Snakes

Snakes

Snakes!

“And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

Growing up in the South and spending a lot of time in rural areas, I have seen a good many snakes. I have almost stepped on snakes a number of times and avoided doing so by altering my step just at the last second. It makes you wonder how many times you almost stepped on one, or did, and never even saw it at all. The reaction that a lot of us have when we see a snake is to chop its head off with a hoe, or run, and worry about identifying it later. While we may subconsciously realize that snakes are part of the eco system and generally might do us a service by eating rats and things, they conjure up a primordial fear and we lose all sense of rational behavior.

A few days ago, one of the neighbors ran over a copperhead that then crawled into the sewer drain. He and his wife were trying to see if it was dead so I took an old hoe handle and reached in to prod the snake to check it. The young woman ran back up the street about 50 feet.  Even a probable dead snake elicits fear! If that snake had crawled out, she might have ended up in Chattanooga.  I am glad we do not have the black mamba here. The lowly rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths are enough for me.

1954 was one of the driest years on record in Georgia. It did not rain in the middle Georgia area for over 90 days and had some of the highest temperatures on record. It was dry and hot and water was in short supply. But, when the year started, who knew? So it was plow and plant just like every other year. It wasn’t until the corn was about 2 feet high that we began to realize there was a problem!

The rains did not come and the springs that provided water for the cows in the pasture near the house started drying up. So did the pasture. We would have to feed, sell, or slaughter the cows.

My grandfather made the decision that we would use the corn to feed the cows. Rather than turn the cows in on the corn, we would cut down enough to feed them each day for as long as we could. That way, if we did get some rain we might still get a little corn production. So we had the feed problem resolved for a while but what about the water?

On Sunday afternoon, my grandfather asked if we wanted to go over to the back of the property with him and check to see what the water situation was in Sweetwater Creek and to see if there was water in the Blue Hole. This would require a long walk.

Every creek on every farm in every county had a place called the “Blue Hole” it seemed to me. And, a “Horseshoe Bend”, etc. The Blue Hole was a place that the cows could get to and get the water they needed. If, it had water in it.  So we went to see and Prince, the dog, went with us.

When we got to the creek, we were happy to see that it had water and the Blue Hole, while not full, had what appeared to be adequate water to hold us for a while. We quickly noticed something else, brought to our attention by Prince’s barking; there were a number of snakes crawling around the edge of the pool of water. My grandfather had an Iver Johnson 32 “Owl Pistol” in his pocket and he took it out and tried to shoot a snake or two but I don’t remember him hitting one. The pool was about 50 feet in diameter. He said he had seen all he needed to see and we should go. There was no need to risk getting a snake bite.

On Monday, after we did the feeding of the cows and other chores, Ray and I decided that we should go “snake hunting”. We certainly needed to make the Blue Hole safe for the cows, didn’t we? We rounded up all the .22 Cartridges and got the single shot .22 and the “auto” .22 and headed back to the Blue Hole. Once again, Prince went with us.

We did not have to wait long. Prince started barking as soon as we got there. He was immediately in a confrontation with several cottonmouth moccasins.

Snakes

To me, a cottonmouth looks mean, acts mean, is aggressive, and IS mean. They are downright scary when they open that mouth and look like they are getting ready to strike.  Ray and I opened fire on the snakes with the .22’s and both of us were pretty good shots so we were able to get the 4 or 5 snakes that Prince was circling and barking at. He would run up and bite at them, they would strike at him and he would back up and that would give us a little bit of space to shoot.

So far so good, it seems. But something was happening. The more the dog barked, the more we shot, the more commotion of bullets hitting the water, the more snakes we saw! The noise, vibration, etc. had stirred up, not a hornets nest, but a snake nest! This was the only body of water around, moccasins like water, and they had all found the Blue Hole.

Snakes were crawling in front of us! On both sides of us! Behind us! They were crawling over our boots! We were in the middle of hundreds of moccasins and every other kind of water loving snake. They had come from miles around. The dog was barking and biting at the snakes. The snakes were striking at him. And we were shooting snakes as fast as we could pull the trigger!

There is no way to impress you with the numbers of snakes that were there. Words do not describe the scene adequately. We both had brought about 3 boxes of .22 cartridges. About 150 rounds a piece. We went through the 300 rounds in a matter of a few minutes and the snakes were swarming around us in a fury. They were mad! We were getting scared. And we were running out of ammo.

Nest Of Snakes
Nest Of Snakes

The picture above is not an actual picture of the scene because we did not take any pictures. But this picture came the closest of any I could find that approaches the situation at the Blue Hole in 1954. No exaggeration!

We decided to get the heck out of there. We could come back another day and have some more of this “fun”. We started home and Prince was going with us. We had only walked a few yards when we noticed a problem with Prince. He looked like he was drunk. He was walking, wobbling, and falling down. He would get up, walk, wobble, and fall. We suddenly realized the problem……he had been bitten by those moccasins that he was attacking and probably multiple times. This was not looking good. His head was swelling. It was the size of a volley ball. We kept going toward the house. His falling down was getting worse and his eyes were about closed. We took turns carrying him until we got to the house and his head now is about the size of a basketball. There is little doubt that Prince is not going to make it. No way.

My Grandmother was a hard working woman of small frame. When we got to the house, we suddenly realized something. She thought Prince was her dog. Everybody just took for granted that it was the family dog but when we showed up with him at the house with a basketball for a head and he could not hold it up much less walk we found out the truth. She was mad. Real mad! And I had never seen her express anger before.

You only called a vet if it was a cow, hog, or horse that needed something on the farm in those days. Most “vet” work was do-it-yourself. It did not look like there was any hope for Prince.

My Grandmother was in no mood for conversation. She was moving in high gear. She gathered up a lot of “home remedy” materials and started treating the dog, which at this point was barely moving. I don’t remember everything that she had but I remember  kerosene, alum, camphor, turpentine soaked rags and some mixture of what looked like “all of the above” that she was pouring in the dog’s mouth. Rags were wrapped around his neck and head. Since he wasn’t able to move, they stayed on. It looked like a MASH unit for dogs in operation. She tended to him as if it were one of her children. Who would have believed her compassion and concern for an old mutt dog?! I had never seen her even pet him on the head but, boy, was he getting her full attention now!

The day turned to evening, then we had supper, and we went to bed with Prince still immobile on the back porch on a pallet my Grandmother had thrown together for him. My Grandfather had been at work all this time as he left everyday about 2:00 PM to go to his job from 3:00 to 11:00. This job allowed him to manage the farm and still make some money on a regular job, too.

The next morning, she was back at it with Prince. He was still alive and, how, I don’t know. There was only one explanation and that was the stuff my Grandmother was doing had been having some effect. By the afternoon, Prince could raise his head up and the swelling had gone down. Back to more a volleyball size.

The following day, when we got up, Prince was walking a little and the head size had reduced significantly. He would wag his tail a little. Prince was going to make it! By the end of that day, he was walking around and acting almost normal. He had survived an all-out attack by angry and mean cotton mouth moccasins and would live to bark about it. He was around for a long time after that. My grandmother had seen to that!

And, as far going back to the Blue Hole to shoot snakes…… Well, we just never seemed to get around to going back over there! You have to know “When” to say “When”.

 

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