One night it was 25 degrees, 55 the next. After a second night over 50, I remembered what a herpetologist I interviewed for my old newspaper column told me about when to expect the snakes to come out. He said that the rule of thumb was that when nighttime temperatures trend above 50, snakes consider the winter to be over and come out of hibernation. There were only the two nights over 50. Does two nights make a trend? If not, I knew the trend was going to set in soon.
The next day, I was on the bike, at a walking pace 30 feet behind Roo on the road at the campground when I saw something she passed flick at her. A SONOFABITCH of a SNAKE. Roo never saw it, and the snake didn’t come close. I accelerated like a madman to position the bike between her and the snake. Roo isn't feeling well, so she was walking slowly, and even though she didn’t notice the snake, I wasn’t taking any chances in case she turned around for something. You never know. All it would take is a mouse squeaking at thee bottom of a rock mound in Tulsa. I waited until Roo was clear and got a stick under the snake up and picked it up. The poor little bastard was sluggish. It was late in the day and too cold on the pavement for him to move. A youthful miscalculation. Exuberant after being born, in the mood for a snack and overplayed his hand. General practice in snake country is to kill them, but I can't kill anyone. If there's a bug in a campground shower I catch them and get re-dressed to take them outside rather than let them drown in a pool of soapwater. It's gotten so bad that I can't even kill ticks any more. Not that I think any of that is going to keep me out of Hell, if the guys you see in many middling towns holding placards warning about going there upon failure to repent are right that that's where sinners like me are headed. I'm just a coward when it comes to murder. There are a 10,000 more where that snake came from, anyway. Word would spread and revenge sought. They would insist on it. I put the snake down in the adjacent woods. Dangling from the end of a stick woke him up a little and he was glad to discover he wasn't being flown off by a hawk. He ducked into the leaves. This is the second time I've seen a snake strike at Roo's ankles.
It’s a baby copperhead, the same kind of snake that probably nailed Roo the time she was bitten in Asheville. That one could have been a rattler, according to the vet, but I’m pretty sure it was a copperhead, because I used to see them around there all the time. As bad as that bite was, a rattler bite would have been even worse.
The strange thing is that I have no personal fear of snakes, but I’m scared of Roo getting bitten to the point of madness. In Asheville, I was as tight as a knot every minute of every walk with Roo after she was bitten. The old worry is back. When the snakes came out here last year, we were gone in a flash. This year we're stuck, however, mostly because Roo is sick and her vet here is so good.
CORRECTION: Not a copperhead, my error pointed out by ever-perspicacious reader Sherri. I almost feel better....