Snakes Alive!

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2004

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

Snakes of Missouri

An August day at my parents' cabin along Big Creek in Wayne County offered summer fun at its best. Mom and Dad had invited my family and my two sisters' families out for the weekend. I rose early and hunted squirrels in the cool of the morning. At midday, we all played in Big Creek and tried our luck at fishing. I helped my older sister's step-grandson catch his first smallmouth bass. I even found time for an afternoon nap.

After supper,my wife, Lisa, and I took a short walk down the county road that leads from the cabin. The clay and gravel road winds through a sizable expanse of hilly hardwood timber. As we chatted and walked, I stopped periodically to listen for the sound of squirrels cutting hickory nuts. The sound, a sign of coming fall, was one I had not yet heard this season. I was eager to hear it. My wife is patient, but the fourth time I motioned for silence, she gave me a look that said,"Mark,that's enough."

We had just resumed our walk when my wife stopped and drew a quick breath. Ahead, in the middle of the road, 50 yards away, lay a large timber rattlesnake.

"Whoa! That's the biggest rattlesnake I've ever seen!" I exclaimed.

Cautiously, I approached the rattler while my wife kept her distance. From about 10 feet, I stopped and studied the snake. It was at least four-and-a-half feet long and an easy 4 inches across the back at mid body. The snake remained motionless. In the timber, against a background of leaves, rocks and trees, remaining still would have helped the snake go unnoticed. Against the red clay of the county road, however, the tan and brown bands looked brilliant.

While I watched the snake, I heard the grind of gravel from an approaching vehicle. I grabbed a long oak limb from the ditch and pushed the snake off the road. Instead of crawling away, the snake coiled, raised its head and rattled menacingly.

The grind of gravel grew louder.

"Come on, snake," I thought. "Your instincts aren't serving you well today." After several shoves, the rattler finally uncoiled and slithered across the road and out of sight.

The vehicle, an old pickup, rounded the corner. I waved to the young man behind the steering wheel. He had not seen the snake, but he and his wife looked concerned

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