|Snakes Invade the Simple Life|
During my more than three decades as an investigative newspaper reporter out in the "real world," I saw many terrifying and troublesome things.
I watched as investigators removed a man’s body from his brother-in-law’s septic tank and walked down a short path where he’d allegedly dug a grave for his next victim…
A woman angry over my reporting of her arrest for arson AND threatening a public official called and threatened ME – NOT because of my reporting of the crimes, but because I had printed her AGE one year older than she was.
Especially during the early years, I rode with the Drug Task Force, State Troopers, and county deputies as they arrested folks for often-horrendous crimes, sometimes with their wide-eyed children sitting on trikes and swing sets in the front yards as their daddies were handcuffed and carted away.
I have been held at gun point.
I have been held at knife point.
But somehow I always managed to maintain my professionalism and my "cool." (I might fall apart later that night as I carefully THOUGHT about what had transpired, but not while it was actually happening!)
But there was ONE major exception.
I was, and am, terrified – no, way BEYOND terrified – of snakes.
I can’t even stand to see them on TV or their photos in books.
Once in a lighter vein, a newspaper photographer and I were doing a series on historical sites around our county.
We tromped through the woods to visit and photograph what remained of the historic Blount Springs – and a simple, but L-O-N-G, snake SKIN laid across the path.
I was just a "slip of a girl then," and the photographer was quite a big man, but I knocked him sideways and was immediately back at our vehicle in moves that would have put Spiderman to shame.
Another time, my two young daughters, husband, brother-in-law and I were hiking along the river bed below historic Horton Mill Covered Bridge.
A snake less than 18 inches long slithered across that path causing me to KNOCK said brother-in-law INTO THE RIVER and resulted in me LEAVING my much-beloved children at the river bed.
But perhaps the most repeated story (at least the one my husband loves to tell over and over) involved that same area when we lived on three acres just around the curve from that bridge.
The front yard was beautiful, but way too steep to mow. I was using the weed eater carefully as the girls watched their younger brother in the house when another small snake made his (or her – I didn’t stop to ask) presence known.
My mama had told a story for years of a relative who’d danced across the neighborhood after a ground squirrel raced up his pants leg after being frightened.
Naturally that story came to MY mind when I couldn’t see where the small snake had wiggled amongst the rocks and grasses.
I threw the weed eater and started up the hill, shucking my blue jeans as I went, convinced that snake had wiggled up my boots and was slung somewhere inside my clothing!
Various other parts of apparel were left across the yard as I raced into the house.
I re-dressed in "safe" clothes in the house, grabbed all three kids and drove the few miles where husband was helping at his uncle’s house, begging him to come home and find and kill the monster snake.
He quickly followed us back in his pickup, but you could hear him laughing as he drove up the u-shaped drive.
"What if somebody had been driving by," he questioned as he surveyed my clothes scattered across the hillside.
I wouldn’t have cared…all I could think about was that little snake possibly crawling on my body somewhere…
He has repeated that story often, embellishing it with how he laughed as he surveyed each piece of clothing scattered across the hillside…
Move forward about 30 years…
I am much grayer, but still terrified of snakes!
I have managed to kill two small ones, one a small rattlesnake and the other a small copperhead, but if a big chicken snake appears, I scream until my now-adult son comes to my rescue from next door on the farm. (Yes, I know chicken snakes are supposed to be left alone, but this one had been eating eggs and baby chicks AND causing me to panic!)
(My husband had another story to tell about the small rattler I killed in the bunny barn. I told him I wasn’t going back in there until he went in there and disposed of the snake’s remains…he told everybody the poor snake was chopped into so many tiny pieces in my panic that it was hard for him to collect him into a shovel…)
So this year snakes are said to be worse.
Mike Bolton quoted herpetologist Martin Nowak in a June 17 "Birmingham News" article as saying this year would probably be a "bad year" for increased snake sightings since we had had such a mild winter, meaning more snakes had lived through the winter as well as more things snakes EAT had lived through the winter.
And I know that for a fact.
About three weeks before I wrote this article I wasn’t as careful as I should have been.
It was just about dark and I reached with both hands around a pile of hay in the bunny barn and carried that hay the short distance to throw into the fence with my pygmy goats.
A small, we-believe-non-poisonous snake was in the hay and DIDN’T WANT to be carried to the goat pen…and he (or she) let me know it by clamping down on my right wrist.
I’m too allergic for a tetanus shot so the treatment just included keeping the bite clean and watching for infection.
And I learned a lot.
Dr. Lennie Gibson told me even poisonous snake bites aren’t usually fatal unless you are very young, have severe health problems already or are elderly. But you do need to seek medical attention as soon as you’re bitten because they can cause other problems.
Mike Bolton’s article agreed, noting Alabama has 40 species of snakes of which six are venomous, but also noted, while several Alabamians are bitten by venomous snakes each year, few died. He also noted only about 12 people in the United States die annually from snake bites.
So while I am STILL terrified of snakes, I know a lot more about them now…and you can bet this simple woman on this simple farm is being a LOT MORE CAREFUL!
Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer who lives on a small Blount County farm and can be reached through her website at www.suzysfarm.com.