It’s a very strange thing, looking at a vacant lot where the City Pool once was. We lived next door to it when I was a little kid, and as such, it was a status symbol to be that kid that lived next door to the pool. My sisters and I learned to swim before we learned to walk well.
One of the great joys of living next to the pool was we would wander in while the life guards were getting ready to open the pool up, and we were the first ones to see what had been caught in the skimmers. Usually, it was just small frogs or toads, which we would release into a pond in the woods, but one day there were two enormous bullfrogs, and it was a sensation.
We turned them loose in the pond, but one of them refused to jump, and seemed sick. But we left it alone, and the next day, the entire herd of kids went to see if the frog was okay. I cannot imagine in today’s world there being ten children, all barefoot, none of the boy kids wearing shirts, and the ages ranging from the older kids, who were ten or eleven, to the little kids, who were four or five, going out into a cow pasture, heading out to the pond, and there wasn’t an adult in sight.
The bullfrog was dead, and it looked like something had attacked it, for one of its legs looked chewed on. None of us had any real world experience in what ate bullfrogs, but that didn’t stop us from coming up with different theories as to what had happened to the poor creature, and a funeral was planned.
Meanwhile, there was an old piece of plywood half buried in the muck, and we decided to try to pry it up to see what was under it. We played on top of it, thought there might be Pirate Treasure under it, because that was something people always found in movies, and I remember a kid putting his hand under the edge of the board and trying to pull it up. Finally, we managed to get a sturdy stick under it, and slowly the piece of plywood was flipped. Under it was one of the biggest Cottonmouths anyone had ever seen, not that any of us had seen that many before.
We all ran screaming back to our homes, each child telling a story about a giant moccasin, and each story more outlandish than the last. I think it was my father, and another male parent who finally listened to our story and grabbed a gun, and killed the snake. We were banned from the woods for a week or so, and then life continued as if nothing had ever happened, but we did search more for snakes than gold after that.
This is part one of a story about Cottonmouths. Next week, we will enter the digital age of You Tube Videos, and Social Media, and why a lot of what you believe about snakes simply is not true.