“Watch out,” a co-worker warned as I was stepping out for my mid-afternoon, 10-minute walk during an office break down in the Big City. “They found a copperhead back there. I know you like to go back there to walk.”
Tisk, tisk, city girl, I thought to myself. I’m a country boy. I can handle a lil’ ol’ snake.
The snakes are a-crawlin’ this spring, they say. For evidence I submit the example of the hometown preacher.
About a month ago early one morning the preacher arrived at the church to find definitely not one of the flock waiting. One of Satan’s namesakes was curled up at the outside door to the church office.
By the looks of a photo that the preacher put out on the Internet, the serpent looked like it could have been as much as four feet long. It was thick in the middle — it had been eating well since emerging from winter hibernation.
My first thought was a copperhead, by the markings, but it was too big and too dark. Then someone identified it as a mole kingsnake. I had never heard of such a thing. “Wikipedia,” an Internet encyclopedia, said they’re not supposed to be in the Appalachian mountains.
The preacher got his fair share of snake-handlin’ quips. The following Sunday I waited for him to whip that thing out from behind the podium and hold it high for a sermon illustration that would be talked about for generations. But, alas, the preacher said not a word about it.
This is a good time to remind everybody that North Carolina is the Snake Capital of the U.S. Snake bites here are a whopping five times the national average, and that is attributed to the large number of copperheads here. There were 228 reported snake bites here last year.
As a result the Carolinas Reptile Rescue & Education Center in Gastonia, my wife’s hometown — just the place for snakes — is advising us to stop going around barefoot.
Good luck with that one. At least out here in the country.
“Don’t wear flip flops,” warned Grover Barfield, chairman of the snake center, “and watch where you put your hands and feet.”
Tisk, tisk. We country folk can deal with a few lil’ ol’ snakes.
By the way, I finally came across that snake at work last week. It’s not a copperhead; the markings and the head are all wrong. About a foot-and-a-half long, it was sunning itself on a curb in a back parking-lot corner. It looks like it’s made a summer home in a hedgerow next to a strip of woods that serves as a buffer from I-77.
The snake’s harmless. I’ll check in on it from time and time and try to keep security away.
I’ve grown fond of those newfangled, elastic garden hoses that shrink down and let you roll them up in your hand for storage, then expand when you refill them. I got a cheap one just to give it a try. During its second summer it burst like a balloon.
But I loved the idea and the convenience, so I got a second one, a good one this time, with brass fittings and such. As I pulled it out of its package I noticed it was black with a trio of thin, yellow stripes.
As I filled it the first time, the thing started wiggling from side to side and moved in the grass like a big garter snake.
Now I know just what to do next April Fool’s Day. I’m going to connect that thing to the water spigot at church and run my black-and-yellow hose across the church office door threshold. Then I’ll hide and wait on the preacher.
I just hope he doesn’t take an ax-head to my new garden hose.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.