Thursday, July 13, 2006
The country people all say that copperheads go in pairs. Catch one, and its mate will come looking for you. I have lived here long enough never to scoff at what the people say. Most often, they're right on the money. Today, I stepped out to get something out of the garage, and there, not a yard from the front stoop, lay the most gorgeous 30" copperhead I've seen. It shone against the wet earth like a dropped scarf. It was so beautiful there under the bonsai bench that I considered going for my camera, but I couldn't take the risk that it would disappear back under the front stoop in the interim. So I sprinted for the garage, grabbed the snake tongs and a joint compound bucket, and without a second's hesitation had that snake in the bucket. I doubt the whole exercise took 30 seconds. Damn, I love my snake tongs.
What I love more is not being afraid to just deal with venomous snakes. When I was picking them up with the tail, so much depended on whether the snake was going to take offense. And then there was getting hold of the tail. What that involved was pinning the snake behind the head and waiting for the tail to writhe past my tentatively extended hand. I finally settled on a snow shovel as the tool of choice--it acted as a nice shield in case things went south. But it was far from perfect. The sharp blade ran the risk of injuring the snake's neck, so I had to press firmly but not too firmly, or I'd negate the whole point of transporting the animal. Pressing firmly but not too firmly is hard to do when you're about to soil yourself. You know that if you don't press firmly enough you could get a couple of fangs in your forearm, and then where would you be? Alone with a useless arm, that's where. And 20 miles from the nearest help.Once I had the animal by the tail and suspended in the air, the real fun began. I had to maneuver this wildly wriggling animal into the comparatively small confines of a joint compound bucket. Miss, and it could use the bucket's rim to push itself up and have a go at me.
This is the same copperhead, right after capture. It's really mad--you can tell by the flattened body. Terrific color--a real shiner. And then there were the super-athletic ones that managed to rear back up along their own length to try to bite me. Arrrgh. Steve Irwin (The Crocodile Hunter) is reputed to put his venomous snakes in the fridge for awhile to chill them out (literally) before filming those super-courageous capture segments. I don't have that option. I've got to get down and deal with the things as they are.
Catching copperheads one of those things you do for love of your kids. Not many of us are put in a position anymore, living such sheltered lives in our luxurious boxes, both stationary and rolling, where we have to do things like this. That's the thrill and spice of living in the sticks. If you do it right--if you engage nature instead of hiding from it--it gives you back your whole life.
Thirty inches if it's a centimeter. Living free again, a few miles from here.
Posted by Julie Zickefoose at 6:24 PM