Ah, Saturday morning! What could be better? A good breakfast, great coffee, and a nice sunny day to do yardwork. I went by a friend’s house and borrowed a bushhook then headed into the strip of land between the pond and the fence that keeps the mutts in the backyard. I’m de-vine-ing the young oak trees and getting rid of some unwanted brush. I’ve got the MP3 player loaded up with a billion songs, and the day is bright and beautiful.
I’ve got a full plate of stories wandering my mind. There’s a few in the rewrite pile, a few who are waiting for a birthing, and some new stuff the coffee and sweat will pull to the surface. Ever stepped on a snake? There isn’t a sensation like it. If you’ve ever steppe d on a snake you know from that point forward what it feels like. There really isn’t anything at all to compare it to at all. Step on a rat snake and it feels like a water hose, but more snake like. I swing at a bush, step back with my right foot, and when it lands there’s this squirming, hard and solid, but yielding. “Mike, you’re fucked.” The number of snakes who reach the girth my foot is telling me is there reads like a Las Vegas nightmare; three snakes indigenous to South Georgia have that sort of body style. The Indigo snake would be a really cool thing to find in the yard, but there are other considerations. The first is the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake which is worst case scenario with a pretty pattern. Rattlesnakes stand and deliver a much more deadly bite than I want to consider. Their venom is designed to kill or maim warm blooded creatures and I fall squarely into that category, unless you’re talking to my ex. The lesser of the evils would be a Cottonmouth but I’m not at all thrill at the prospect of getting hit by a creature who has been known to grip instead of hitting and letting go.
All of this is going through my head as I’m doing the Wile E. Coyote midair- haul- ass- space- walk- and- overall- moving- my- legs- and- feet- at- a- much- higher- rate- of- speed- than –previously- known- possible. Bring on the Flintstone Mobile!
Even with a very large snake there really isn’t any reason to leave the area code. Their strike range isn’t any longer than two thirds their body length for an average snake. Of course, I have been zapped by a couple of above average snakes, none of them venomous. But once out of the brush I check my ankles and calves. Bastard didn’t bite me! Really? I go back into the brush and find the snake. Sure enough, it’s a very pissed off Cottonmouth, three feet plus, so not really at all that big.
Thomasville is only forty miles away or so. There’s really decent snakebite center there. For those of us who habitually cross paths with pit vipers, this is information which is pertinent. I figure I can be inside the hospital in less than an hour and not have to drive too terribly fast. My plan is to call a friend of mine who is a cop and tell him to get on the radio and tell the state troopers I’m heading west and nicely making way. If I get in a wreck I want someone to know I’ve been bitten by a hot snake. That would be one of life’s greatest ironies; to die of snake bite while being treated for wounds suffered in a car wreck.
It would take an ambulance thirty minutes to get here. In that time I could almost be there. I would put a restriction band on my leg, but not too tight, and I’d simply drive to the hospital making sure I wasn’t speeding excessively. Unless I have a severe reaction to the venom I would have at the very minimum of half an hour before it really started hurting, and if it wasn’t a bad bite, I might be able to get all the way to the hospital before the venom kicked in.
Did you think I haven’t thought about this a few times?
Just because the Universe owes me for the two decades I bare handed rattlesnake while too drunk to speak coherently, my karma says I’m going to get bit. You have no idea how many times I’ve stood there panting and swearing and realizing I haven’t been bit, nope, missed again ya did, and now it has happened again.
I’m spooked this time, and for some pretty good reasons. That’s a fair bit of snake flesh not to see, and I had to go looking for it to find it. While filming the snake I keep checking my feet, looking behind me, and jumping when it strikes. You didn’t see it until you were on top of it, literally, and by the grace of the snake’s disposition you aren’t on your way to the hospital, Mike you cannot keep throwing those dice.
I know this. It is a conversation we have had before.
There is a pretty good argument to kill a snake this size this close to the dogs. But it let me live and walk away unharmed when it could have zapped me. Maybe that’s why I’ve never been bit. Maybe they do know. That’s crazy but there it is right in front of me. The dreaded Cottonmouth, the one snake the field guide says, “Never handle a live one.” What about scooting it along its way, on one piece and in peace?
Again, I cannot kill this animal. I cannot bring myself to harm it in any way. For whatever reasons, when I was in its sights, when I was stepping on top of it, the animal refused to strike. By my logic and my reasoning, I have no right to kill it. It is the only way I know to live.