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John W. Pinkerton


The other night I was in a small meeting of folks who have art in common but little beyond that.  We come from diverse backgrounds, and you would expect us to talk about art.  Well, we do kind of as a formality, but then it turns to pets, cats and dogs.  The other night someone in the group mentioned an encounter with a snake.  Well, everyone has a snake story…including me.

The first encounter with a snake I recall occurred when I was about eleven years old.  I was playing in the woods.  In my exploring at a small watering hole,
I was down on my hands and knees to get a sip of water from a random hole filled with water when a snake like I had never seen, reared up in front of me.  What was different about this snake was that below it’s mouth and eyes it flared out its “neck” remarkably like a cobra.  Now we all know what cobras look like, and they definitely get our attention.  This fellow raised his head into the air above my head and got all of my attention. I quickly went back home to tell Mom about my encounter.

Being a country girl, she knew exactly what I had encountered: a spreading adder.

Years later I learned that the snake goes by other names also: North American cobra, puff adder, hognose, shovel nose, and fake water moccasin, and, by the way, it’s harmless---unless it makes you run into a tree.

Regardless of the name, a first encounter with this snake is a little shocking.

Years later while playing golf with a younger friend, I had another encounter with a spreading adder.  For my friend, it was his first.

Bubba, not his real name, was standing over a chip shot  behind a green.  He stood perfectly still over the ball for what seemed to me to be an eternity.

When he became animated, it was accompanied by a whoop, the release of his club over his head, and a falling away from his previous perfect stillness.

Yeap, his first encounter with a spreading adder.  Apparently his concentration on his golf ball was absolute until the adder resting right next to it moved. 

I guess I should apologize for laughing as hard as I did at the young fellow, but, damn, that was funny.

Growing up in Louisiana, I, of course, knew about water moccasins and how poisonous and aggressive they are.

A teenage friend invited me to go into the woods to shoot a few of his guns.  I suspected the excursion might offer more than I had bargained for when my friend poised while crossing a narrow creek on a log to shoot a moccasin just below the log.  Hmmm.

After walking a hundred yards or so along the creek bank, we encountered several small moccasins between our path and the creek.  We turned away to move on when we were stopped dead in our track.

A water moccasin at least six feet long and as big around as a good sized tomato was eyeing us from a tree which had fallen into the middle of the creek which was about twenty-five feet wide at this point.

In retrospect I suppose we were safe from this monster, but retrospect was not available at the moment.  We both began to fire our pistols at the big fellow like it was the shootout at the OK Coral. 

After the first couple of quick shots, the moccasin slid into the water and began to swim like his life depended upon the effort…which it did.

We both had emptied our revolvers when the big fellow began to try to slither up a steep, muddy bank on the opposite side of the creek.  I think he suspected he was outgunned.  My friend, having a cooler head, retrieved his rifle, aimed well and plugged the monster in his head causing him to gently disappear beneath the water.

The rest of the day was not nearly as exciting.

I guess that incident helped me get over my fear of snakes.

When we moved into our current residence, I noticed there were a lot of copper heads on our
small property.  Most were very small and wiggled away quickly when disturbed.  However one day I turned over a board in the yard to be greeted by a copper head big enough to have his own personality which he displayed by sticking his tongue out at me.  I chased that snake for at least twenty minutes in the Texas heat but finally ended his happy life.  I was afraid that he might bite on our little nephew or niece.

We all know that I’m a funny old guy, and I finally had a chance to display my sense of humor one weekend when Linda called me to come home from school to do something about a good-sized copper head she encountered on our concrete front porch.   One of the cats undoubtedly deposited it there…as a gift.

I arrived, surveyed the snake, and retrieved a nine iron from my golf bag which conveniently was deposited on the porch.  As I prepared to dispatch the miscreant, I turned to Linda and asked, “Nine iron or wedge?”

She didn’t seem amused.

For our cats, snakes are wonderful gifts which they bring home for us to enjoy.  I’m usually able to stop them with their gifts in mouth before they get in the house, but not always.  On a couple occasions, they’ve made it into the living room to deposit them on the carpet.  Holy crap!

A handy vase and a magazine are enough to deposit them in their natural environment usually at the backdoor to deny the cats any further frivolity with their new prize.

I guess snakes aren’t really funny, but they do make folks run into trees…which is kinda funny.