‘Tis the season for snakes

Published 3:28 pm Thursday, May 10, 2012

There’s nothing like driving down a country road and seeing a snake so big it makes you lift your feet and scream.

Such was the case last Friday for this girl.

I live inNorth CarolinaandNorth Carolinahas snakes. I get it. Really, I do. I can’t get over the sight of them and the fact they seem to be ALWAYS around this time of year—in the yard, greeting you on the porch and never missing a chance to sunbathe in the middle of the road.

It seems no matter how many of the scaly-kind get squashed in the middle of the road while basking in the sun, the next snake behind it shrugs it off, and proceeds to do the same. You’d think somewhere down the line something would evolve in the snake that would tell them to stay away from paved surfaces…or better yet any place where a garden hoe is handy.

So on Friday there it was laying in the middle ofDusty Hill Roadin between Potecasi and Jackson, the biggest black snake I’ve ever seen.

In the moment I felt like he was six feet long. In retrospect he was probably smaller than that, but not by much. He was coiled up in a bunch of knots and twists, getting a nice tan on the warm asphalt.

I couldn’t hit him. I can never bring myself to hit any thing in the middle of the road (on purpose), even a snake.

Instead, I let out a yelp and lifted my feet. Yes, I lifted my feet. As if some how he would come through the floor board of the vehicle. I squirmed about it all the way to Garysburg.

I do not know much about the poisonous snakes that live within the state ofNorth Carolina. Being a northerner I’ve had only a few experiences with snakes and the ones that I’ve come upon inNew Yorkhave not been poisonous.

In fact,New YorkStateonly has three poisonous snakes found mostly in theAdirondack Mountainsand the southern part of the state. All three snakes are either on the endangered list or listed as a threatened species.

The first time I ever saw a snake I was wandering in my grandparents’ garden. I was a child at the time walking through the tall grass on a path that led behind five large pines my mother had helped plant when she was a child herself.

Just as I turned a corner I saw it. Its beady little eyes and thin black body with greenish stripes, the mere sight of it made my blood run cold.

Faster than I could turn around the snake quickly slipped away.

However, I made a more dramatic exit by running and screaming all the way back to the house.

When I told my grandmother what had happen she informed me I had probably spied a garter snake, one of the most common non-poisonous snakes inNew York.

There’s a part of me that feels sorry for snakes, but that feeling soon fades after too many Discovery Channel specials featuring snakes killing their prey and snakebite victims with swollen appendages.

Still, I empathize with snakes and understand how these reptiles can be misunderstood. In the end, snakebites only claim 12 to 15 victims a year in theUnited States. A small toll compared to the thousands of snakes killed by humans.

For centuries snakes have been revered and dreaded by cultures around the world. The mysterious, scaly, limbless animals have always caused a stir where ever they’re seen.

While some cultures believe snakes are a sign of fertility and renewal, others see them as a sign of evil.

Perhaps the latter is what instilled a fear of snakes in humans, since there are not many of us that will admit to a love of snakes.

In fact most of us rather see them stay in the woods or a body of water along the edge of our yards than find them sitting on our doorstep.

Maybe that fear is best for both human and snake.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: amanda.vanderbroek@r-cnews.com or call (252) 332-7209.