We went on a walk Tuesday night in our suburban neighborhood. As we were coming down a hill about a block from home, Ali suddenly stopped walking and silently stared at the ground in front of her.

A snake!


(That exclamation point was in excitement, not fear.)

I happen to be completely fascinated by snakes. What other animal can you let wrap around your arm? And who doesn’t like a bracelet that gives you a massage while you walk?

(I once found a much smaller snake at the beach and played with her all weekend. I even named her – Greta. She had this adorable little broken and off-centered jaw that made her look just like Greta Van Susteren’s long-lost-identical-twin-snake.)

But this snake was much bigger than ones I’d picked up in the wild before – about two feet long, and thicker than Noah’s arm. Just because I like snakes doesn’t mean they don’t frighten me a bit also – they’re kinda like the thrill from a scary Roller Coaster.

We praised Ali for what a perfect response she had to the snake – to calmly stop, not panicking and not getting too close to him. Then we talked about his pretty stripes, and how he wiggled when he crawled.

Chris then took Ali and Noah to the far side of the street (he’s not as fond of them as I), and found a ridiculously long stick and offered it to me.

“Do you want to play with him? But this stick isn’t big enough to pick him up with…”

(Apparently he thought I was braver than I actually am – I had NO intentions of picking up that snake – he was too big, had his head cocked up at a threatening-looking angle, and I wasn’t SURE of his non-venomousness.)

But I took that 15 foot long branch and petted him with it to not look like a wuss in front of my husband show Ali how he moved around.

Until he hissed, jumped, and snapped at me.

Then I was done.

We walked on down the street and saw our Neighborhood-Expert-Neighbor. He is the epitome of neighborhood knowledge. He can tell you which former resident had gout in 1985, or he can teach you how to make wine from the indigenous neighborhood muscadines.

We asked him if he wanted a new pet, and told him there was a snake in the road in front of his next door neighbor’s house. He asked me for more details…

“What kind was it?”

(I could see in his eyes that my friend was in danger…)

“I don’t know – but he looked harmless enough.”

“What color was he?”

“Brown. But I really think he was nice!”

“Brown?? Sounds like a Copperhead!! I have grandkids that come here, you know!”

He ran up the hill, and next thing we knew, he was beating the ground fiercely with his walking stick as we saw a tail violently and repeatedly fly into the air.

He yelled back, “It was a Copperhead!!! And a big one all right!!”

What kind of moron AM I?!?!?!

I don’t know what I had expected a venomous snake to look like…

This maybe?

Copperhead Danger Poison

Or perhaps this?

Copperhead Jolly Rogers

My mind headed into panic mode…

I played with a COPPERHEAD?!?! I am SO stupid. Stupid stupid stupid. I am the stupidest stupid on the face of the planet.

What if Ali hadn’t seen him and had stepped on him and he had bitten her?

What if Chris had run over him with the stroller and he’d jumped in it and bitten Noah?

What if he had crawled up my fifteen foot branch and had bitten me?

How long would I have to not nurse Noah if I’d been bitten by a venomous snake?

Does venom pass through breast milk?

Pumping and throwing away breast milk is the worst atrocity the world has ever known.

Is that neighbor going to put me down in the Neighborhood History Books as “The one who tried to get my grandchildren bitten by a Copperhead”?

Why didn’t that stupid snake warn me?? Oh yeah – he did snap at me.

I told Chris about my panic-stricken thoughts. He shrugged and said, “Eh. It didn’t happen – so why worry? There’s no way Ali wouldn’t have seen it. And if you’d gotten bitten, well, I’m sure that the ERs around here have PLENTY of Alabama Copperhead antidote, and I’ve taken you to the ER several times with one kid in tow, why not with two kids in tow?”

Thanks, babe.

(And he’s supposed to be the paranoid half of our marriage.)

One thing is for sure, though. My innocent and fascinated relationship with the belly-crawlers has been tainted forever. I fear that I might…just possibly…need to completely reconsider my position on snakes.

53 thoughts on “The Post that Proves I am an Idiot.

