I saw it before my brain lobes even registered I’d seen it. Its beige coils striped with deep russet hourglass shapes blended well against brown leaves, yet a mere glimpse as I approached sent a spark down my spine at light speed that jerked me back like a horror-struck puppet on a string even before my cerebellum announced to my awareness that I’d almost vexed a venomous copperhead by stepping on it.
My brother Bob and his wife Sue live in the Missouri Ozark forest. They wake spring mornings to bluebird serenades outside their window and evenings watch the moon rise through the fragrant native pines.
Every summer for the past dozen years, though, they’ve been plagued by copperheads. Last June I met one of them up close.
A half dozen or more of these beautiful (but somewhat dangerous) snakes at a time slither near their house on very warm evenings, coiling up on the steps leading to their front porch, even draping themselves over the loops of garden hose that hang nearby.
Bob tries to relocate them by means of a garden hoe and a covered bucket. When he finally loses patience with the outbreak, he kills them with a shovel.