Every good snake story needs a photo

Photographic proof of this big snake story.

Just Thinking by Mac McLeod

Back when all this coronavirus started, I was more than convinced that it would be over by now. It’s been at least 8 weeks now, but we’re still in a mess. Finally, some moves are being made to get back to some semblance of normal, but we’re still being blasted every day on the television with just how bad things really are.

Me, I’m one of those guys that look at the situation, figure the odds, locally, statewide, nationally, and worldwide and figure I have about as much chance getting struck by lightning as I do catching the virus. Don’t get me wrong, I believe it’s out there and I see how many people it’s killed, but still, I have to look at the odds.

Anyway, the world still keeps turning and the paper has to go out once a week. I was in the newsroom just last week when publisher Carson Oliver walked by and asked editor Dewain Peek how much room was needed for sports for this week’s paper.

The correct answer is –none. There are no sports going on. Just about everything on TV these days is reruns with the exception of the NFL draft and we don’t have any local players affected by that. School’s out, no spring sports at Livingston Academy, so now it’s a matter of finding stuff to fill the pages.

At first, I had enough old stories to carry through for a few weeks, and I still have a few pretty good ones, but they are getting fewer and fewer, and it’s very different going out and covering a softball or baseball game and coming back and writing it up than it is sitting here reliving an old story and then writing it down. It’s just different.

Perhaps the good news is summer will be here before you know it, and usually there is very little sports to report on until it’s time to crank up high school football. That gets started when LA head coach Bruce Lamb puts up his fireworks tent out on the west side of town around the 4th of July. I spend a lot of time down there talking football with the coach, so I consider it the start of the season.

So, until then, we’ll just have to go with some old stories I was involved in some 40-50 years ago, and this one I always like to tell.

I love to talk about duck hunting simply because you have to be out of your mind to do it, so it usually creates some memorable stories. There are some good deer hunting stories, but the ones I really like stories about snakes, and the reason I do is because seldom can somebody tell a snake story and not get carried away with the “truth”.

I love the stories about snakes chasing people. They don’t, simply because “why would they?” Snakes can’t see but a few inches, so why would they chase a person, and has it ever been considered just what a snake would do with a person when they caught them? Other popular snake stories say certain snakes will grab their tails and roll up in a hoop or simply “whip” a person.

Fact is, most snakes do their best to avoid people, and the truth is, when a person gets bitten by a snake, it’s because they stepped or put their hand in the wrong place and startled the reptile, or they find one and try to “play” with it.

When someone tells me a snake story, and it gets a little stretched out, I will always ask: “Do you have a picture?” The answer is usually “no” and right then and there I really don’t want to hear the rest.

But with this story, I have a picture to go with it, and I’m even in it, so I was involved.

Years ago when I was the sports editor for the Sumter Daily Item in South Carolina, I had a complete wildlife page every Friday. We had a lot of fishermen and hunters there, and I actually counted more fishing boats one day than people at the local football stadium on Friday night, so I felt the need for the page. The state’s wildlife department was very good in providing news, etc. and I felt like I really needed to go hunting or fishing once a week with somebody for a “personal” story.

Just about every paper in the state had an outdoor writer, and once a year the wildlife department would invite all of us to some outstanding location for a few days of fun and hunting or fishing if we wanted. On this particular outing, it was an old plantation in the lower part of the state, and to say the least “things were done first class”.

When we arrived, we unloaded our gear in the housing building, then if we wanted, we could go deer hunting. After dark, we were fed steaks, played cards, and had a good old time as sports writers like to have.

Next morning, after breakfast, we would hunt again, this time it would be a drive where the workers would turn loose a pack of dogs in a block of woods after we had been dropped off at points surrounding the block and wait for the deer to come running out. In the thick undergrowth of the area, this was about the best way to hunt.

Anyway, this year it was a very cold October morning, even for lower South Carolina, and when I got off the truck at my spot, I had on heavy clothing. There was spotted frost on the ground. I had my deer stool, so I opened it up and sat down on the side of the road. It would be a while before all the hunters were dropped off around the block, so I just sat there and waited.

While I was occupying my time, I looked down and to the right of my foot in a little grassy area was a big frog, or so I thought. Looking at the frog, it never moved and I guessed because of the cold weather, it too was cold.

But a few minutes later, the sun started bearing down on this spot and my “frog” moved. Suddenly I realized this was not a frog at all, but the head of a huge rattlesnake. Trying to keep from jumping out of my skin, I eased my shotgun over to my right side, and still sitting on the stool, put the end of the barrel inches from the snake’s head and pulled the trigger.

Then I jumped off the stool and onto the road. The next hunter about 100 yards up the road hollered to me asking if I had killed a deer. Deer sometimes try to slip out of the drive area and it’s not unusual to get one before the dogs actually start running.

“No” I replied, “but you ought to see the size of this snake. It’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen.”

The hunter walked down to where I was, looked at the snake and agreed, “That’ a big one alright.”

He then asked if I was going to use the skin and if not, could he have it. It was a six and half foot Eastern Diamondback rattler, and it would be a beautiful skin for a hat band or a belt. I said he could have it and we skinned it out and inside found a big old rabbit.

That’s been some 45 years ago and I’ve settled more arguments with this picture of me and the snake than you can imagine. When somebody starts a snake story, I’ll listen, then when it gets real serious, I present this picture to see if the story continues or stops right there.

The Eastern Diamondback is the largest poisonous snake in North America and is only found in the coastal areas of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and perhaps Texas. Sometimes when I either tell the story or show the picture, somebody will always try to tell me about the one they killed and how big it was. My next statement is always: “Do you have a picture of it?”

Usually the answer is “no” and unless you have an Eastern Diamondback, yours isn’t bigger – not a timber rattler (common around here), not a canebrake rattler (widespread around southern states) or even a Western Diamondback rattler are not bigger. The bottom line is you really don’t won’t to mess with any of them.

I love snake stories, mine and everybody else’s, and if you don’t have a picture, you can make them as wild as you want, but if you are telling them to me, you need a picture.