Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Live and Let Die

Devoted snake lovers might want to sit this one out:

As a young lad growing up on the farm, I had regular contact with all sorts of verminous creatures. One morning as I was walking down to the road, I met a copperhead snake slithering up towards the house. I'm generally a "live and let live" kind of guy, but in my book, poisonous snakes hanging out in the yard is strictly an "us or them" affair. I turned around, walked back up the driveway, went to the toolshed, and grabbed a hoe. I walked back down to the snake, and, with a swift thunk, chopped off his head (this wasn't hard to do - he was taking his own sweet time).

Now, if you've ever beheaded a reptile (and, really, we've all been there at one point or another), you'll know that things get kind of weird once the head is gone. It kept going, sans brain, up the hill. At first, it maintained its former pace. Then it gradually slowed. Twenty minutes later it was still inching along (naturally I watched it the entire time), and finally it stopped.

With the hoe, I carefully picked up the head and carcass and walked back up the hill, intending to throw them on the roof of the chicken house where my dog, Prince, couldn't dig them up and eat them. First, I lobbed the head onto the roof where it landed with a tinny plink. Then, I heaved the carcass onto the roof. Suddenly, reanimated by the hot surface, it sprang back to life, violently surged forward off the roof, landed in the grass at my feet, and headed straight towards me.

I leapt back, emitting a high, girlish yelp, grabbed the hoe, heaved it high over head, and frantically chopped the snake into little bits. Like a scene from a horror movie, the pieces briefly wiggled and twitched, then died. Panting and bug-eyed, hoe at the ready, I watched them. For a long time.

The pieces didn't inch back together and reform as an unstoppable zombie snake. They didn't each turn into a new snake and swarm me. They were dead. Finally, convinced of this fact, I individually picked them up with the hoe and tossed them back on the roof.

They stayed.

The end.


  1. Incredible. And quite a great way (and fun, I image) to keep your dog from the bits.

    I also grew up on a farm and while I never actually did the snake beheading, I saw many done. Often followed by my brother or cousins wondering what would happen if they set it on fire.

    The same thing always happened.

    It burned.

  2. Mmm. Burnt snake, that's good eatin'!

  3. Ok, I got a fahm (from Maine) story too. I'm a gonna post it tomorrow, as I have to weed a very large garden today...very large. It has writhing and headlessness in it, promise.

    This is of course, to keep the ping pong game going between Slimbolala Land and Nola Nikland. It's fun.

    By the way, laughed wicked hahd at that one, Slim. Nice addition to the teeny story collection. B and I were discussing which would be the appropriate voice in which to read it ( I read it aloud to him). My approach was through fits of giggles but he suggests a grave tone. Appropriate for the kind of human-against-nature-oh-don't-we-
    hot-tin-roof ego problem we all have in the hierarchy in nature ideas we have.

  4. Anonymous10:12 AM

    I think I remember reading this same story in Raymond Carver's Cathedral except that in his version after the boy cut up the snake he found out his mother died and then him and his father spent the rest of the week on the porch drinking before the son actually cut the father up into little bits and threw him on the roof.

    Anyhoo, I think that your story could just as easily be a Carveresque tragedy and plays on the intersection between the purity and innocence of youth and youth's consequent rage and destructiveness when confronted with the Jungian archetype of evil and temptation, the serpent.

    Anyhoo, I think that psychoanalysis is in order. Avoid phalluses (symbolic or actual) and stressful situations until you sort this out.

  5. Oh yeah. All that other stuff happened too. I just neglected to mention it (legal reasons, you know).

    Anyhoo, thanks for the phallus tip (snicker!).

    And Nik, I'll be keeping my eye out. Good luck gardening (and much obliged).

  6. This reminds me of the time that, having fallen for the lie that a quick knife-thrust through the "skull" of a lobster wi9ll kill it dead, I jerked a long chef's knife into outer space when the tail twitched.

  7. Yikes, amateur knife tossing. You're lucky you didn't wind up with a knife through your skull.