Every country kid has a few stories to tell about snakes. Mine are really very few but they all stand out in my memories. The first was when I was around four years old, I was playing in my yard and suddenly my mother freaked out. She grabbed me and fled into the house, leaving me there she ran across the street to our neighbor who was a older man. He came and killed what I believe was a large Black Snake, in a photo I have some where it looks to have been maybe three to four feet long. Black Snakes are generally harmless and beneficial to have around, but to a young mother with a small son I guess it was a monster. The lots in that part of town were rather large and a large drainage canal ran at the edge of our property. It was a perfect place for small rodents and other prey to roam. My next experience nearly stopped my heart. I was nine years old and once again living on a large city lot we had a large garden plot next to the house it was a dry dusty day. I was out side barefooted as was our summer custom. Moving between the house and the garden I caught a rapid movement from the corner of my eye. Before I could fathom what was happening a small brown snake slithered rapidly from a garden row across the top of my foot and under the house. My heart seemed to to turn to ice and I could not even move for a short while. Later that summer My Stepmother and the woman that lived behind us had cut a hole in the back fence so they could move from house to house and my sister and her little girl could play together. While standing and visiting together at the fence one day a unfortunate Blue Racer happened to to wander into their vicinity. Rose spied it and screamed, my mother grabed a hoe (the Missouri kind you used in the garden, not the California you see on the street). She started in on the poor snake, Rose was hollerin “kill it, Sylvia” while Mom chopped it into little one inch pieces. While living at this house we had a large garage with a three foot space between it and a high fence. This was my own personal play area as my sister was not allowed to enter . One day as I was going to play there I saw something I did not recognise. As I got closer I discovered a Red,yellow and black banded snake about twenty-eight inches long. I told my Father about it that evening and he told me that such a snake did not exist. It was not untill I got into high school and found a book in the library that I discovered it was called a Milk Snake a member of the King Snake family. I however was never able to convince my Dad I had seen one. I have seen them in zoos but never in the wild again. I once saw a Coach Whip Snake, they are extremely thin and long with a narrow long pointed tail. They are harmless but extremely dangerous looking with a false reputation of using their tails like a whip. What they can do is raise a third of their body up above the ground to look for small prey, mostly insects. I have seen Water Moccasins in the rivers in Missouri. To look at them you know they are bad business. Their bodies are shiny Black and their eyes are like dead black beads. When they open their mouths the insides are snow white with two very prominate long fangs. Just plain ugly and menacing. They are not a timid snake either they will stand their ground. The second of the deadly snakes in Missouri is the Copperhead, So named for the Copper cast of its body. Like the Rattle Snake it has a distinctive diamond pattern. The Copperhead has a odor that some people can identify. I am one of those people who was born with a smell-er that does not work worth a damn so I never smelled one. I was once helping my Grandpa tear apart a old barn, ripping off the old boards after we had pulled it down. I was wearing a old pair of engineer boots to large for me, I felt something keep hitting my leg and thought it was a lose board I was standing too near. I finally looked down and discovered I was standing on a snakes head and it was slapping me with its body. Granddad said I went three feet straight up and six feet to the side and left the boot where I had been standing. It was a Copperhead, Granddad said I should have stood in place and let him cut it’s head off. This city boy could not think that fast. We had to dig through the pile of boards to find and kill it. They are not too apt to back off from you, they will usually let you pass but sometimes they are aggresive. The third poisonous snake was the Timber Rattle Snake. They were quite common in the heavy underbrush of Missouri, although I only saw dead ones already killed. Once I had a rope swing in the old Oak tree behind the last farm house we lived in. One evening just after sundown I swung off a old table and leaped to the ground Tarzan fashion and came down straddle a very long Black Snake, needless to say my feet did not remain on the ground for any length of time. These Black Snakes can grow to six feet easily. They feed in the evenings and early mornings on rodents and other snakes. Farmers seldom molest them considering them a asset. I encountered Rattle Snakes on Camp Pendelton on several Occasions I made it a point to leave them alone as they seldom gave us any ammunition for our weapons and when they did it was not for snake hunting. I saw a dead Rattle Snake beside the road out side of camp one time I wish I had saved it, because it was not the usual brown pattern but was green. Once again every one said I was crazy and would not believe me. I do not know how it got there but years later I saw a nature special that there is a area in Mexico where there is a species of Green Rattle Snakes. I have never personally killed a snake and have no desire to do so. I have always avoided them and left them alone. If they are no threat to me I pass them by. I do not condemn any body for hunting, and have a son who loves to hunt. He always cooks and eats what ever he shoots. He once was bird hunting and was startled by a Rattle Snake which he shot. He cut the head off and thought I’ll skin and cook the damn thing. He stuffed it in the back pocket of his hunting vest. No one had ever told him about the nerve reflexes of dead snakes. He was walking along and all of a sudden the snake started to moving around and started out the side of the vest. He grabbed it and threw it as far as he could. I took my daughter to a local nature center when she was about nine years old and we encountered a Blue Racer about fourteen inches long, after explaining it was not dangerous and how to tell them apart, she was following it around standing astride of it until it disappeared into dense brush. I do not fear snakes as long as I know where they are and can see them. And hope I have been able to pass that on to my Kids. I am 67 years old and have owned guns all my life, and roamed the back woods and deserts when ever I could. I Killed one Cotton tail rabbit more by accident than any thing and hit a large bird on wing when in my early twenty’s. I have always regretted both incidents. I love to shoot, but hunting has never been my sport. I bought hunting licenses and went with the guys for the companionship and camping. But never put any effort into shooting any game. I have had many serious hunting friends, who I respect and recognise their right to the hunt. But guess I am too tender hearted to kill. Nuff said Snake don’t try to bite me and I’ll give you space.
Snakes! Snakes? Snakes I have seen and scared the crap out of me.