  1. *shivers* I stepped into mess of copperheads trying to swim in a Tennessee river. They looked harmless to me too until I asked a local what kind of snakes they were. Luckily, I had my snake dance down pat. No more picking up snakes for you! Just “enjoy” them from a distance.

  2. That was fairly hilarious. But only because everyone survived. (Snake aside.) You and I should never, ever be friends in real life, because we would probably put the species at risk. (That would be humans, not snakes. Are snakes and humans species? Or genres or something? I was lousy at science.) Also, didn’t God make most poisonous things red and yellow and such as a kind of natural skull and cross bones? Whatever happened to that? (See, there I go being sciency again.)

    1. I agree. It seems like most creatures have “warning labels” of some sort on them – why don’t Copperheads? Oh well – I won’t forget now!!

  3. I saw that picture and went :O OMG RACHEL NOOOO!

    LOL we had a baby copperhead on our back patio shortly after we moved in. Killed it and called animal control to verify what it was. Where there is a baby copperhead, there is a momma and probably 20 other babies. I was SO freaked out.

    I’m not sure iff this is true in Birmingham as it is in Huntsville (do we have ALL the same snakes?), but the animal control guy told me – if their eyes are slits, they are poisonous. If they’re round, they’re not.

  4. There’s also the head-shape thing and the sudden flashbacks to my patio that made me recognize this guy. But in a moment of WHATKINDOFSNAKEISTHIS I can’t remember what head shape is bad. Just the evil-looking slitty eye thing is the way I can remember now.

    But I have the same weird fascination too. lol

  5. I’m glad you stuck with the stick poking.
    (The “teach you how to make wine from the indigenous neighborhood muscadines” neighbor sounds like my husband.)

  6. First, I think the worst would have been death not throwing out breast milk, right? I assume all snakes are evil and move along, quickly. {chills}
    Second, we used to go to a family camp that was covered in copperheads. Walking to the restroom at night was perilous. My grandfather ran over one. So, naturally, he put in in an aquarium and nursed it back to health. Crazy. I’ve never quite gotten over that.

  7. Please do not play with snakes unless they are solid black or solid green, they are defiitely harmess. If they look anything like that one or have designs beware. FYI, I think Greta is living under our gazebo now and that is fine with be but I will not be petting her.

  8. I assume all snakes are bad and never (try) get close to one. I don’t even want to pet one at those snake petting zoo thingys. yuuuuuuck! I’m glad everyone is alright and I just read somewhere that copperheads are most often found in Alabam. FYI!

  9. Well, thank goodness everything is okay. But geez! I like your idea of poison warnings on snakes! Can you put that in the suggestion box somewhere?

  10. Yikes! I’m glad that you’re all OK. I try to take my cue from Genesis 3. Snakes + Woman = bad. I’d be the woman in this instance, ergo, I shall keep my distance.

  11. I thought that was a copperhead! I have to agree, you ARE an idiot! My philosophy with snakes is they are all deadly – I could have a heart attack! I’ve run over one with the lawnmower before. He would have survived had he not put his little head and tail up! We have a friend that was bitten by one a couple years ago on the hand. He was in the hospital for a week and his hand will never be the same. Be careful out there!

  12. Is that a pic of the actual snake? Ick ick ick! I have horrible recurring dreams about being surrounded by snakes (poisonous or not) and not being able to get away from them – this post didn’t help at all! LoL! Glad no one was hurt – my sister petted a rattlesnake once at my great-grandmother’s house… the Lord takes care of those who know no better :)

    1. No – I was too fascinated with him to get my iPhone out and photograph him. BUT that is the exact size and color(s) of the one we saw – I found that pic and said “That was him!! Who knew he was a model, too??” I apologize in advance for any nightmares you have tonight – I have those about roaches.

  13. Wow, you are braver than me, but if you want a sorta easy way to know if it is posionous, the shape of their head is a give away. Vipers (or pit vipers) have a kind of triangle in shape. I could tell from the first picture that it was a posionous snake from the shape of his head. I grew up with very outdoorsy parents so me and my sister had to learn all this stuff young, plus I took a class in summer camp about it.Of course for a coral snake (posionous) vs. King snake (safe) (do y’all have these) there is the rhyme:
    Red on yellow can kill a fellow
    Red on Black is a friend of Jack’s

    I am glad that no one was hurt.

