Monday, September 19, 2011

#209 - BOARD to DEATH (just read it before you criticize my spelling).

Smiley in love with a snake
My first real encounter with a live snake
(which I shall reveal here) was a DOOZIE 
and occurred around the first of August in 1968
Though not a professional snake wrangler, I have handled snakes (itty bitty garden snakes) before.  After all, I was once a Girl Scout and a den mother for a group of 8 cub scouts.  I had been shown (several times) how to correctly handle snakes and how to tell if they were venomous.  Also, come on, over the years I have watched dozens of shows by Mutual of Omaha and the Animal Channel. 

At the time of this encounter I was living in a small farm home in the Missouri Ozarks.  My husband (soon to be ex, but that's another story) had moved us there from Palm Desert, California.  I loved the Ozarks area and the house was the home in which my husband was born, so it had meaning.

Out behind the house was a small barn and in the pasture were three horses.  One was a big, white, frightening, wild eyed, stallion.  One was a mean little Shetland runt (who loved to nip my thigh and rump).  And, one (which was ours) was a retired, circus horse who knew all kinds of tricks (if you knew how to prompt her).   Ginger was 26 years old and as smart as a whip.  She didn't like to be ridden so she would always detour under low hanging branches and close to the trunks of trees.  I got knocked/scraped off several times (but she never did that with my kids). 

Ginger, Gene, Patty and me (can't believe I had my hair up in curlers)
The horses would not go into the barn no matter what I did.  I tried leading them, luring them, cooing to them and on and on and on.  Finally, I decided it was because there were boards just laid down on the dirt floor.  When I walked on them they would wobble a bit so I can imagine how they would move when the horses stepped on them.  Plus, there was other junk stored in that barn.

So, one day, since it was getting close to fall I decided the barn needed to be cleaned out for the horses.
In I went with a rake, a shovel, a wheelbarrow, a broom and a bucket with various items in it.  I hauled all of the junk out and stacked it behind the barn to be carried off or burned.  I worked on this all morning and into the afternoon while a friend watched my kids.  Then it came time to pull out the boards.  Everything was going fine until I got to the 5th board.  As I lifted it up a hugh (and I do mean HUGH) snake darted out then back under the next board.

I had only seen the animal for a brief second but long enough to consider it one of the most beautiful snakes I have ever seen.   This snake had orange, light-brown,  even a pinkish body that was highlighted by darker chestnut brown bands that formed a whole series of hourglass shapes across its body.

See, isn't it beautiful!
Immediately I thought of my son Gene.  He would love a snake as a pet. Therefore, I set about devising a way to catch it.

I glanced around and quickly came up with a plan which involved the bucket, a broom and a small piece of wood for a lid to the bucket.  Armed with this snake snaring paraphernalia I proceeded to raise and toss the 6th board.  The snake tried to pull the same maneuver and slip under board #7.  But, ha..ha..I was too quick for him/her.  After flinging the plank I grabbed the bucket and broom.  Then I beat the tarnation out of the snake with the broom and steered him into the bucket.  Whack, whack, whack, turned up the bucket, then slapped the make shift lid on the top.  Now, I could have reached down and grabbed it by the neck at the back of it's head, but since I hadn't gotten a real good look at it I decided not to take the chance.

Satisfied with my smart move and my prize I picket up the bucket, put it in the back seat of my car (with a rock on the lid) and headed for my father-in-laws country store, just down the road.  I wanted to know just what kind of snake I had caught (this was the olden days before internet).

When I arrived several men from the area had congregated around the inside of the store.  As usual they were drinking beer, sharing stories, and laughing.  I came in the door and they greeted me with a few nods and a "Hey, gal."

I put my bucket down, removed the lid tilted it towards the men and said, "Do any of you guys know what kind of snake this is?"  Before I could finish my sentence ALL of the men jumped up falling all over each other and fled the store.  Some were running, (one jumped through the open screen-less window),  all were cussing and yelling all sorts of unpleasant comments.  I put the lid back on the bucket and looked out the door.

My husband yelled from the parking lot,  "Karen, you've done a lot of hair-brained things but this one takes the cake."  Get that darned bucket out here (only he didn't exactly say darned)."
When I returned to the door with the bucket in hand I could see all of the men lined up with shotguns in their arms.  Now, this was the Ozarks, my friends, and since my husband and I hadn't been getting along lately I thought that this might be what is referred to as a QUICKY DIVORCE, Ozark style.

My husband asked me to gently put the bucket down in front of the men, and back up.  Ok, like a good wife, I did what I was told and then there was a deafening sound as all seven men fired at the bucket.  The bucket was blown to smithereens as was that beautiful snake.  DEATH was brutal and swift.

In not too kind of a tone or gentle language (and with one hand on his hip and the other hand pointing a finger at me), my husband told me that I had managed to capture an unusually large Copperhead whose venom could have killed me before anyone could have gotten me to the hospital.  He went on to add that this was the blind season for Copperheads making it an extremely dangerous time to mess with them. 

What did I say in response?"Oh, and it was so pretty."  To which my husband threw up his hands and stomped off.
I tried like crazy to find a yellow smiley face snake.  This will have to do.
By the way, do you NOW get my little pun of a title? 
 (Ok, ok, a little cheesy but it is all I could come up with)    kt 8/2011
PS:  WOULD YOU BELIEVE THAT 43 YEARS TO THE MONTH I CAUGHT A YOUNG COPPERHEAD!  On September 8th I was leaving the hospital after visiting my dad and a kid ran to the nurses station and said, "There's a snake in the waiting room.  My dad thinks it's a copper head."  Without missing a beat I said, "I'll take care of it."

When I got there a young snake about 12 inches long was laying up against the base board under a chair.  Four other people were standing about six feet from the critter.  Although small, I knew immediately that it was a young Copperhead.  A young woman entered the room with a broom and a bucket.  I started to laugh as I remembered the above story.  I just told her to stay where she was.  I took a trash can, tipped it over, stepped on the very end of the snakes tail and it quickly slithered into the dark bucket.  I tipped the bucket up and then tied a knot in the plastic baggie.  Handing the trash can with baggie and snake to the girl with the broom I said, "There you go."

The next morning when I returned to see Dad I asked his nurse if she had heard about the snake in the waiting room.  She said yes, and then I asked her what she had heard.  Her words exactly were, "I heard that there was a Copperhead snake in the waiting room and some crazy lady caught it and gave it to an aide."  Then her eyes got big and she said, "Were you that crazy lady?" All I could do was laugh.