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Snake for Ron Marr
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Ron Marr: mug
By Ron Marr
Most people get all giddy with the advent of the summer months. They take to the lake, float on the boat, grill for the thrill, and generally have fun in the sun. I can understand that, but I cannot relate to it even a tiny bit. You see, I’m a snow and cold type of guy. Spend a decade or so enduring temperatures of 40 to 50 below zero, as I did, and your internal thermostat will become permanently whacked. I begin to perspire with vigor any time the mercury moves above 65.
I recall a day back in March that was perhaps 35 degrees. I was in heaven, out chain sawing the remains of wind-crunched trees while wearing nothing but a t-shirt. Well, that's not entirely true; I also had on pants and boots. Running a chain saw while next to naked is just plain stupid. Nevertheless, for me, that was perfect weather, unbeatable, and something that I knew would soon be replaced by both the puppy and full-grown dog days of summer.
Whereas most folk can't wait for the heat of a Missouri spring and summer, I can't wait for it to leave. The days are too long; the sun is far too hot. Summer, in my mind, means ticks, chiggers, mosquitoes, fleas, spiders, gnats, ants, and weeds. It also means snakes. I’m pretty friendly with most critters, but snakes and I are locked in eternal warfare. I’m one of those people who believe that the only good snake is a dead snake, a thought process that most definitely runs afoul of the good and dedicated souls who work for the Missouri Department of Conservation.
I had been told that snakes were a protected species in our fair state but took such yammering as simply more of the yarns, tall tales, and short fibs one encounters from the old boys that hang around the front porch of the local store. Still, being a curious sort, I dug out the Missouri wildlife code and looked it up. I could not believe my eyes when I read that all snakes native to Missouri are protected. In fact, the wildlife code places snakes in the same category as lizards and most turtles. These reptiles are considered non-game critters, and thus there is no season on killing them.
Such knowledge is going to put a serious crimp in my future dinner plans, and ye olde Crock pot is already exhibiting signs of a deep and lasting depression.
But, back to my research into poisonous slithery things that are the spawn of hell. Apparently, it really is against the law to get medieval on copperheads, cottonmouths, and other types of pit vipers that are bent on invading one's space or dropping into the canoe unannounced. Luckily, there is an inferred caveat that if one is in danger from a snake it is okay to help it shed this mortal coil. That’s nice to know, and I can say with complete truthfulness that I have never dispatched a snake unless it was coming at me with a knife, machine gun, garrote, flamethrower, or short-range nuclear warhead. Thus, and this eases my conscience mightily, I have managed to remain within the spirit, letter, and intent of the law.
I did break down and buy a pair of snake boots this year. Eighteen inches high they are, and guaranteed to turn away any fangs that strike below the knee. This will work for a time, but you can bet your boots (yours, not mine, I need them so I won't get bit) that the snakes will soon hold a meeting and decide that they should always aim exactly one inch above my aforementioned patella.
The Missouri Conservation Department has all kinds of nice things to say about snakes. They say they are a valuable part of the ecosystem, that they eat rodents, blah, blah, blah. They say the venomous ones may concentrate around swamps, marshes, and bluffs. That part is true, for I reside on a river bluff that is surrounded by deep forests and more than a few swampy, marshy areas. I’ve got copperheads by the score, and a cottonmouth slides out from under my canoe virtually every time I get ready to take to the river.
Still, being a firm believer in never breaking the law, I promise not to kill a snake unless it communicates a desire to inflict harm and/or an agonizing death upon my body. As long as the cottonmouths and copperheads keep their hemotoxins to themselves and stay off my porch, we should have no problem.
After all, I really only carry a large pistol with birdshot in it so I can kill mosquitoes. They get mighty big here on the river, and as far as I can tell, they are not a protected species.