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Possumhaw: Sometimes you take your chances


Shannon Bardwell


Shannon Bardwell


The snake raised its head and looked at me -- and that was his second mistake. I'd been noticing the goldfish were disappearing over several days, so I knew he was somewhere in the pond. I stomped back to the house and told Sam my fish were disappearing and I had seen the snake. 


"I'll put some rat shot in the old .22 and you can shoot him with that. It won't make a hole in the goldfish pond," Sam said. 


The next day I went to feed the goldfish. I had three fish left, so maybe the snake choked on a fish bone and was gone. I started weeding the garden that looked tropical from all the rain. When I reached the bend in the walkway and glanced toward the pond, there was the snake. Most of him was under the rocks, but his head and about 3 inches was hovering over the water looking to snatch a goldfish. 


I had a hoe and a shovel, but from that angle I couldn't get at the snake, so I went to the house and retrieved the .22 that did not have rat shot. Sam hadn't had time to reload the old .22. I weighed the chances of Sam getting upset against a snake eating my goldfish. The snake lost. 


Sam told me to keep the gun with me at all times in case I ran up on a snake or that monster snapping turtle he had seen. But weeding a garden with a .22 strapped to your back is a bit cumbersome and it looks weird to the neighbors, so I had to fetch it from the house. 


I eased back into position; the snake was still there. I was so close I couldn't use the scope, so I used those fixed sights on the gun like Sam had taught me. There was a rock millimeters to the left of the snake's head and a gray plastic box covering an electrical outlet millimeters to the right. I would have to be dead on. I figured if I nicked the top edge of the pool I'd be OK, but if the bullet ricocheted I might not. 


Very little makes me mad, but predators eating my pets makes me really mad and maybe a bit reckless. Some folks say there are good snakes. It's a good snake if it minds its own business, but when it starts eating my goldfish it is not a good snake. 


I texted Sam at work. "11:05 Shot snake." 


I received a phone call. "What did you shoot him with?" 


"The .22" 


"The .22 can make a hole in the goldfish pond if you hit the plastic," he said. 


"Not if it goes into the snake." 


I explained how precarious the shot was and that I had lined the sights up carefully and then took my chances. I might not get another one. Turns out I wouldn't need another one. 


Shannon Rule Bardwell's column appears in Monday's Dispatch. Her email address is


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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