Grumpy Snakes

Bored with conversation, a snake seeks more inspired companions.

Grumpy snakes encountered on breezy hot May afternoons offer surprises. At marsh’s edge, I discovered a svelte three-footer, an eastern black racer, wedged in eel cage mesh where it slithered to shed its old skin in too tight a compass. Exhausted from the exertions of sloughing two skins, eel pot and dermis, in one go, it hung slack while I worked its soft body, frayed with bits of its old self, through the wire until with listless hiss it dropped into the wrack of dried reeds and shatters. A second – this an irritable banded king snake – confronted me hauling the offending cage back to the barn. Stand-off. Encoiled, encurled, feigning aggression for the easily fooled, it relinquished no ground nor would it strike. Detour. On dockward return, no grumpy snakes appeared, the light trace of their passing invisible – only the track of the meditation they occasion remains. I like snakes well enough, but then I always wash my hands after a liberating moment.

Another seeks supper.

One response to “Grumpy Snakes


    I was much impressed with the herpetological sensitivity of Mr. Herman in his quite wondrous post I have had a lifetime of encounters with serpents, they even figure prominently in my ancient doctoral dissertation on Roman Household Religion. My latest encounter with Mr.” No Shoulders” occured in my quite small back yard. It was a fleet garter snake which when captured behaved well as long as I did not restrict its movements. Its tongue was constantly testing its environment and I quickly returned it to the ground surface where it streaked underneath my garden shed. Several years ago we encountered a huge (over four feet) black snake in our front garden. It was stretched out on the water table ledge of our house soaking in the spring sun. They are Bon Fortuna in South Italy where I worked recording Pompeian shrines. They beautifully mirror the great power of polytheism’s material remnants.

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