Palaver from Persimmon Crossing — SSSSSSSSnakes
|January 9, 2007||Posted by Staff under Archive, Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Palaver from Persimmon Crossing
with Warren Faulk
Few are neutral when it comes to snakes. They apparently have been around forever and may well outlast all the rest of us. If you tell a snake story to anyone connected with or remotely interested in the outdoors you’ll get one or more in return. Percentage wise, they probably have more enemies than friends and I am afraid of them but I fool around with them anyway. I’ll begin with a small incident and work my way up. You can fit your stories in between mine and we’ll see who runs out of yarns first.
* * *
I was about nine or so when I had my first snake encounter. I had this place called ” The Swamp” where a couple ditches ran together creating a marshy habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals. It was a great place to net minnows and gig frogs. As a reflex action I gigged a moccasin that was in the act of striking at me. I caught it right behind the head with one tine of a three tine gig … and took it all around the block showing it off until Mama caught me and put an end to my reign as Tarzan or whatever role I was playing.
* * *
A year or so later I was at summer camp on a salt water bay. I was swimming with a group when a moccasin appeared just a foot or two away from me. I swam to shore with the snake gliding along right on top of me. All these decades later I still have trouble believing I wasn’t bitten. I suppose the snake was just taking the most direct route to shore as I was.
* * *
At age 12 I was squirrel hunting along a small creek., actually wading, when a rattlesnake came swimming along. He definitely had the angle on me. My bag that day was one snake in two pieces. I wish I still had that little Fulton 20 gauge. When you pulled the trigger you never knew how many barrels were going to fire. When both triggered it made quite a stir and kicked hard enough to leave bruises with the old high brass Monarch shells. I finally broke one of the firing pins and spent the grand total of $5.00 having both problems corrected by a local gunsmith. Daddy chewed him out the next day for charging me so much.
* * *
By age 18 I was in the Army and marching around Ft. Hood, Texas. One of our Sergeants came up to my platoon and asked if any of us knew how to catch a snake. He had found a small rattler in the parking lot and though he was afraid of the snake he still wanted it for a training class he was responsible for teaching. I was so green that I hadn’t learned not to volunteer yet so I raised my hand. I borrowed a fishing rod out of someones car, stripped off some line and looped it back through the rod guides. This produced a noose to slip over the snake’s head. The snake was then placed in a burlap sack. About half the people thought I was brave and the rest thought I was nuts.
* * *
On a bright sunny day near Tay Ninh, Vietnam in 1966, I opened a bunker door to go into a radio room where two or three people were already at work. A cobra standing on its tail walked me back outside. I couldn’t take my eyes off it but I was able to retreat. Somehow my hand found a metal stake and I was able to knock the snake down. In a split second, Doug Sagawa came hurtling through the air with a fire ax and decapitated the Snake. He was a little fellow, but Doug took his karate seriously. Not to mess with Doug, Chuck … I always suspected that the snake was planted. Had never heard of a cobra in Vietnam before or since.
* * *
My son Colin and I were looking at a small farm that was for sale in Cantonment,Florida a few years back. It was a cool sunny January day. I was looking at a part of the grounds that had recently been a vegetable garden. Colin alerted me to the fact that a snake was headed my way. Said snake turned out to be a rattler, about seven feet in length, 35 pounds or so and with 18 very impressive rattles. It appeared to be chilled and incapable of rapid movement. Shortly it began to crawl into a hole. I thought the hole was too small for it but I was just a tad off on my estimate. As the snake disappeared I caught it and gave it a tug. That’s how I have an opinion about its weight. I held it back with one hand, got my knife out with the other and opened the blade with my teeth. I was about to cut the tail and rattles off when I realized the snakes head was just a few inches from my knife hand, forked tongue flickering. Guess what. I let it go. Who needs a set of rattles the likes of which most people have never seen? Not me. Not after a scare like that.
* * *
A few weeks later in the same area some friends and I were training beagles. One friend killed a rattler that was about six feet long and had seven rattles. This snake weighed about 18 to 20 pounds and we removed a full grown cottontail from it. Within the next few months a pulp wood crew killed a seven and one half foot rattler that weighed 95 pounds. I saw it mounted in a display later. The fangs were about three inches long and as thick as a standard wooden pencil at the base. A snake like this could kill you with just its fangs. Forget the venom. One of our beagles was struck in the throat by a snake that left fang punctures two inches apart. Dogs often survive snake bites but this one died on the spot. We never saw the snake. The thing about a good rabbit dog is that they are so single minded that they just keep trying to get at the rabbit no matter what. If they have to run over a snake or challenge a hog then they just go right ahead. They usually get away with it but it is a sad day when things go wrong.
* * *
About 12 years ago I came out of retirement to work in a pet store for a few hours a day. This store featured a really big burmese python. Rhonda was about 22 feet long and 350 pounds. She had her own pet burmese, Rachel, who tipped the scales at 90 pounds. I was told that the snakes were harmless but that there was a two man rule for the safety of man and snake, just in case. Rhonda had her own rolling showcase in a roadworthy trailer. In fact, my introduction to her came when she was returning to Alabama from the Oklahoma State Fair. She had been on display in a side show. It fell to me to get her from the trailer into her permanent showroom inside the store. I was given to believe that she could be encouraged to move along and be guided with a straw broom. Well, I swept and swept but she wouldn’t budge. Finally I picked her head up, tucked it under my arm and started out the door and down the steps. I progressed several feet along the sidewalk with her stretching out behind me. I felt her stiffen and suddenly I was back inside the trailer. I had a good grip on her and she just recoiled back to the position she had been in before I started stretching her. It was a quick trip. Any paratrooper would have been proud of my landing. Rhonda didn’t seem to mind the extra couple hundred pounds of baggage and in fact responded well to the broom from then on. Do not be deceived. Remember the 90 pound pet? A few weeks later she attacked the store owner who had violated his own two man rule and attempted to clean the showroom alone and at night. Rachel caught him with her upper fangs in the palm of his right hand and the lower teeth below his wrist. She bit down, folding his hand back, holding on and thrashing. He was severely injured and lost a lot of blood. Fortunately, an employee present in another part of the building, came to his aid.
* * *
I once asked a lady if she had ever been picked up by a snake, thinking to create an opportunity to tell my big snake story. She said, “not unless you count some of the guys I’ve gone home with when I’ve been out drinking.”
The older I get the dumber I was …
— Warren Faulk
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