Possumhaw: Snakes and dam holes

June 4, 2013 9:42:23 AM

Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]


Wispy clouds littered the blue sky on a warm, clear day. The humidity was low, and the sun was edging toward the tree line. 


The lawn was mowed. Sam had bush-hogged some of the field, and there was still time to fill the holes in the lake dam. Critters, be it beaver, nutria or muskrats, had made hidey-holes in the dam, thus compromising its structure. The only good thing about the holes was the underwater channels that the critters made to access their den. The channels are where the bass like to hide, hoping an unsuspecting bream will swim overhead and "zap," the bream become bass lunch. The good thing is that a fisherman knows the bass hide in the channels, and that's where he/she can drop a bait and "zap," the bass becomes a fisherman's lunch. So goes the world. 


Sam and I loaded up the Gator with a couple of buckets and a shovel. On the far side of the lake was a mound of soft dirt left over from digging the lake. That's where we'd get the fill-dirt. Attired in rubber boots and straw hats we headed out. The Gator goes about five miles an hour. It's a good pace for us. We've seen those TV ads for the new Gators that go about 50 miles an hour. We laugh at the thought of traveling 50 miles an hour across the Prairie trying to hang on to your straw hat. Why on earth would anyone want to travel that fast? Think of all you'd miss seeing. Like that water snake. 


We had seen a black water snake in a run-off ditch. The ditch runs from the woods to the lake and little minnows play there. The snake is looking for his lunch. While Sam was digging dirt and filling the buckets I'd wander over to the ditch looking for the snake. I kinda thought if I could see him and he'd hang around in the ditch, I'd think of him as a pet and maybe name him.  


The snake was far enough from the house that I thought this a practical arrangement. At first I thought I'd name him "Sam," but then thought maybe naming a snake "Sam" would not be complimentary, at least to Sam, so I'd think of something else. 


And so it was that I'd run back and forth from helping Sam with the dirt buckets to looking for the snake. We filled three dam holes, and then I saw the snake. He was swimming from the lake back into the ditch. I peeked one more time then left him alone so he'd stay there and be my pet snake. 


Thinking about snakes I asked Sam, "If a black racer runs after you what do they do when they catch you?" 


Sam said, "I don't know, but one time a black racer ran after my mother." 


"What happened?" 


"Well, I don't know, she outran him."

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