BY MICHAEL REISIG –
In about a month things will begin to warm up and we’ll start to see a variety of slithery reptiles warming themselves in the sun, which is not necessarily a good thing – for us or the reptiles. It’s safe to say that the average Arkansan has little love for snakes. Generally, when it comes to an encounter between the two, the snakes get the worst of it.
Snake bashing is almost a bona fide rural pastime, falling somewhere between family entertainment and a backcountry sport. It’s all but become an Arkansas art form.
There are a variety of approaches to snake-bashing. Each person seems to have their own favorite weapon. Hoes and shovels are popular, claw hammers and machetes work well for the braver souls (you have to get close), and shotguns are an old standby. But of them all, the trusty automobile may be the most widely accepted implement of destruction when it comes to these scaly denizens.
There are an awful lot of folks who just can’t resist running over a snake if it happens to be crossing the road and in their path.
I was driving quietly along a back road the other day, when I watched the motorist in front of me deliberately cross into the oncoming lane in order to run over a luckless reptile slithering across the blacktop. It reminded me of a story.
There was this older couple with a home just off Highway 8 East who recognized the growing popularity of snake squashing. They owned a wrecker service, but business had been slow for some time, so they devised a method of entertaining passing motorists and picking up a few bucks in the process.
Old Jeb got himself a spin casting fishing rod with clear monofilament line. Belinda, his wife, found a snake, bashed him just enough to be dead but not messy, and tied the end of the monofilament line around the reptile’s head.
Like so many of the older homes in the country, their house was only a few yards from the road. The front porch faced the blacktop.
Jeb would cast the snake out onto the road. Then he and Belinda would settle back in their rockers and wait for a car to approach. As soon as the driver spotted the snake, Jeb would start to reel (with a little rod tip action to increase the temptation…).
There weren’t many motorists that could resist the action Jeb could give that snake. Hardly a day passed that a couple didn’t run plumb off the road and into the ditch, trying to squash a snake that was long past caring. The wrecker business suddenly became quite good.
Every third or fourth day, Belinda would bash a fresh snake, because after being dragged across the highway 50 or 60 times and run over a couple more, the reptiles would begin to lose their life-like action, (as we say in the fishing industry).
They say Jeb and Belinda eventually moved to Iowa to be with their children, and the snake fishing/wrecker business came quietly to an end.
I heard the story third or fourth-hand, and don’t know exactly how much to believe, but it does give one food for thought.
So, the next time you spot that snake as you’re driving along, you’d better look for the monofilament line before you head pell-mell after it. And take a glance at the closest house to make sure there isn’t some guy sitting on the porch, reeling to beat the band and laughing his fool head off.