Snake Stories And
Transplanted Raccoons

346

Water Moccasins are absolutely horrible creatures. Coming face
to face with one within the confines of a dark culvert is literally
the stuff of nightmares. Public domain.

My walk-in medical clinic is the best place in town for meeting people. Everybody ends up there at some point. My quaint little southern community has no shortage of characters.

Over the decades, I have seen war heroes, politicians, movie stars, and criminals. Sometimes, those genres overlap. One of the more entertaining is an earthy backwoods lad, a card-carrying product of the rural American Deep South.

I’m not beyond resorting to labels. I am, in fact, a card-carrying redneck myself. This guy and I are cut from the same cloth. He is thoroughly comfortable, nay happiest, when deep in the wilderness. You do that long enough, and you end up with some simply epic tales.

I have had some bad experiences with water moccasins myself.
I have actually killed 63 of the venomous monsters in the lake
that serves as my backyard.

The Stuff of Nightmares

As part of his day job, my friend was called upon to clear out a small culvert that ran underneath a remote county road. The drainage pipe was just wide enough to accommodate his shoulders so long as he scrunched up a bit. Beavers had built some diabolical structure in the upstream, causing some modest local flooding when it rained generously. On the day in question, all had been dry for some while. My buddy parked his truck nearby and entered the dark tube from the downstream end, equipped solely with a flashlight. There wasn’t another soul for miles.

Now deep into the pipe, he came to the clog. The industrious little monsters had packed the end with sticks, mud and sundry debris. Propping his flashlight where it sort of illuminated the offending detritus, my buddy began disassembling the plug chunk by chunk. As it had not rained in some weeks, the chore was dusty but not muddy.

When he finally pulled enough material free to create a decent-sized hole, what should appear through it but a gargantuan water moccasin? For those who haven’t had the pleasure, Mississippi water moccasins and diabolical, enormous, venomous, toothy monsters. Snake apologists will tell you they are homebodies who are more afraid of us than we are of them. Having had more close encounters with these creatures than I might rightly catalog, I fear I must respectfully disagree. Water moccasins are notoriously grouchy serpents. And this one was slithering straight toward my buddy’s face.

My friend proceeded to shimmy backward at his maximum velocity. He later told me that he felt sure the thing was about to bite him in the eyeball. The sorts of thoughts one entertains under such dire circumstances are fascinating. My pal said he figured that, if bitten, he would simply die on the spot of shock. He lamented that no one knew he had crawled underneath the road. He figured somebody might eventually find his abandoned truck and then assume he had been abducted by space aliens or some such. He postulated that the mystery would finally be revealed come the spring rains when his cold, bloated, snake-bitten corpse might come ignominiously blowing out of the pipe. Alas, both Gent and snake survived the day unscathed.

The Procyon lotor, or commonly known as the North American
raccoon, is a ubiquitous finding down here in the Deep South.

Racoon Art

To humans, most raccoons probably look about the same. I freely admit that raccoons likely feel the same about us. This same friend had a bit of an infestation. He also had a live trap. Once he settled on a particularly aromatic brand of cat food as bait, he racked up an impressive tally.

Over the course of some weeks, he caught 33 of the creatures roaming his backyard. I innocently asked what he did with all those raccoons. He said he just put the trap in the back of his pickup, drove across the county to some heavily wooded space, and released them into the wild. I asked him how he could be sure they weren’t making their way back home. Thirty-three seemed like an unreasonably large number of raccoons. Perhaps they had a great homing sense, like furry terrestrial salmon. He said he thought of that as well.

To verify that these incarcerated bandits were not indeed trekking back to his hacienda, he would generously dose them with orange spray paint prior to opening the trap. I stifled a giggle at that mental image. He waxed briefly introspective and said with complete sincerity, “You know, those coons don’t like to be spray painted.” Yeah, I bet.

I can only imagine the effect this had on the mating chemistry on the far end of one’s trek. I have this mental image of some garish dayglow stud raccoon sauntering up to a sultry lady coon with the pickup line, “Hey, baby. You know all the truly cool coons are spraypainted orange nowadays.” More likely, the poor orange versions lived out their days in humiliation and isolation, victims of their insatiable lust for rancid cat food. My medical clinic is indeed the best place in town for meeting people.

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