Odd thing, I keep getting reminded, how even people from another state can be exactly like people here. There’s a construction company based in South Carolina who, and don’t ask me how or why, wound up getting contracts to build bridges in rural Georgia. I never intended to come out of retirement, but a bridge in Echols County is pretty much enough. It’s out of traffic, it’s close to Fargo Georgia, one of my favorite places ever, and the pay is enough.
Echols County is a place many people wouldn’t even so much as fly over, but I like it. I like the people. I like the swamp and flat woods. I like the wildlife, and the wildflowers are incredible. It’s a place you don’t have to make much effort to be left alone, and that’s my sweet spot.
Anyway, one of the guys on the crew saw me taking photos of a Brown Watersnake. It’s pretty much de rigueur for someone to tell me “It’s a moccasin” when the snake is close to the water. But the Brown has a pretty much distinguishable pattern and my cell has Google so there it is, what I’m saying, Google is saying, and the snake on the bank looks like the one online.
“I know what a moccasin looks like, and that’s one”, the guy tells me. Then the story about the girl who fell in the water while water skiing, with moccasins hanging onto to her dead body as she’s pulled out of the water and then, because I tell him there have only been two cases of anyone, since the beginning of time, being killed by a Cottonmouth, he says this:
“My cousin was bit by a moccasin and he died.”
Name please, city, county, state, date, and was it actually anaphylaxis? (What does that mean?) Not saying I thought the young man was lying, truly, but if this is a case of someone dying of a Cottonmouth bite, I have to know it. Okay, actually, I did think he was lying. Because since the beginning of time, only two people have died of Cottonmouth bite.
Meanwhile, one of the other crewmembers has wandered up.
“Your cousin died of snakebite? Which one?”
They know each other and aren’t necessarily friends.
“Uh, on my mama’s side, Roy, the guy who farmed out past Columbia.”
“Hey, I remember him.”
The second guy pauses and squints and cocks his head, and eases his own phone out of his pocket. “I know your sister. I bet she remembers Roy dying of a heart attack.”
And it’s on. The modern age of cell phones meets ancient snake myths.
Texts to the sister are fired off, and finally, her brother calls her to try to get her to say Roy died of snakebite but she’s pissed off and scolds him, I think, I can’t hear her side of the conversation, for dragging Roy into this, to begin with.
And at the end of the story, he still claims the heart attack was caused by snakebite, and considering how some people feel about snakes, it’s not the most unreasonable thing he’s said.
Meanwhile, the Brown Watersnake eases back into the creek and disappears into the red-brown water. Whatever else I’ve accomplished, there’s less attention on the snake, which means it lives to see another day.
Mike writes regularly at his site: The Hickory Head Hermit. Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.