Jefferson Weaver • Never Waste a Good Snake

Jefferson Weaver with a scaly friend.
Jefferson Weaver with a scaly friend.

On a daily basis, I feel sorry for some folks.

In this particular case, it was a lady in a much larger city, in another part of the state. As the saying goes, she ain’t from around here.

Whilst trimming the hedges around her cookie-cutter, ridiculously overpriced home that sits within inches of its neighbors, she encountered a snake. The security video is hilarious. Despite the fact that the snake was harmless, and she was armed with a common garden tool that’s been used in at least two murders that I know of (as well as the beheading of more than one surprise serpent) the poor lady completely lost her grits and biscuits. I am reasonably sure the snake laughed itself to death, because it sure wasn’t in any danger from this poor soul of Northern extraction.

Jefferson Weaver
Jefferson Weaver

I consider it rude to trim hedges during the springtime. That’s when birds are nesting, which means landscaping aestheticians will be calling Miss Rhonda and myself with displaced baby birds. I understand the desire to have a nicely manicured lawn and hedges, but I’d also like to be able to use my own bathroom without incessantly demands for mushy cat food and mealworms. But this is life, and we do what we can to help all God’s creatures.

Where there are birds, there will be snakes. After all, snakes eat eggs and baby birds, and occasionally adult birds. If you go swimming in the ocean, you can expect to see fish; ergo, if you go trimming hedges, you better be ready to see snakes.

At least the accidental celebrity above didn’t go as far as another transplant I read about a while back. This other sad individual called on his homeowners association to do something about the snakes in their housing development.

Seems his child saw a “massive” snake, maybe eighteen inches long, crawling along the side of a ditch near their home. The description sounded like a plain old red belly to me, but I wasn’t there, and the individual didn’t take time to photograph said legless interloper. He was too busy snatching up his child and running for home, where by his own admission he locked the door and considered calling 911, in case the snake chased him home.

The fellow was concerned that his child was traumatized, and that they would require family counselling (I am deadly serious). He wanted the HOA to protect the residents of their gated development. He wanted state and local authorities to do something about the snakes.

That stuck out in my mind because it was the same day a friend told me how her daughter – about the same age as the previously mentioned child who narrowly escaped death and devourment – used a rock to kill a snake she found whilst playing in the ditch. She was unhappy to find out the snake she bludgeoned into submission was non-venomous, since if it was harmless, she wanted to keep it for a pet.

I was very well paid one time to remove a snake for a chicken-little lady. She wandered around behind me, muttering “Oh God, Oh God, Oh God” while I was searching for the snake, and I doubt sincerely that she was praying for my safety. When I caught it (I disremember the species) she screamed and had to go take a nerve pill. It wasn’t more than six and half feet long, as I recall. And yes, she, too was not from around here, but from a higher longitude and latitude than ours. I think she finally moved away to a city.

I try to avoid killin’ snakes for no reason. At this time of year, I often end up sending a few into the hereafter, because they are stealing eggs, or harassing one of our resident nesting songbirds. Even then, I try to relocate whenever possible, which makes for some interesting short road trips, as I usually have said unwelcome visitor wrapped around one arm, hanging that arm out the window.

While my bride no longer blindly kills every snake she sees, she still doesn’t like riding in the truck with one. I take my victories where I can, and if it involves riding down the road well above the speed limit with a snake hanging out the window, so be it.

The circle of life is never more evident than when one of those snakes who just refuses to negotiate has to be handled in a more traditional manner. Usually that involves one of the “snake guns” or on rare occasions, whatever knife happens to be on my hip at the time. Of course, said critters don’t get wasted, despite their poor judgement. There is always something hungry around our house, so there’s no need to waste a perfectly good snake.

Most folks don’t realize that a litter of six baby possums will completely consume a five-foot chicken snake in less than an hour. It’s kind of unnerving, in a way. Makes me wonder how long  I would last if I fell and broke a leg deep in the woods.

Our pig Sam, who has long since crossed the rainbow bridge, was an inveterate snake-eater. He spent hours hunting them, and although I saw him eat a couple venomous models, I never knew him to be injured by them.  If you’ve never watched a hog eat a snake, it gives you a new perspective on life, as well as a healthy respect for hogs.

I’ve skinned and eaten a few snakes myself. Most taste kind of like a mild fish. I’ve never eaten snake that tasted like chicken, and I am strongly suspicious of anyone who says otherwise. Makes me wonder if they’ve ever actually eaten snake, and if someone won’t be honest about that, then what else might they lie about?

Although society and work demand otherwise, I prefer to stick by the old adage that the later the hour, the proportionately more serious the reason for call. Basically, if it’s after 11 p.m., it should be a matter of life and death; even 10 p.m., death may be a possibility. Yet I have had folks call me at 10:30 p.m., during a tropical storm, because they saw a snake in a barn. Not once, but twice I had been in that exact scenario.

I may have been a bit impatient with one of the callers, since I told the guy to turn in his man card, if he was that scared of a snake that was trying to escape.

I grew up catching snakes for fun. My brother-in-law was even known as the “Snake Man.” He and my brother Mike taught me how to identify venomous versus non-venomous, as well as some of the habits of each species. I taught myself how to secure particularly special serpents in the bib of my overalls or another convenient pocket. Thankfully, I was my mother’s third boy, so she had learned years before to check pockets – especially if said pocket appeared to be moving.

Now, let’s be clear: I don’t keep snakes for pets. Not anymore, anyway. I don’t understand people who like the huge exotic ones for pets. If you like them, more power to you. I just don’t particularly want to a pet that could and would eat my dogs. I have enough freeloading animals at my house without adding something that all it ever does is hang out and occasionally get fed a rabbit or a rat.

I fear for a world where parents must race home and lock the doors after seeing a red bellied water snake. It distresses me greatly that instead of grabbing a convenient rock – or better still, simply ignoring a snake –we actually have fellow human beings in our midst who expect a homeowners association to do something about their snakes. Shoot. I bet there are mothers out there who never have to check their kids’ pockets at the end of the day, since the kids never go outside. What is happening when kids are being taught to live in fear of a common garter snake, rather than how to catch it, blow in its nose, and make a new friend to take to school?

It’s a sad world where so many people are willing to waste a perfectly good snake. Come to think of it, at the most base level — it’s too bad more people aren’t like snakes. Most of them are honest, and just want to be left alone to work for a living.
If you see me driving down the road with a snake-encompassed arm out the window, don’t worry. I’m just doing my part to try to make it a better place for everybody – even folks who ain’t from around here.

About Jefferson Weaver 1954 Articles
Jefferson Weaver is the Managing Editor of Columbus County News and he can be reached at (910) 914-6056, (910) 632-4965, or by email at [email protected].