Alabama

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Snakes On A Coachmen Sportscoach V

Do I need snake chaps?

Photo by Susan Werner

July, 2019. My husband Dean and I are making advance plans to move our RV from N. Carolina to the home place in Alabama. It will be our tiny house until our log home is built. We bought it from our daughter-in-laws’ mom and have made a couple trips between our home in the Chicago suburbs and N. Carolina to spruce it up and get it ready for the trip.

In order to make further preparations for the big RV move, we head over to Alabama, stop by the electric company, and arrange to meet a technician on our road. Our 1994 Coachmen Sportscoach V has a generator, but we will need bonafide electric power.

“Y’all know about snakes, right?” That’s the electric company technician, Adam.*

“Yeah, we know about the snakes,” I say and follow him into a stand of pine trees next to the road.

“I’m just asking because a few weeks ago I mentioned snakes to a couple from Indiana. They’re building a house like you all. The woman acted shocked. Apparently they don’t have snakes in Indiana.”

“She just never saw one,” my husband says and we laugh.

Adam is not amused. He frowns and looks me straight in the eye. “A rattler you can hear if you scare one up, but those water moccasins will hunt you down.”

To illustrate his point he recollects a close encounter he had with a water moccasin. The snake spotted him sitting in his fishing chair and headed straight for his leg. In an unrelated incident, Adam assures us that after a snake bit his dog she swelled up like a balloon, but she’s fine now.

“You should get yourself some snake chaps.”

Really?

I’m familiar with poisonous snakes on the home place, but the hunting down part strikes me, and now I’m getting creeped out, and did he just say snake chaps? Is that a real thing or is he messing with me?

Dean points down to his work boots, “I’ve got steel toes in my boots.”

“That won’t do you any good. Snakes rear back and strike ya up high. Snake chaps come up over your knee.”

This young man’s earnestness gives me pause and I say nothing. Even though this land was settled by my Alabama grandparents (which I hope will give me a little street cred on our road) I am only half southern. Mom was a northerner, I was born in Chicago, and although I feel half southern and can comprehend even the deepest southern drawls, we are northerners to this man. I do not want him telling our neighbors that the northerners down the road don’t know that snake chaps are a real thing. I’m trying to build a reputation here.

I wander away in quiet contemplation and let the men-folk discuss the finer points of electric pole placement.

We may not have electricity but there’s a big old cell tower on the next hill over, and our cell reception is better than up north. Back at the car I find my phone.

Even pictures of snakes creep me out.

I’ve met some wild snakes: one on a houseboat, one in an old farmhouse kitchen, and a nest of five, maybe six, baby snakes that acted suspiciously like rattlesnakes, but I didn’t hang out long enough to find out.

I couldn’t even stomach looking at a snake in photos or film until the first Harry Potter movie came out. I felt sorry for that poor Burmese snake born in captivity. I still love his lisp when he ‘thanksh’ Harry for breaking the glass and setting him free. I even rooted for him as he slithered out of the reptile house.

For me to Google snake chaps takes courage.

Holy shit! After Adam’s ‘they-will-hunt-you-down’ comment, the last thing I need to see are photos of fanged vipers in various stages of attack. They look fierce and nasty and their portraits do what they’re supposed to do which is to scare me into thinking that I need to immediately spend two-hundred dollars on a pair of turtle-skin snake chaps which, according to the website, are the best.

Really? Turtle skin? Who the hell thought to make snake chaps out of turtle skin? It’s a whole new fucking reptilian world of kill or be killed I’m holding in my sweaty palm, and it’s just too much for me.

I let the phone slip into my purse and search for a sanitizing wipe.

I thought snakes were scary until a pandemic bit the world in the ass.

At the start of the pandemic lock-downs we made our final trip to N. Carolina and drove the RV to Alabama. The day before we hit the road, Dean found a snakeskin in one of the storage compartments. Upon arrival in Alabama we stored the RV at a nearby park until we could build a driveway and get the water and electricity hooked up. Later that summer, he found another. For your viewing pleasure, here’s a picture I took of that one:

Photo by Susan Werner

We moved the RV to its permanent location in February. Note the new electrical pole in the headline photo above.

