ReRun from January 31, 2007 Dick Hinson, Reminiscing: The subject is snakes and guardian angels.. They don’t go together? Read on. . .
Rewind the date to 1960. We have four sons. Three are “yard-sized”, 10, 7, and 4 years old. The “house-sized” boy is 10 months old. The older boys like to swim, fish, and explore the Chipola River swamp. . . active in the outdoors.
I’m trying to take a rare Sunday afternoon nap when they come in for permission to kike around in a cultivated field next to the house. It was a warm spring day, so I gave them an hour’s “pass”. Their first time out alone. In thirty minutes they were running across the field back to the house, with the youngest riding “piggy back” on the 10 year old. All three were panting with excitement. “Daddy”, they cried, “Get your gun! There’s a great big snake under a bush!” Half asleep, I asked for the location. “Back by the railroad,” they replied. This was the Marianna & Blountstown Railroad which went through our land. To the boys, “Off Limits”.
Whatever they had seen was probably gone along with my nap, so I told them to go to the car. Leaving the house, I slipped a small .32 caliber revolver under my belt. Soon, I would badly want to replace it with a shotgun.
The “bush” turned out to be a large clump of briars with a well-worn rabbit trail along the out edge. It had all the earmarks of an ambush site for a diamond-back rattler, so I was careful in my approach. At close range, there was no sound. I began to relax as I leaned over to look down to ground level . . .
Slowly coming into focus was a pile of diamond-back that made my blood run cold. The wide spade-shaped head was flattened on top of thick coils which would fill most of a large wash tub. He was aware that he was seen, but remained silent and motionless. I told the boys to get in the car. How had they discovered the well-hidden snake? Even knowing his location, he was still difficult to spot . . . How close did they come to him? That would come later! Aimed the front sight of the small handgun at the center of the head, and noticed that my hand had developed a tremor. Squeezing the trigger, my shot was off by about two inches. It clipped the outer edge of the head and went down through the coils. . A minor wound. The snake uncoiled in a flash and headed toward a small nearby cave. He was finally put down a few feet short of his escape.
The mystery of the lack of a warning rattle was solved. The snake had lost them, and the replacement set had just started to grow. The vibrating stub of the tail made no sound. . .
Back at home, some neighbors gathered, including one who captured rattlers for contests. The subject reptile was six feet four inches long and sixteen inches in circumference. He had not recently fed. This was an ominous indication. . He had a full charge of venom.
Now, the time came to hear from the boys. I didn’t look forward to it. Robert, the sharp-eyed seven year old, was into a rock collecting hobby. He spotted what he thought to be a large multi-colored rock under the “bush”. He proceeded to slide head-first under the clump of briars. From his prone position, he reached out to try to pull the heavy “rock” into the open. Then he froze. At this point, I didn’t feel like talking. My wife said I was as white as a sheet. Finally, I asked “When did you realize it was a snake?” I’ll never forget his answer: “When I saw him smiling at me.”
My friends, if you ever find yourself close enough to discern the razor-thin upturned ends of a viper’s mouth, I can assure you that you are at a point-blank strike range. With all of the “close calls” my family encounters in raising four active sons, it was our worst exposure to an accidental death.
Why didn’t the snake strike? Experts in the field have no answer. I give the credit to Guardian Angels, one of which was working overtime