Someone, I think it was once of my uncles, once told me they had caught a black snake and thrown it in the washing machine and it was so strong it kept pushing the lid open no matter how hard they tried to keep it shut. Pretty sure it was when my mom and I were moving in to a new house in Joplin, and my uncles were there helping. We had a lot of trouble getting the washer into the little laundry closet off the kitchen. One of us tore the new linoleum wrestling the machine into its nook. I wish I remember which one it was who told me this story because I’d like to ask why, why the fuck did you do this? But we all know I’ll never ask. “Hey, remember that story you told me like twenty-four years ago?” “No.”
One time I went outside at my grandpa’s house and there was this massive black snake just climbing a tree. My grandpa came out and chopped it to bits.
I was at this outdoor concert outside of Joplin, don’t remember what the event was called but it was by Shoal Creek. There was this girl I’d gone on two dates with in high school and I’d been awkward, hardly talked, she was there with her boyfriend, so maybe that’s why I hated him, but also for some reason we all drifted away from the main concert area and were down by the creek and someone had found a black snake and he kept saying “Kill it, kill it, let’s kill it.” They all thought it was a water moccasin. I was pissed. I said “Leave it alone.” They did but not because anyone listens to me, just because no one had the courage to kill it.
I always stand away from the mailbox when I open it because when I was a kid my mom, who is batshit terrified of snakes, told me that sometimes people will put snakes in your mailbox as a prank. We lived out in the country and our mailbox was right there on the highway and anyone could just drive up and plop a snake in there real easy. It was totally plausible to me and apparently it still is.
I was mowing someone’s lawn in Longmont, Colorado, and I spooked two bullsnakes that were just hanging out in the grass. Motherfuckers slithered right between my feet. Jesus.
I was driving down from the mountains in my old pickup. It was a 1984 Chevy C-100 I’d inherited from my great-uncle Max. Red. I loved driving it. It had no power, the clutch stuck sometimes and there were rust holes in the floor but it was a beautiful truck. I was a stay-at-home dad and just needed a break so my wife said I could go backpacking by myself. I hiked way up off the trail and found a great spot on a ridge and once I had my hammock rigged up I decided I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be with my family. It was breaking my heart not to be with them so I packed everything up and hiked back to my truck and drove down from the mountains and on the way back I ran over a big snake. It was dusk and I didn’t see it in time to slow down. If I’d been a better dad I wouldn’t have needed to be up in the mountains on my own and that snake would have lived; if I’d been a worse dad, maybe not worse but just different, I would have just stayed up there and that snake would have lived. I don’t have my truck anymore but I can still feel the bump of that snake. Sorry, snake.
A lot of times you hear a snake before you see it. We were out at Rocky Mountain Arsenal with the kids and I heard the snakes before they bolted out in front of my feet and out of sight into the tall grass. Scared the shit out of me all the same. A few minutes later we saw an oriole in a tree.
There was this issue of Boy’s Life that told the story of this boy who was out hiking in the desert. He stepped down off a log, right onto a rattlesnake, and it bit him and he was miles out into the wilderness and had to get himself to safety. I don’t remember the details much but the story always stuck with me. Between that and growing up in the snake-filled country I’m very careful around logs and when picking up rocks. Somehow even though I’ve spent a lot of time in the desert and try to be aware of little rustlings and movements that could signify a snake in my vicinity I’ve never seen a rattlesnake in the wild. Almost all the snakes I’ve seen were non-venomous. Sort of feels like a metaphor.
I read a story a few years ago about a guy back home who was bit by two water moccasins. I think it was in Shoal Creek somewhere but I don’t know if I’m right and there’s no way I’m looking it up. Anyway this dude got bit on his legs by two water moccasins and he didn’t even go to the hospital. He died that night or the next day. Everyone on Facebook was calling him an idiot. I didn’t call him an idiot because I take deaths pretty hard except when it’s like George H.W. Bush or something. The story just made me sad and thinking about it now it makes sense that he didn’t go to the hospital. How the fuck was he supposed to pay for it?
I don’t really like snakes, but I don’t hate them. I see them sometimes even when they’re not there. Like I’ll walk into a room and think I see a snake gliding away. Briefly, like in a barely perceptible way. I don’t know if this is common, like an instinctual, self-preservation thing, or a glitch in the matrix, or a sign that I’m insane. Could be all those things. Obviously I don’t announce it every time, “Shit I just thought I saw snake but it was actually just nothing, not even a shadow,” because I don’t want to sound insane. What if we all see phantom snakes and no one talks about it?