This past week I looked out the windshield of the RV and saw my darling husband hunched over the trunk of his car as he stretched and smoothed out a long piece of what could only be a snakeskin. Still moist and pliable it glistened in the sun. Yuck!

You get the picture so I’ll spare you another photo.

Our snakes like to shed their skins in the storage compartment underneath the cabinets in the hall next to the kitchen, or galley in RV lingo. That’s where the good water comes in via a hose connection. There are several feet of flexible hoses to rub around on up in there. Maybe the snakes think the hoses are rubber kindred spirits. How the hell do I know?

It’s also the area where the used grey water is held in a tank and where the toilet empties into what we call the poopy tank outside. Yuck!

It’s time for another electrical line.

We are ready for the permanent power line that will run to our new shed and eventually up the hill where our house will be located. My husband calls Adam on his direct line.

I’m kind of excited to tell Adam about the most recent snakeskin Dean found. He identified it as a friendly and desirable black snake, AKA king snake, or indigo, as they are called in these parts. In simple terms, they keep the rattlers away. I will spare you the details as to how one goes about identifying whether the skin is from a viper or not, since it involves more talk of poop exits. Yuck!

One week passes and no call back from Adam. We are getting used to things taking more time on account of the pandemic and patiently wait another week before we call the main office.

Sometimes life rears its ugly head, bites us in the ass, and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.

We find out that Adam is in the hospital with Covid-19. When the replacement tech arrives to assess our newest electrical needs, he tells us that Adam should recover, but doesn’t know when he’ll be back to work. We ask the tech to please give him our best.

Apparently Adam took all precautions, but that nasty virus found it’s way in and attacked.

I can’t help but liken it to wearing snake chaps. How would they protect me if I reached down to pick a woodland flower and a snake chose to strike my hand rather than my protected calf?

I also can’t help but wonder which would be worse: getting bit by a poisonous snake or getting Covid-19? I shall not tempt fate by making a choice. Would you?


We have yet to encounter a snakeskin still wrapped around its owner. I have yet to purchase a pair of snake chaps. My dad told me the old-timers fashioned them out of tin cans, which would cost considerably less than two hundred dollars. Say goodbye to quiet walks in the woods, which would be an added benefit I suppose. A snake might hear me coming and slither on its merry way.

My retired brother in law in Kentucky offered to lend me his chaps. Even though they are a lovely shade of deco teal, and made of inch think plastic, I politely declined the offer. Doesn’t he need them for wandering around his own woods?

I remain chap-less, but aware and mindful.

For the time being I practice awareness and mindfulness whether I’m inside the RV, looking for something in one of the underneath storage compartments, or outside in the woods. Those are good things to practice in all my homesteading endeavors. Country living can be dangerous. When I go exploring in the woods I take my cell phone and tell Dean where I’m going.

If I do encounter a snake I will try to follow these classic rules: stay calm, move away from the snake and again, move away from the snake; maybe keep an eye on it for good measure. If I feel comfortable I could take a picture or try to identify the snake in case I need it for future reference. Yeah, that’s not happening. I can’t see myself hanging out for identification purposes. A snake is a snake!

Takeaway: keep calm and take your self away from the snake.

I’m not going to discuss what you should or shouldn’t do if you get bit. If you live where poisonous snakes reside, you probably know, or should know, what to do. Be brave. Google it.

Regardless of whether or not we’re wearing snake chaps or get vaccinated, sometimes life rears its ugly head, bites us in the ass, and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.


*Not his real name.


10/25/21 Update to the above story. Sadly, Dean and I found out today that our electrical service tech friend, Adam, passed away from Covid. I will never forget his concern for us northerners. This is one of the reasons why I write: to share experiences and memories of people I meet along the way. Hope springs eternal that my words will inspire, entertain, and enlighten readers long after me and the people I write about are but a memory.

Thank you Adam for giving me this story and inspiring me to tell it. I will think of you whenever I see a snake.