May 31, 2013

On The Rebound: Confessions of a one-time snake handler

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Leaving our most recent fishing excursion, we were road blocked by a 3 1⁄2 foot black snake. This presented several options. We could drive over it. Maggie being a 13-year-old conservationist would have nothing to do with this.

The second option would be to peaceably remove the snake from the road with no harm to the serpent. I tried honking the horn and yelling, “Get snake.”

This had no effect. Next we tried coaxing him off the road with a stick. I poked and prodded with the possibility suddenly obvious that this snake had already met his demise. I bent down to see if there were any signs trauma. That’s when he raised into striking position and I rose into running position.

So option two was not looking good either. If he wouldn’t move and we couldn’t move, it left a single option.

When Maggie said, “catch it” thoughts of the Garden of Eden passed through my mind. Has there ever been a good outcome between man, snake, and girl?

I didn’t want to lose any more man points. She had already beaten me in a fishing contest by a margin finer than fishing line. We were racing to see who could catch 10 fish first. She hooked number 10 seconds before I did.  We reeled like there was a world record on the end. She pulled her bluegill to the bank first, which prompted me to say it doesn’t count until you touch it. She gave the rod a sharp yank and the fish swung close enough for her to poke it with one finger.

I said it doesn’t count until you throw it back. She gave me the look of a gunslinger and in one movement unhooked the fish and tossed it in. I could think of no more exceptions. She had won fair and square, but is that reason enough not to catch a snake?

I looked through the truck for anything that would hold a 3 1⁄2 foot snake. There were some empty water bottles, a pair of cowboy boots, and a tackle box. She would not relent and the snake still wasn’t moving.

There was one possibility. Maggie had two small dip nets she uses to catch bugs, fish, and now snakes. I threw one net over his head and the snake went loco. He wiggled and rolled, but could not get the net off his head. I slipped a second net under him and scooped. There was nothing to hold the snake so we threw nets and snake into the back of the truck. We just lived a couple miles away and would transfer him to a five-gallon bucket there.

One problem. We got home and there was no snake. We looked in the boots and tackle box. We checked every nook and cranny. There were cars behind us all the way home, so someone saw a snake leap from a moving truck. I didn’t want a snake anyway.

Something else I don’t want. That feeling a snake is going to crawl into my lap while I’m driving.

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