  14. Oh my goodness. I am SO glad none of you got bit! That is a big snake! My mom was bit by a rattlesnake when she was 13. She was in the hospital for a week and still has a huge scar on her leg from where they cut her open. She has pictures of it and her entire leg all the way up to her hip was purplish black. Scary. Her grandpa and her cousin have also been bit by rattlesnakes, so I am a bit leery of snakes of all sorts. If you want to play with snakes maybe you should just go to a snake class first so you can learn which ones are safe or not. Then you could be one of those cool snake handler girls. Haha:)

  15. I spent much of that post trying to figure out why you were “an idiot” and the rest waiting for the punch-line that it was, in fact, not a copperhead. Clearly, I need to brush up on my poisonous snake recognition as much as you do. :-) We don’t have the opportunity to interact with snakes all that much in my more Northern locale, although I can identify a cottonmouth in a heartbeat. Now spiders…spiders I know. *shivers*

    And yes, Rachel, dumping breastmilk is the worst of the worst! Doing so would make me cry.

  16. Good gracious Rachel.
    The thoughts that ran through your head though, I gotta say, whew! Made me feel normal (ie. I consider you “normal”).
    Like, for real, I have those thoughts sometimes when there is no danger near by.
    Terrifying my friend. Terrifying.

  17. omg. i pretty much know absolutely nothing about snakes. but judging from your title, knew we’d be in for a good story. so glad to hear that your super-smart neighbor knew it was a copperhead and took care of it for you all! yikes! (and very glad that none of your what-ifs came true.)

  18. Girl, how do you not know or I should say how did you not know what a copperhead looked like? Girls from Alabama should know things like that, especially when there are bodies of water nearby, i.e. your creek. You should also know what a water moccasin looks like.

    My mom almost grabbed a copperhead once while working in her flower-bed. And a friend of mine found one in a tree we were climbing in – eek! You must be careful out there! In our old neighborhood, I saw a snake a year. And I found out that it is against the law in GA to kill snakes, or at least the non-venomous ones, and out of the 41 native snakes to GA only 6 are venomous.

    Here is a little information to help in your snake identifying: Five of the six poisonous snakes in Alabama are classified as pit-vipers.They have pits on both sides of the face between the eye and nostril. They have cat-like pupils, thin necks with heavy bodies. They have triangle shaped heads, as do some non-venomous snakes like water snakes and some rat snakes.

    Pit vipers have retractable, hollow fangs near the front of the mouth, and include the following species found in Alabama: diamondback rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake,pygmy rattlesnake, copperhead, and cottonmouth.

    Have fun out there!

  19. Wow! You’re braver than I am. I would have fought the urge to scream and quickly run away. My husband took me hiking for my birthday one year at Sweetwater Creek State Park. When we encountered our fourth snake (including a good-sized rattlesnake coiled up in the middle of the trail), we headed back to the truck and left. We now refer to the park as “Snakewater Creek State Park.” A year later, the managers at work held a cookout for us at the same park. I was constantly on the lookout that day!

  20. ohmygodohmygodohmygod. I am so scared of snakes. If this had happened to me I probably would have stopped stock still in the middle of the road and screamed my head off. I’d probably still be there. Maybe have lost my voice by now…
    I’m so glad that he gave you a really long stick.

  21. At least I know what a copperhead looks like now. I do live out in the country but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a snake where I live. I get the cute animals like rabbits and deer. The good Lord was watching out for y’all that day. Do yourself a favor and drop the what-ifs because worrying about the past won’t do a thing and now you know what snakes to avoid at all costs.

