So I did something stupid the other day.
Let me back up a little bit. In my entire life, I have never been afraid of snakes. I was that kid who ran towards the horrified scream of “SNAKE!” I brought them into the house. I played with them. I poked them with sticks. I alarmed my mother.
This has been my history. I never intentionally picked up a poisonous snake (cause that would be stupid) and was pretty confident in my snake identification. It’s been fairly simple to ID them since I’ve only seen a handful of different snakes in person, most of which have been easily identifiable. Mistakes can be made though.
I did something stupid the other day. I was in my home, minding my own business, preparing to shave. I shave in the evening instead of the morning, but that’s not important for the purposes of this story. So I was shoeless (since shoes are non-essential to the shaving process) and shirtless (since shirts are counter-productive to the shaving process) and just about to apply the foam when my wife said my parents had just called and were in the driveway.
Normally I put on a shirt before I go outside (sorry ladies), but since it was just my parents (who have seen me shirtless on an occasion or two, including birth) I went out sans shirt. I got halfway to them when I spotted my next door neighbor crossing the yard to see what was going on as well. I’m now feeling a bit awkward about the semi-nudity, but pressed on.
My parents told me there was a snake at the end of their driveway, so I headed across to their house (yes... I live practically next door to my parents) to take a look. It was just starting to get dark at this point, so perhaps I can blame bad lighting for what followed.
There he (or she) was. I rapidly identified (or so I thought) the snake as a Rat snake. I have handled tons of rat snakes in my lifetime and without a second thought I stooped down and made a lightning fast (because I am lightning fast) ninja grab for the snakes neck to pick him up.
The snake was also ninja fast.
I did get him by the neck and picked him up, but somewhere in the process he turned his head at a very un-rat-snake-like speed and got me on the hand. No fang sinkage or anything like that. Just a very light scratch, but there was blood. The snake then proceeded to freak out. I have never before seen a snake struggle with the intensity this one displayed. Apparently he had a great deal to live for. The snake also did something else at this point I had never experienced. He “musked” me. For the non snake people reading this, I am going to share some information with you. Some snakes are capable of putting out a horrible stink as a defense mechanism when they are threatened, similar to what a skunk does. So what happened was that I got snake skunked. Real bad.
At this point of the story, I am holding a snake approximately 3 feet long and thrashing wildly who has bitten me and skunked me. At this point I am also realizing two things.
1. This is not a rat snake.
2. I don’t know what kind of snake this is.
Now, it is important to remember that my mother, father, and next door neighbor are nearby and my very unhappy wife has just joined them. So I confidently assure them the snake is non poisonous and nothing to worry about. My dad wants to kill the snake. Normally I am opposed to killing non-poisonous snakes and prefer to release them out in a field. Non-poisonous snakes are good and help keep the rodent population under control. I decided this snake had to die though. I did this for two reasons.
1. Internally I wasn’t so sure this was not a poisonous snake, in spite of my confident proclamation.
2. If it was a poisonous snake, I was going to need the snake’s corpse to take to the ER with me so they could administer the correct antivenin for my bite.
I tossed the snake on the ground for my father to run over with his Bronco. That’s right. My father’s preferred method of snakicide is death by Bronco. The snake hit the ground and started running for it. Slithering actually, and at a speed I had never seen a snake move. This added to my anxiety and helped confirm my realization that I had no idea what in the world this quite athletic snake was.
My father rolled over the snake. Backed up, and rolled over the snake again.
This is the point of the story where the snake died.
I did not tell my parents the snake bit me on the hand because my mother would have spent the next 10 hours researching snakes, snake bites, and would have repeatedly told me to go to the hospital. I also kept the info to myself so my neighbor would not know I was the kind of idiot who would pick up a snake without knowing what kind of snake it was. So I said my shirtless goodbyes and retreated into my house with my wife. When I told her, she was ready to take my head off upon finding out about the bite.
She was quite angry indeed.
Please remember that I also smelled horrible due to the snake musk all over my arms. I cleaned the wound and took a shower. I had to scrub the fool out of my arms for a long time to remove the smell. It was quite strong.
To make a long story short (I know....much too late), the snake bite caused no lasting problems. I eventually was able to identify the snake, though it took me about 24 hours to accurately do so. I am happy to report it was not the dreaded and feared water moccasin it greatly resembled. It turns out I was nipped by a Blotched Water Snake, famous for it’s rapid biting and musky defense.
The moral of the story-
I promised my wife that I will never again pick up a snake. This will be hard to follow as the memory fades, but there for about a half hour I was in a state of real terror. The terror was greatly magnified when I googled Snake Bites.
On a side note. Don’t google snake bites. It’s really not the kind of information you want to see.
So... As north Texas seems to be over run by snakes recently, remember the lesson I learned. Don’t pick up snakes you don’t know while half naked next to your mother. Or maybe just don’t pick up snakes at all. Either way.