waste of my time to try to educate human beings when it comes to snakes. I might as well spread the good news about atheism at the next Baptist convention or try to teach Americans the metric system.


 

If I get bit by a venomous snake, or one of the dogs get bit, that is my karma. My life and their lives have been twisted together now for over forty years. There are times I should have been bit, times I've nearly gotten bit, and if it happens now that I've mostly stopped the bare hands thing, I had it coming. My dogs get to run free on the better part of two acres of land and I allow them to hunt as they wish, whatever they wish, and with that freedom comes peril. I think Bert knows this, I'm certain Sam does, and The Puppy Lucas…damn, if I can just get him through this next year.


 

Karma. I have accepted life as it is, and I accept the way I live has consequences.


 

Take Care,

Mike

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