  22. One of the oddest things about America is things like bears and snakes… and people being blasé about them! In New Zealand we don’t have any native mammals (expect for a couple of bats that no-one ever sees) and nothing scary like snakes, big carnivores etc. It seems very odd to have this sort of thing roaming around your wilderness areas…

    1. This comment has been stumping me all week – I’ve told my husband and my parents, and they’re just as shocked as I am!! NO indigenous mammals?? That is the most bizarre thing I’ve ever heard of!!! I can’t imagine a world with no squirrels, no rabbits, no nothing. In our very suburban neighborhood alone, we’ve seen: squirrels, rabbits, armadillos, possums, racoons, a fox, a snake, and who knows what I’ve forgotten about. My parent’s property (about 20 minutes out of town) has deer roaming all over it, along with wild turkeys and who knows what else.

    1. Funnier now than then!! And we went on another walk last night, and you better believe my eyes were glued to the road in front of us!!

  23. howdy y’all, i got here by mistake; don’t ask. however, since i’m here – tht snake never hurt anybody and did not deserve death. think about it – how many humans do dogs kill every year? nobody goes around killing every dog they see.
    i think snakes are great, ALL of them. they are just another creature put here by you-know-WHO.

    1. I get your point. I think my neighbor’s reasoning was that he has very young grandchildren – toddlers – that wouldn’t understand not to mess with a snake, and they certainly could be harmed by it. I can see both sides.

  24. Copperheads are not dogs… Dogs can become vicious for a variety of reasons: illness, abuse and lack of training. Copperheads, on the other hand, rely on pure instinct. There is a reason why there are more copperhead bites reported in the U.S. than any other venomous snake. Most venomous snakes are just as afraid of you as you are of them. Timber rattlesnakes will try to hide if they hear you approching. If you come too near to them they will warn you by shaking their rattlers. Copperheads, on the other hand, are very territorial. Their first instinct seems to be to stand their ground. If you get too near them, they tend to strike out very quickly. I have even had an overly aggressive copperhead chase me. The only other snake I’ve seen display that level of bravery towards human contact is the (non venomous) black racer. Fortunately for me, copperheads tend to move much slower than the black racer. Furthermore, snakes will seek shelter indoors during flooding conditions or to escape the heat of the sun, etc. Vicious dogs are not likely to make way into your house through the ductwork. :D

    1. Upon rereading my post, I felt that I should add a few thoughts: I don’t propose that any animal should be unecessarily destroyed. I just feel that people should know a bit about the animals that they share space with. There are profesionals that will safely relocate snakes to less residential areas. Also, I felt I should explain that copperhead bites are rarely lethal to humans. Small pets are at more risk of receiving a fatal bite. Hopefully that will alleviate any lingering fears that you might have.

  25. The writing about the copper head is so damned silly I can’t even laugh about it.
    People have he damndist bull in their minds.
    I am a male in my late 60’s.
    I have lived in the country 90% of my life. What most of you call urban I called crap living.
    Example: I cannot see any house in any direction from my house. You cannot see my house when in my drive way until you round two corners and part way into third.
    We have copper heads all over this place.
    The comment of “what if the snake had crawled up my 15 ft branch and bitten me” is ridiculous. Never happen!
    I catch at least two copper heads a month and carry them off to the creek.
    Last spring I caught the smallest Coral snake I’ve ever seen. He was in my drive way directly in front of the garage door.
    I have gone under the deck, yes it’s high enough to walk under and went to the hot tub to reset the ground fault so the pump would run. When I opened the control panel I found a copper head inside. This is about four ft off the ground.
    A few months ago I went to the back deck just out the kitchen door to get the Rug Doctor stored there. I moved the Rug Doctor and there was a copper head under it.
    This deck is 16 ft off the ground.
    I caught the coral snake and kept him taking a few pictures of him then let him go.
    I caught the copper head on the deck and took him to the creek just behind the house.
    The myths abound about Coral Snakes.
    Myth says if you smoke and are bitten, the venom is so toxic you may not have time to smoke it before death. Horse pucky!
    First Coral snakes don’t have fangs. They cannot strike and inject like Copper heads and others in the Moccasin family and Rattlesnakes.
    The way a Coral envenomates is is biting just like you do. No striking!
    Their system is such a poor delivery system that the odds of getting enough venom to harm you before you instinctively jerk it off is very slim at best.
    Most snakes are not aggressive and will not come after you. Certainly not crawl up a fifteen ft stick.
    I never kill snakes, they are beneficial!
    The stupidity brought about by you poor folk living like animals in a cage. Little boxes all in a row that I actually feel sorry for you.
    I have an illegal animal playing around my feet right now.
    The state that makes them illegal has medical professional that say they are not instant death but they still declare them illegal due to the threat of Rabies.
    It’s a skunk that is about six months old.
    He was an orphan out starving. I took him home when he had no teeth and was easy to carry in one hand. Sure he could have Rabies but a little knowledge makes it safe.

