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Close Encounter of the Scary Kind

Laura LoweMy earliest memories are about snakes.

I worked as a Mental Health Counselor for over seven years. A popular counseling theory involves asking clients to recall their earliest memories. One of my memories features my brother and me under a huge oak tree in the cotton field where my parents were working. We were frightened by some kind of black snake and ran screaming to find our parents. Another memory with sight and sound have me covering my ears as my mother shoots a brown rat snake out of the tall oak tree in our front yard to save a bird’s nest. The shot gun made a loud racket and it is deafening.

So it would seem that my brother and I were taught to fear snakes. Our parents wanted badly to protect the children they had waited so long to have. It was a very real fact that we lived in a heavily wooded area where snakes were plentiful. The woods were our playground. We were taught to watch out for the reptiles, but I don’t recall the fear being of such a nature as to make us afraid to play in those woods. One of the areas we felt perfectly safe in was the area where the hogs were raised. It was a rather large area near the Pecan orchard. The hogs and pigs roamed all over. There wasn’t much grass where they frequented. There were also no snakes.

In the years since I have studied some about the often despised and hated reptiles. I no longer fear them and actually don’t mind coming upon one in woods while walking. I know the venomous ones and am careful to allow them their space and keep well away from them. It is a matter of respect.

One incident involving snakes is a very vivid memory that occurred in 1993. Even now, some twenty-three years later, I feel a weakness in my knees upon recalling the event. The location was south central Alabama some 40 miles south of Montgomery, Alabama in a rural community by the name of Honoraville. My mother had gone off on a church convention and I had come to house sit for her. There is a swampy area near her house. I had photographed that area in the fall the year before. I wanted to get a shot of that area in summer dress. As I neared the area in my car, I noticed that the county road workers had cut the grass down to the water near the bridge. Delighted I stopped the car and decided to take the photo from nearer the water. I looked down the embankment and noted that nothing was moving down below. Grabbing my camera I was about to descend the embankment when my feet got all tangled up in some sand I had not noticed before. Those were critical seconds as I struggled to free my feet from the sand. Once free, I did not look down again. I proceeded to run down the embankment at a high rate of speed. What I saw when I skidded to a stop at the bottom nearly stopped my heart. There at about a foot from where my feet landed was a huge water moccasin.

The creature jumped so high, it was surprising. I remember thinking that I didn’t know they could jump so high. Surely my guardian angel was with me. It jumped away from me. Had it jumped towards me, it would have bitten me. I watched in stunned silence as it crawled back into the water and swam back under the bridge. I swear it looked back at me a couple of times. Finally I remembered my camera and began to snap pictures of the retreat.

It was high noon and the temperature was in the high 90s. Had it bitten me, I would have had a 16 mile drive to the hospital in Greenville, Alabama. What kind of damage would a bite have caused me? I am forever thankful that I didn’t have to find out.


Photo by Fotolia/claudheon