Red touch yellow, kills a fellow
Red touch black, venom lack
– Some Fool
I don’t like snakes. I do not. Never have. I don’t even like people who do like snakes. When I scroll through my Facebook feed and see a picture of a snake, I, in my mind, punch the person who posted the picture right in the mouth. I do. I’m not even a violent person, but they deserve it every time.
My mom used to tell me stories about how, when she was a younger girl than she is now, black snakes – black racers, they called them – would slither out from under the porch and chase her and her sisters down the street. I don’t know where my Uncle Marion was during the running and chasing. Probably working, or maybe running snakes out from under the porch so that his sisters would be scared and run away. I have to make that part of the story up, but that sounds reasonable to me.
Anyway, as the name implies, black racer snakes are fast. “They run sideways,” my mom told me, “and they don’t stop chasing you until they get tired.” I don’t know if any of that’s true, but then I’ve never been chased by a black racer and she has, so I’ll take her word for it.
I did step on a snake one time. Stepped right on it. I was about 10 years old and was on a camping trip with my granddad (PaPaw), my brother and some cousins at Guntersville State Park. It’s the longest stretch I’ve ever gone without a shower that didn’t involve hospitalization. It was fun, until my grandmother, Nana, got there near the end of the week. Then we were clean. Or cleanish.
If you know anything about the park, and even if you don’t, I had been fishing around the point to the right of the public pier where all the campers dock their boats.
One morning, my cousin Robbie caught a 6-pound bass fishing from that pier using a chartreuse crappie jig. The next morning, there were more people on that pier than should have been humanly possible, all contorting and casting their lines and trying to catch a bass with a chartreuse crappie jig. But I digress.
On this day, I had finished fishing around the point and I was walking along the trail beside the waters edge that led back to the campsite. Being the least talented fisherman in the family, I was carrying my fishing pole and tackle box, but no fish. I was looking out at the water and mountains, admiring nothing and everything all at once when, without warning, the earth below me seemed to roll. What was underfoot wasn’t hard like a rock or a stick. What I stepped on was kind of squishy and it rolled. I mean, it ROLLED. I’m not smart enough to explain to you what it feels like to have the earth roll and constrict under your foot as you’re mindlessly admiring the handy work of God and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
I get the heebie-jeebies to this day.
I looked down and saw what might have been an 8-foot long soldier for Satan. It may have only been a 3-foot long soldier demon, but I’m certain that it was a foot soldier for Satan. Straight from the depths.
I didn’t look long, no where near long enough to figure out if red was touching black or if red was touching yellow or if red was even there. I didn’t care. I don’t care today. It was all a flash. A blur. I will say that, based on my super quick look at it, the snake that I stepped on looked something like this:
That close to the water, though, it could have been this:
Again, I didn’t stare or ask the heathen his make and model. I just ran. I dropped my tackle box and my fishing pole and ran and ran and ran and ran and ran. I ran all the way back to the campsite where I told the story to PaPaw, who was questioning his own sanity after volunteering to spend a week camping with 5 unbathed grandsons. I expected him to get a gun or a hatchet or fire or something and go kill that demon like the God-fearing man that he is, but he just said, “you gotta watch where you’re stepping, you hop head” and went back to his potted meat sandwich.
My brother came back to camp an hour or so later carrying his fishing pole and mine, his tackle box and mine, and the fish he caught. He’s always been nicer than me, and a better fisherman. I never stepped foot on that trail again. That snake can have it. There weren’t any fish off that point anyway.
Y’all have a nice weekend, and watch where you’re stepping.