The person I have been working with as of late is a large human being. He is a gentle giant, yet a giant he is. This is the type of person you want on your side in a bar fight, and he’s the type of person most people aren’t going to get into a fight with if they can get away from him. I was a hundred yards away from him and then suddenly he was right up on me.
“Snake” he told me.
Ah, just so.
It’s snake season again here and that means my stock just went up. All winter long people tend to forget the snakes are merely sleeping, not dead. The first to come out of hiding are the semi aquatic snakes and that means the Cottonmouth has arisen. They have a reputation of being aggressive and fast. The truth is they can be aggressive and they are quick. Closer to the truth is they fight hard but generally will slip away unnoticed if given the chance. The Cottonmouth, in my opinion is misunderstood and maligned for few good reasons. I stepped on one last June and if the critter had wanted me dead, dead I would be, or at least bitten. A four foot long Cottonmouth is large enough to deliver a bite that could be fatal. I’m a good forty minutes from a hospital. This isn’t going to be pretty.
So he let me live. I let him live. People think I’m nuts for walking away from an animal that is that dangerous, and not twenty-five feet from my house at that. This is a conscious decision on my part to live in a world in which I wish to live. This does not mean I will not be bitten the next time I step on this snake. This means I wasn’t bitten this time. This means I won’t kill an animal that had a chance to kill me, and did not, for reasons I cannot explain.
“Mike, there’s a snake over there.”
I get that, you know. People call me for snakes. People come to me for snakes. Some of them have no desire to get close enough to a snake to kill it. Some people won’t kill an animal out of hand, for various reasons. Some people care enough about me to allow me a chance to save a snake. People generally do not understand this in me, or anyone else, but they do understand that killing snakes upsets me, and there are kind people who do care about me, and will let me save a snake when I may. I think it odd, the same people who think I am nuts for saving snakes will also facilitate me saving a snake. Not all people, mind you, but a few. So few.
The Gentle Giant is such a human being. He doesn’t kill the snake not because he doesn’t want to kill it, but because he knows I wouldn’t like it. I flip the snake into the woods near where we are working and he doesn’t say anything about it, except he thinks the snake didn’t seem to mind me picking him up, albeit with a shovel. He believes the snake and myself shared some sort of conversation before the snake’s flight into the woods. This is a man with some education, and intelligence, not a superstitious hick.
In all good truth, most people who are afraid of snakes are not superstitious hicks, and I’m sorry if I come across as someone who thinks anyone with some totally irrational fear is a superstitious hick who is a matchstick and beer away from burning a witch. Yet just to get here, at this point, where I know people who rather do something nice than destroy a harmless creature out of hand, has taken me decades. In those decades it has been like trying to talk people into becoming atheists, or using the metric system, or telling them their mothers cause warts in newborn children if they say the word ma’am to her. In those decades I have never known one person to die of snake bite.
Of course people do die of snake bite, but it happens about once a year in the Southeast. People die of lung cancer but you never see a gang of people beating a tobacco plant to death and feeling all manly about it afterwards. People die in car wrecks but you don’t see other people dragging the offending driver out and beheading him, but if that caught on you’d have fewer stupid drivers one way or another.
There are people out there, and I am one of them, who think Breed Specific Legislation is as stupid as laws get. Pits and Rotts are good people, if they are around good people. Nearly always, 999999 out of 1000000 times a dog problem is an owner problem. Yet people blame the dog. This is like taking a car to the pound after a wreck to see if it’s dangerous. The fear of snakes is very much like this. Give me a pit and I’ll give you a dog that thrives on love, loves to give kisses, and who incidentally, will fight, kill and die to protect his family.
You would wouldn’t you?
Snakes are far simpler. They eat. They breed. They try not to be eaten. All you can truly hope for in a snake’s life is to be ignored. If you are not food, aren’t trying to eat them, and aren’t matching profiles with them on Match dot com, you’re not going to get bitten. You can, because I have, live in peace with venomous reptiles and be safer than driving to work with some of the people out there who will swerve trying to run over those snakes.
I have no illusions about converting the fearful into those who are not. In nearly four and a half decades of effort, I’ve seen more people converted to the Metric System for Gay Satanist Nazis who love Disco than I have snake haters to snake lovers. But there is always the next four and a half decades.