Life With Ferris: Snakes

Wednesday, July 2, 2014 - by Ferris Robinson
Ferris Robinson
Ferris Robinson

“I’m afraid of all snakes, and some sticks,” my friend Margaret says. 

I thought this was a funny expression until I ran head-on into a copperhead last summer. Literally. 

My husband was walking ahead of me on a popular hiking trail and our two dogs were racing pell-mell through the woods. I just happened to look up at a tree limb hanging over the path and noticed a thick, brown snake coiled on the branch. The same branch my husband brushed by a moment before, mere inches from the snake. 

I yelled at him to stop. Then I commanded him to stay. I spoke firmly, in the same tone I use with my dogs.  

Ignoring me, he took another step toward me and I pointed at the snake, still wrapped around the branch. He quickly took a step backwards. 

The snake had a brown and tan pattern on its back, and from my post three yards away, I detected an angular, arrow-shaped head. I knew I could tell if it was poisonous or not by the shape of its pupils. Poisonous snakes have elliptical pupils; nonpoisonous snakes have round pupils. But I wasn’t looking for the whites of the eyes. 

However, I know what an arrow looks like, and that copperhead’s neck jutted out and ended in a terrible point. 

I took a picture with my cell phone, but you can barely make out the reptile because I’m so far away. I extended my arm straight, leaned as far away from my phone as possible and pulsed my thumb rapidly, hoping I’d hit the shutter button.

The snake never moved. 

I didn’t know snakes climbed trees, although I’d heard horror stories about people tubing down the river and snakes falling out of trees right on top of their heads. This actually happened to my friend, Elizabeth Duff Woods. She was in a canoe going down the Hiawassee and one dropped down right between her legs and immediately crawled back under the big chunk of Styrofoam in the back of the boat. They bailed, screeching and panicking, right into the icy water, fearful that snake and more were writhing around right under them.

This is probably a universal fear: a snake free-falling on top of your body, getting trapped between your knees or tangled in your hair.  

If my husband and I had been walking side by side, one of use would have bumped shoulders with the poisonous reptile, forcing the serpent to strike us, probably right in the temple. 

Just a few days later, I saw a huge thick grey snake coiled in the middle of the road. I could see his triangular-shaped head clearly as I drove past. A few yards away, there was a group of children selling lemonade, and I turned my car around, intending to run it over. Instead I stopped in the middle of the road, right by the snake to contemplate killing him. He raised his head and struck my tires viciously, over and over, until I drove away. 

I stayed away from the trails for a few weeks. Margaret would only walk with me on the main road, which suited me fine. I didn’t tell her this was the same road where the rattlesnake had attacked my car. We walked smack dab in the middle of the road, barely moving out of the way of cars, both of us scouting for snakes.

Both of my dogs have been bitten by poisonous snakes. I actually saw the last snake stretched out on the road, but I thought it was a fat stick. The big dog ran toward it, then recoiled as soon as the snake readied itself to strike. The little dog, who can’t see well, charged right into the snake and it struck him right in the eye. I poked a Benedryl down my dog’s throat then flew to the vet. He survived, but he almost didn’t. 

I keep him on a leash now but I don’t really need one. He stays right by my side, and I stay right by his. And the only walking we do is in the yard.

(Ferris Robinson can be contacted at ferrisrobinson@gmail.com.  www.ferrisrobinson.com)


Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute On Tuesday At UTC Postponed, Due To Inclement Weather

" O, King: A Tribute to the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," scheduled for  7:30 p.m. on  Tuesday,  in UTC's Roland Hayes Concert Hall, has been postponed due to the threat of snow and icy conditions. It will be rescheduled. (click for more)

Ochs Highway Closed In St. Elmo Due To Water Main Break

Ochs Highway is closed at the intersection of Saint Elmo Avenue due to a main water break.   The road is scheduled to reopen on  Thursday . Detours are set up using Alabama Avenue and West 41st Street.  In order to view a map of these  closures , visit  http://www.chattanooga. gov/transportation/ traffic ... (click for more)

Snow Reaches Chattanooga on Tuesday Afternoon, But Brings Little Accumulation; Many Schools, Most Courts Closed Wednesday

Snow began falling in downtown Chattanooga early Tuesday afternoon, but there was little accumulation.  The National Weather Service issued a special statement on Tuesday night warning of icy roads. It says:  SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT UNTIL  9AM EST  WED ...VERY COLD TEMPERATURES AND PATCHY ICE ON ROADS THROUGH  WEDNESDAY MORNING... TEMPERATURES ... (click for more)

Young Gets 23 Years In North Chattanooga Murder

Abram "AB" Young pleaded guilty on Tuesday morning to a murder in North Chattanooga and was sentenced to 23 years in prison. Young was 17 at the time of the 2015 slaying of 19-year-old Charles Holsey during a drug deal behind the Kangaroo on Dallas Road. He is now 20. Prosecutor Cameron Williams said the sentence for second-degree murder will be served at 100 percent. Young ... (click for more)

Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thank you, Dr. King for stepping-out.  Thank you for your lasting voice to what it's all about. Thank you, Dr. King for  stepping up and also showing-up, ...when decisions were being made and  your refusal  to shut-up.  We find your fingerprints on both directions and toward progress.  your modeling, mentoring,  and reactions helps ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Vulgar Trump & More

Nothing rankles me more than seeing obscenities and vulgarity that appears in today’s liberal media, not to dare mention our public forum. Understand, I will use “damn” when no other word will fit as well. I’ll use “hell” as an exclamation point sometimes and I also may quote an aggressor in a story where he threatens to whip another’s “ass.” But our President reached an all-time ... (click for more)