I don’t use the word “hate” very often. Hate is a dark and powerful emotion.
But I HATE snakes.
Steve and I went to The Nature Conservatory Lorance Creek Wetlands site Sunday morning. It’s close to where I grew up and we combined the excursion with a stop to see Mom on our way back into town.
As we walked along the wooden walkway, and the smells and sounds of my childhood came rushing back. I used to ride my horse all through the area, but I never rode in the wetlands site. I liked to stay on dry land. Whenever I could get out of chores and watching the younger kids, I, spent my days outdoors, leaving before dawn and returning before dark. I’d pack a lunch and fill a canteen with water, but a bridle on my horse and take off. Remember the times before bottled water?
My parents were not into exploring the great outdoors. We never went camping. In fact, the first time I spent the night outside was a few months ago when we took Keely camping. Dad never took me fishing. While mom grew up on a farm in Michigan, she definitely is not the outdoors type.
Steve also grew up in the country, but has also done a lot of camping and hiking, fishing and hunting. He is a scientist, so he goes about it completely differently than I do. He likes to identify birds, has the books and the binoculars, the whole bit. I know which birds are cardinals and which are robins. Oh, and blue jays. Blue jays will dive bomb your head if you walk close to their nest.
He can, and will tell you all about different kinds of snakes. He is just fascinated by snakes. I’m not.
I had a reoccurring nightmare as a child. I would wake up in the middle of the night, step out of bed to go to the bathroom and realize that the floor of my bedroom was covered in snakes. I can still remember the gut wrenching fear of standing there with the snakes twining themselves around my feet. I’d always wake up with my heart racing, needing to go to the bathroom with the memory of the nightmare still very fresh. I’d have to turn on the light before stepping out of bed.
Remember the scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark when Harrison Ford is in the snake pit? I had to close my eyes during that scene.
So we were walking along the boardwalk at Lorance Creek, reading the warning signs posted about protecting the environment. There were also signs that said snakes might be present and some could be poisonous. Steve of course pointed it out. Huh. Like I wasn’t on high alert for snakes as soon as we stepped out of the car.
Five minutes into our walk Steve spotted a water moccasin curled up on a log alongside the board walk. We stopped and looked at it for a while then started walking again. We saw two more snakes on our very short walk.
I posted a comment on Facebook about the hike and water moccasins. My brother replied with “Remember when people would yell SNAKE! And we would get out and wait until the shots were fired to kill the snake, so we could go back in?”
Oh yes. I remember….
Mom and Dad would load all of four of us up during the summer and take us to Lorance Creek. The “swimming hole” was on the other side of the interstate from what is now the Nature Conservatory Wetlands site. At one point we had some pictures of me jumping off one of the cliffs but I haven’t seen that photo in years. “Cliff” might be a bit of an exaggeration now, but it seemed like a huge cliff when I was climbing up it. I know that it was a long jump down into the water and it hurt like the dickens if you belly flopped.
On weekends the swimming hole could get pretty crowded. The adults would sit on the grassy bank, talking and watching the kids swim. We would often bring a picnic and eat after swimming. We never wanted to eat until it was almost time to go home, because we had to wait an hour after eating to go swimming again.
One afternoon I was in the water and I heard the dreaded “SNAKE!” It was not an uncommon occurrence, the adults kept watch for the reptiles, but the kids in the water were on the lookout too. At least this one was. This time, I was right in the middle of the swimming hole, and as I looked to see where they were pointing, I realized the snake was heading right towards me.
There is no way to describe how I felt right then. “Scared” and “terrified” do not begin to do justice to the emotion as I realized how close the snake was to me. Have you ever seen a water snake in its natural habitat? Let me tell you, those things can cover a lot of distance on the surface of the water at a rapid rate of speed.
Without thinking, I dove under the water and went as deep as I could. I remember pushing towards the bottom, my heart racing, scared to death. It’s really hard to swim underwater when you are hyperventilating. I stayed under as long as I could, swimming in the dark water towards the bank. As I came up, I was praying that the snake had gone in the other direction.
It had. In fact, it had disappeared from sight.
I hate snakes.
It wasn’t quite my nightmare come to life, but the experience was close enough. In fact, guess what my reoccurring nightmare was for a while after that? You got it…swimming in dark water full of writhing reptiles.
We spotted a copperhead in my garage last year. Steve was at work, so he didn’t get to see it. But he quizzed me about the color, the size, the shape of the head. He wanted to know what the eyes looked like. Eyes? You want to know about the eyes? Do you think I’m going to get close enough to see the freaking eyes? Are you crazy?
But helpful person that he is, he felt that all I needed to get over my fear was to be educated about reptiles. His theory was once I understood them I’d be comfortable with them. Right.
He sent me some links to some websites about copperheads. Which was all well and good. Except…
Since copperheads are poisonous, there were also links to information about copperhead bites. Those were pictures I really needed to see, people with limbs swollen and purple after being bitten. Yep, that helped me with my fear. Doesn’t happen often but you can DIE from a snake bite. Good call there Steve.
A couple of months later we were climbing Pinnacle, talking about copperheads. A minute later I almost stepped on one. Steve was behind me and just about got knocked over as I went into a very rapid reverse.
Heart racing, I stood there as he said “cool!” and started towards the snake. “Yep, it’s a copperhead!” “Look at the bands, pretty good size, about two feet or so.” “See the eyes, they are vertical” was the commentary as he watched it slither off the path.
It‘s a wonder I could even hear him with the pounding in my ears, my heart knocking against my chest and my rapid breathing. Typical adrenaline rush symptoms.
I hate snakes. Hate them.
We were at the river market the other day and a guy was walking on the street with a python wrapped around his neck. No joke. He stopped and loaded it into a cage in a van as we watched from across the street. Steve of course thought it was “cool”.
I mentioned that I had touched a python once. Rather than being suitably impressed, Steve grinned and said “I’ll bet someone dared you to do it”. I had to laugh. Yes, that’s exactly what happened.
I may know more about snakes now. I’ve touched one. I’ve seen them in zoos, in tanks in crazy people’s offices, in the water and along the trail. I know they are one of God’s creatures and help keep nature in balance. Steve can talk all he wants about the “critters” and their habits but I will never, ever like snakes.
Remind me to tell you sometime about the snake that got into the house when we lived on the farm….