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And the Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,

Cursed are you more than all cattle;

And more than every beast of the field:

On your belly shall you go, and dust

Shall you eat all the days of your life.”

-Genesis 2:14

Over the years I’ve done a lot of fishing and along with the joy of having an angry fish on the other end of the line, there are a few hazards that also come with the experience. Numerous times I’ve had to deal with a bad case of poison ivy; sometimes having ugly patches in places where the sun doesn’t shine; if you understand my inference. In addition to poison ivy I’ve also had to deal with many creepy, crawly spiders and bugs that have somehow appeared in my hair or underneath my clothing; ticks being a particularly bothersome breed. But the biggest hazard encountered while out in the wild trying to land that trophy fish is the slant-eyed, slithering, slimy reptile commonly referred to as the snake (Satan’s spawn!). Rarely bumped into on land, snakes can be expected to appear out of nowhere, silently slithering across the surface of the water, suddenly appearing a few feet away while you are waist deep in the middle of the river; unable to execute a hasty retreat. A couple of incidents stand out and will be visited here.

When I lived in Houston, Missouri I was only sixteen miles away from my brother Tim and it just so happened that the Big Piney River ran from Cabool (his town) all the way to Houston and beyond. Living there  for three years gave Tim and me plenty of time to fish every inch of the river between the two towns. Using a canoe, we would put in at one low water bridge and float to the next, filling our stringers with smallmouth and largemouth bass as well as goggle-eye and other sunfish. Even though we had a canoe, we often waded through stretches of “fishy” water and towed the canoe behind us.

On one particular trip we were having a great time in the warm summer morning sun when Tim, who was always the rudder of the ship, was occupied trying to land a somewhat large fish and due to his attention being diverted elsewhere, the canoe began to be driven by the current and we were headed toward the tree-lined shore. I was too busy casting my own line to be of much good in guiding the canoe so we eventually ran into the bank, nose first (I always sat in the front of the canoe, paddling only when necessary; more concerned with fishing than navigating).

I was pretty interested in what Tim was doing, wanting to make sure the fish he had on wasn’t bigger than my earlier catch, and I hardly noticed the tree trunk in front of me. In the “V” of a large tree, sitting silently, curled up and enjoying the warm rays of the early morning sun was a huge, black water moccasin! “Tim, back up the canoe!” I said with all of the seriousness I could muster, trying not to sound panicked, but wanting the urgency of the situation to be expressed. Tim, busy with his fish responded, “Ronnie, can’t you see I’ve got a big fish on here. Paddle us out yourself!” I wasn’t about to move, thinking that the snake would strike me as soon as I did. Keeping a sharp eye on the coiled moccasin I said again through clenched teeth, “Tim, there’s a snake about two feet from where I’m sitting and I need you to back up the canoe.” By this time he was done playing with his fish, at this point I didn’t care how big it was, and he paddled us away from the tree, laughing at me the entire time; “Afraid of a little snake. Ha, ha!” And he also added, “I’ve caught the biggest fish!” I wasn’t about to argue.

Later in the day we stopped to eat and parked the canoe on a large gravel bar. Once we had eaten a couple of cans of Beanie Weenies and Vienna Sausages and downed an ice-cold Grape Shasta, we began to fish again. “This looks like a good, deep hole. We should catch a few out of here.” Tim moved downstream and I fished the other direction. While fishing, my concentration level is pretty intense, but I do take time to glance my brother’s way to see if he’s having any luck. At one point I noticed some commotion downstream and I turned and saw Tim frantically backing out of the river while at the same time beating his fishing rod repeatedly onto the surface of the water. Odd behavior. Thinking nothing of it, I went back to fishing.

I eventually made my way downstream and caught up with Tim, still sitting on the gravel bar, his face as white as a sheet. I asked him what was wrong and he said, “You didn’t you see that snake? It was a huge water moccasin and it came after me. I had to beat at it with my rod to make it swim away!” At this revelation it was my turn to smile. “A large snake huh? I was wondering why you weren’t fishing anymore. Ha, ha!”

One other snake encounter bears retelling and happened while fishing with my cousin David. David wasn’t a serious fisherman, but hearing how excited his father and I were about the fishing out on Dry Fork Creek, he decided to give it a try. Dry Fork is a smaller creek that is made up of a series of deeper holes followed by shallow current, and then another hole. It isn’t deep enough to wade and walking from hole to hole on the bank is a common practice. Largemouth bass are plentiful in the deeper holes and it’s a great place to catch a stringer full of fish in an afternoon.

After we’d been fishing for a couple of hours we decided to head back upstream to the bridge where we started. Walking across a large gravel bar I noticed a fairly large snake on the rocks near the water’s edge. The snake was either sunning on the rocks or moving from one body of water to another when the two of us came face to face. Being a bit mischievous, I decided to have some fun with the snake. “David, watch this.” I dangled my Mepp’s spinner right in front of the snakes nose, just to see if it would strike. The snake just lie there, giving me a dirty look as if to say, “Come a little closer fisherboy and I’ll show you how to have some fun.” Pushing the envelope, I placed the lure even closer to the snake’s nose and all of a sudden it struck,  one of the hooks becoming embedded under the snake’s skin. I had caught a snake! Now what was I going to do?

I turned to David for some help, but he wasn’t there. “David?” I yelled out. Where had he gone? “I’m over here,” I heard from a distance. I looked up and saw David walking through a farmer’s field, about a hundred yards from where he once stood. “Come over here and see what I’ve got on the other end of my line. I’ve caught a big snake!” What I didn’t know was that David was deathly afraid of snakes. He wasn’t coming anywhere near that snake. I was on my own. I wasn’t about to break the line, the Mepp’s spinner cost me a couple of dollars after all. I was getting my lure back.

I decided that my only option was to kill the snake and I began looking around for a large rock to throw, while at the same time keeping an eye on the snake at the other end of my line. Upon finding one, I got as close to the snake as my nerves would allow and heaved the stone at the snake’s head. Bulls eye! As a result of its partially crushed skull, the snake was now twitching around on the gravel, but I wasn’t done. I grabbed a few more rocks, by this time my hate for the evil creature reaching a crescendo, and I continued to pound the dangerous reptile until I was convinced he was no longer a threat. As the snake expired, he somehow regurgitated a half eaten frog. Cool! I wasn’t aware that snakes had a predilection for froglegs, but I guess they do taste like chicken!  I retrieved my lure from the dead snake and ran to catch up with David, who was still shaking from the experience. “So, you’re afraid of snakes huh?” I asked him. He didn’t answer me, but did give me a telling glance that indicated he wasn’t in the mood to discuss the topic further. For some reason, David never went fishing with me again.