I took the trail behind the house down to the barn. The narrow path is bare from much use. It is in the shade of scrubby oaks with lush green grass and weeds on either side, morning glories, yaupon holly, yellow coral bean spirals, beautyberry blooming in clusters of purple beads, and sunflowers tall in the patches of light.
I felt a thump against my boot, and looked down to see a fat greenish-black snake in a long straight pose of muscle, connected to my leg, his head throbbing against my boot, his mouth unhooking from my pants. He coiled himself at the edge of the path and flared his throat at me, the white warning of the cottonmouth.
As much as I do to protect the wild animals on my farm, you’d think a snake would let me go by in peace. I made an involuntary hop-skip to the side as it happened, and reached under my boot to see if he broke the skin; there was nothing. The snake crawled into the tall grass.
No harm done. Enjoy your day, snake.
I finished my work in the barn and came back up the trail, and the same fat water moccasin was curled up at the edge of the path, almost perfectly hidden in the weeds. If I had not been looking, I would not have seen him coiled in ambush on this path that Bando and I walk a dozen times every day.
As I approached, instead of fleeing into the brush, he flashed his cottonmouthed fangs at me, and released his swamp smell of moccasin, that dank primordial warning.
I hate rude behavior in a snake. I won’t tolerate it. That’s that kind of thing that will get your head chopped off.