Tuesday, June 20, 2006

There Be Cobras in Georgia ...........

As a kid growing up, I would spend summers with my Grandparents. As I have written before my Grandparents lived in rural Georgia(the country), and this fact allowed my cousins and I to roam and explore the surrounding fields, lakes, creeks, rivers, and woods. Leaving my Grandparents house after breakfast we would get gone until supper time (that’s a southern lunch), eat supper, once again leave the house , and would not have to be back until dinner. Last week I saw a blast from the past- something I haven’t seen in over 25 years. Something that as a kid I saw quite frequently during those summers while playing in the fields and woods with my cousins.

The picture you see above is of a Hognosed snake- the old folks called it by one of it’s other common names-spreading adder. It’s official name is Heterdon platirhinos, the Eastern Hognosed Snake. Hognosed snakes were very common in Georgia when I was growing up, and still are when and where the habitat is suitable. It’s upturned nose, resembling a hog snout is how it came by it’s unflattering name..

The Hognose snake has some very unique qualities- qualities that would scare the hell out of a bunch of boys that watched Wild Kingdom religiously and knew about Cobra’s. The Hognosed snake when threatened will put on an impressive display of hissing, spreading their neck like a cobra, and even striking with their mouth closed. If one continues to bother it, they will roll over on their back and play dead. Despite their bold act, they never intentionally bite humans. We personally did not get to see one play dead the first time we encountered a hognosed snake, but then again, after surprising it and causing it to spread it’s neck like a Cobra- we didn’t stick around to see the rest of the show.

Imagine six little black boys playing in the woods, overall- clad, barefoot, pretending we were great explorers and hunters, running across a hognosed snake lying in the shade chillin’. My cousin Tim was the first to see the snake and shouted the agreed upon warning if anyone of us were to see a snake- “SNAKE!!!” We all stopped in our tracks and started looking for the snake he claimed to be seeing- My cousin Tim had a history of seeing snakes that turned out to be sticks, bundles of straw, old cans- hell, everything was a potential snake to him. This time Tim had spotted the real deal, it would be our first encounter with the Eastern Hognosed snake.

Within 30 seconds everyone of us had some sort of stick in our hands- my cousin Steve was always the smallest and I swear he had what looked like a freakin’ tree trunk in his hands. My cousin Gerald had a tree limb with the leaves still attached, I still wonder where he got it from, and I myself, had found a nice stick about a inch in diameter that got bigger towards it’s end, which made it look like a little club, lying conveniently right off the path we had been walking along. The rest of my cousins had what amounted to switches, but we felt we were sufficiently armed and eased closer to classify what kind of snake we had stumbled upon. The enterprise came apart when my cousin Gerald nudged the snake with his leafy tree limb. What happened next still cracks me up to this day- Mr. Hognosed snake Flatten it’s neck and started hissing.

I think all six of us broke the world record 100 yard dash, twice. The first 100 was broken with sticks in our hands, the second sans sticks.
We still laugh about that day during Family Reunions. After doing our individual Jessie Owens imitations, we showed up at the house out of breath describing what had happened to our Grandfather, he accompanied us back to the spot we had seen the snake- sure enough it was still stretched out in the shade- probably all laughed out about scaring the hell out of six little black boys.

My Grandfather gave us one of his many lessons- “do not ever kill this kind of snake”, he told us," it eats mice and such and is harmless." He also showed us how the Hog nosed snake plays dead after the hissing act doesn’t work- it rolls over on it’s back an plays dead. Yeah, it’s comical because if you roll it back over onto it's stomach it will roll back over onto it's back, no matter how many times you do it- so much for being dead.

Running across a Hognosed snake last week brought back fond memories- So folks, if you happen to run across a snake with a snout like a hog, flattens it’s neck and hisses- remember. There are no Cobras in Georgia-


Sunday, June 04, 2006


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