Possumhaw: The woman and the snake

October 1, 2012 9:48:17 AM

Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]


"Take me in, oh tender woman, sighed the snake" 


Al Wilson 




It was my strangest encounter with nature yet. I walked toward the greenhouse, rounding the compost pile. On the opposite side of the compost I saw about eight inches of a snake. The snake halted and reversed its direction. The reversal was much like a car; it simply reversed, withdrawing its length back under the wooden pallet. 


I quickened my pace to the greenhouse and picked up a shovel. Returning to the compost pile, I sat down at the picnic table about five feet away and waited. 


It is hard to wait. It is one of the hardest things to do. I wanted to continue my chores but I forced myself to be still and quiet. I reminded myself that I wasn't doing "nothing" -- I was practicing being still. I was waiting.  


My staying power paid off. In a few minutes a snake head peered out. It was about the size of a thumb. I sat quiet. In a few more minutes more of the snake came out. Now about five inches was out and standing upright; whatever was the rest of him was under the pallet. He was a solid charcoal-colored snake with round eyes. He looked at me while his tongue quivered in and out. I read that is how snakes smell and I hoped I smelled different than the compost pile. 


As I watched the snake quiver his tongue, I did the same. Yes, I did. I was quite impressed with his ability to hold his upper self straight up in the air. Much to my relief, he finally rested a portion of himself over the compost, never breaking our gaze. 


Next he eased his head from left to right. So, yes, I did the same thing. I moved my head left and right while maintaining eye contact. The snake moved about four more inches toward me. 


As intrigued as I was with both of our behaviors, my mind ran ahead as to what I would do if the snake came closer, like really close. Where would this dance end? I determined if he left the pallet I would call things off, as I wasn't ready to be more intimate with a snake. 


And, of course, he slithered off the pallet toward me. With that, I stood erect and jabbed my shovel into the ground like some tribal chief and the snake u-turned and slithered back under the pallet. 


I ran inside to tell Sam of my strange snake encounter. I felt a little sad that I hadn't had the gumption to see what would happen next. How curious for two dissimilar creatures to examine each other so closely. 


I demonstrated for Sam my fancy head moves and he said perhaps it was best that I called it off when I did, that the snake may have thought I was answering his mating call.  


We'll never know.

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