Tony Woodlief | Author

Reptiles and Other Cold-Blooded Things

I hit a snake in the head with a rock the other day. It was a fat water snake, the kind that all the experts say isn’t poisonous, and is more afraid of you than you are of him, and a lot of other baloney that you shouldn’t believe coming from somebody who likely as not managed all the A/V equipment in high school and was captain of the Dungeons and Dragons Club before getting his snakeology degree. (Speaking of D&D, check out my friend John Miller’s essay in the WSJ.) All I know is that this snake had a triangular head like a viper, and showed no intention of moving as I approached. I think he wanted me to step on him.

(Brief and graphic aside: Did you know I was almost bitten by a water moccasin as a child? He was five feet if he was an inch, and he looked to be ten feet to a kid. He was as big around as my bony leg, and he came out of a bunch of reeds at me. My testicles didn’t drop back down again for a month. Only guys will understand this.)

So there I am on my property with that slithery snake who thinks it’s his property. I pick up a few rocks, and sizzle one just past his head. No movement. He’s one cool customer, this snake. So I try a different approach, with a rock the size of my fist. I launch it like a basketball. It lands on his head with the sound a walnut might make if you whack it on your tabletop.

This gets his attention. It also gets my dog’s attention. She comes running over to investigate, and at this point I’m wishing I had one of those aggressive hunting type dogs, instead of an old once-abused lab-retriever. She thinks she can be friends with anyone. But this snake, nursing a headache now, isn’t feeling friendly. So he lunges at her, and she jumps out of the way, and then he starts slithering into the reeds by our pond. I launch another rock at him, and hit him in the tail, which makes him jump like a certain Woodlief baby who recently learned to keep his wet fingers away from electrical outlets.

And then the snake was gone. I like to think he is lying dead in the reeds, but I suspect I’ll be seeing him again. And since he’s shown he doesn’t like to cede his ground, next time it’s for all the marbles. Mano a snako, if you will, just like John Wayne would have done it. And don’t think the Duke wouldn’t have used a gun, even if all the so-called experts say water snakes in these parts aren’t poisonous.

We bought a bunch of algae-eating fish yesterday for the very same pond where Mr. Snake is in residence. Two animated grass carp and a bunch of wiggly fathead minnows. The boys stood with me on the dock while I opened the thick plastic bags in which the irritated fish had been placed, and then emptied them into the water. It probably would have been wiser to squat at the edge and ease them in, so differences in water temperature didn’t cause some kind of fish shock. But see the above section about the water snake. I dropped in the fish like they were Airborne Rangers, and if they can’t hack it, I’ll go buy some tougher ones. Does anyone know of a fish that eats snakes?

Maybe I should take an approach like the U.S. military hunting Talibaners in Afghanistan, and just start firing buckshot all along the shore. If nothing else it would relieve some stress. But if snakes are anything like Islamofascists, I’ll only attract snakes from all the neighboring ponds, and find myself in a protracted holy snake war on hostile terrain. Probably better to win the hearts and minds, with limited psych-ops. I wonder what music most repels water snakes? The Alan Parson Project? Mr. Mister? The Carpenters?

Or perhaps I could adopt the tactic used by the little boy in There’s an Alligator under My Bed. I would have figured that my most tender-hearted and imaginative child, six year-old Eli, would not want a book about a large carnivorous creature under a little boy’s bed. Instead it is the only book he wants to check out from the library. I suppose we are going to have to break down and buy it. Or perhaps he might enjoy Mercer Mayer’s lively reading. Check it out and tell me if you think it will work with snakes:

On Key

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