    The medical experts who study diseases like this will tell you, “look it up on the Internet” that you can only get rabies if the animal has the virus in it’s saliva. The Virus is not in the saliva until it is in the Brain.
    So if a suspect animal bites you then if quarantined. This skunk is never outside. I let him play a few hours a day each day but he spends the rest of the time an a cage.
    Now one more statement. The Virus is not in the saliva until it is in the Brain is true but how do you know.
    The experts also say if you are bitten, quarantine the animal for at least three months.
    If the animal does indeed show symptoms of Rabies you need one more piece of information.
    If you have had the animal longer than ten days when the symptoms show up, the Virus was not yet in the saliva at the time you were bitten. Remember it isn’t in the saliva until in the Brain. So no symptoms no virus in the saliva.
    If bitten cage the animal. Write down the date in a safe place so it isn’t lost.
    If the animal shows symptoms after ten or more days your OK.
    If you are paranoid, “most city pukes are” then take the shots. You won’t like it but it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be.
    They probably will try to convince you not to do so if you show them you were bitten at least ten days before the symptoms.
    If you are really paranoid and really stupid, which I suspect all city people to have a large of dose of both then when you get bitten take then animal in for testing.
    They will kill it and test the brain for the Virus.
    Whats the use of killing the poor little animal if you have enough sense just wait a couple of weeks.
    If no symptoms you are safe. Let it go.
    Skunks are very lovable little animals. Not slick and nasty like snakes.
    Both need not be killed due to stupidity!

  26. I was just starting to think Alabama was such a beautiful, wonderful place until you ruined it with this post. I DO NOT LIKE SNAKES!!! In fact, my husband and I had dated for probably 2 years and we were on a hike and a snake was on the trail and I screamed like a little girl and jumped, etc, etc. he said he didn’t know I had it in me to act girly about anything:)

  27. Just wanted to add a comment and not sound like a nutball. I live in Georgia, for 10 years, and have come across about 3 copperheads- 1 per year, until this year which in 1 month the count is 2 copperheads and 3 cottonmouths/watermoccasins. 2 dead copperheads and 2 dead watermoccasins (killed because girl scouts were going to camp in the area that month)- and just because I was angry of getting nearly bitten- all 4 were skinned and tanned (yes weird). The copperhead isn’t vicious. I stepped 2 inches away (not an exaggeration) from one of them, and although they were cocked and ready to bite, they didn’t bite. The most common thing a copperhead will do is freeze until you go away. They also commonly do dry bites, bites with no poison. I have also read, if bitten they usually won’t give the antivenom because the antivenom can cause more problems than the copperhead vemon itself. You will be hospitalized, and treated with other medicine, but many times no antivemon. BUT. I also know someone who was bitten by a young copperhead and “they don’t know yet how to control their venom” and she was treated with multiple antivenom shots, each several thousand dollars in cost, and was hospitalized for several weeks. SO, unless you are an “idiot” and are poking a copperhead thinking it’s fun, or you actually step on it, you will probably be fine. For me, every damn time I see one I’m using my “hall-of-fame” shovel and killing it. BUT, the snake can still move after death, and worst of all, it can still bite. The watermoccasin I walloped with the shovel, then chopped it’s head off, managed to live for 2 hours decapitated. (The head, still being dangerous, was immediately buried). And yes, deniers, I saw it’s heart beating a full 2 hours after decapitation. I’m guessing on decapitation I sealed the arteries and the blood didn’t leak out. Just for the really gross out there, my wife and I once came on a snake we had to kill (don’t want to hear objections you don’t know the situation), and we buried the head, and went back hours later and found out that the head dugs it’s way out! Yuck.

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