Sunday, September 1, 2019

A close encounter with a dreadful snake

The other night when I took the trash out I stepped or tripped on something. It was night, so of course the back deck was in darkness. I took a couple of steps, the motion-detecting light came on, and I turned around at the top of the steps to see what I had had stepped or tripped on.

It was a snake.

A dreadful snake.

An evil serpent.

I hate snakes whether they are venomous or not. I did not know what this snake was, but it was large, 3 feet to 4 feet long and as big around as my forearm at the fattest part. In my mind, the markings on the snake were hourglass shaped, and so my mind screamed, “Copperhead!”

Not knowing what to do, I stood and looked at it a few seconds, thinking, “It is against the laws of the Great State of Missouri to kill snakes. They are the state’s natural resources, and belong to the people of Missouri.”

Once long ago when I was a reporter/photographer/columnist/editor-of-sorts for the local daily newspaper, I wrote a column in which I mentioned my hatred of serpents, and I wrote, “I kill every snake I see.”

The following Saturday I was in the newsroom early, setting up the pages for the Sunday paper and listening to the local radio station, waiting for the Saturday Morning Bluegrass Show to come on. There was an interview with the local conservation agent on at the time, and the host asked the conservation agent about my column and my anti-snake stance.

“Ozarks Boy can be as boisterous as he wants in his column, but if I ever catch him killing a snake, I will arrest him,” the conservation agent said.

All of these thoughts went through my head while I looked at the snake, which I assumed was a copperhead.

The next day that snake was lying headless in the weeds next to my driveway. I cannot say for certain how it got there. Perhaps an owl swooped down on it and tore its head off. Or a possum strolled by and bit its head off. I do not. The wonders of nature are amazing.

I looked at it closely and took a picture of the carcass. Then I turned to the internet and began looking for a similar snake among Missouri’s venomous and non-venomous snakes. Nothing matched.

My wife sent a copy of the picture via Messenger to her brother in Texas.

“It looks like a boa constrictor,” he said.

“What in the sam hill is a boa constrictor, a tropical snake, doing in the Ozarks?” I asked.

“Probably someone had it as a pet and it got loose. Or they let it loose because they couldn’t take care of it,” he said. “Happens all the time down here.”

I put a picture of it on my Facebook page and asked my friends what they thought. A woman I used to work with said the same thing, “Boa constrictor. Somebody’s pet.”

Well, shoot, I thought. I hate that an owl or possum might have killed someone’s beloved pet, even if it was a dreadful snake, evil serpent.

But they should have kept it on a leash.

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