Whitesburg KY
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Another snake story told

I read the snake story by Ike Adams from two weeks ago and I laughed until it hurt. That was some funny stuff. I liked his story so much it inspired me to tell a true snake story of my own.

My story takes place at the mouth of Big Cowan in the river behind the white house just before you cross the bridge. In July 1991, a friend of mine (I’ll call him Robert, because he wouldn’t want me to use his real name) and I had constructed a raft of coal truck inner tubes and a piece of plywood to float down the river.

We pushed out into the water behind the Whitesburg swimming pool and let the current take us away. It was a beautiful sunny day, but the night before had produced a terrible summer storm with high winds so the river was yellow muddy and the water was a little swift.

Well, we were doing pretty good as we floated along with very little difficulty, other than the occasional brush pile or shallow water. We saw BIG rats, turtles, rabbits, squirrels and the occasional water snake (some as long as six feet) as we journeyed. I guess we had been on the water about an hour as we passed Farmer Supply and the Whitco bridge. We continued on for a while past The Whitco Freewill Baptist Church, around the bend and were coming up on the mouth of Cowan above the bridge.

The water there was pretty deep because even though the river was up, it was still pretty calm. As we approached, we noticed a large sycamore tree had been uprooted the night before and had fallen, blocking the whole river. The top of the tree was lying on the side of the river where the white house is.

Robert and I stopped the raft about 10 feet from the tree with some long poles we were using to steer with and we started to survey the scene. All of a sudden the whole top of the tree started to shake like it was full of squirrels.

Robert was in front and suddenly he yelled, “Lord, look what a snake!” Well, when he said this (me being afraid of snakes) I stood up trying to see around him. What I saw was not registering as fact in my mind. Mind you, I did not see all of the snake, but the part I saw as it was going into the water was at least seven feet long and the largest part was a good 12 to 15 inches around. It was a dark, rusty color and looked like something out of jungle movie. As it disappeared into the water, the ripples rolled across the river behind it.

We just stared at each other in disbelief as we contemplated what to do! We both agreed there was no way we could go up the river against the current and we absolutely weren’t going to get in the water to push the raft. Finally I came up with a plan. “Well, we know it’s not at the top of the tree so our only choice is to carry the raft around the top through the weeds.”

Robert agreed so we finally maneuvered the raft against the bank. The plan was working well up to now, but another thought came to us. What if there was another one in the shoulder-high weeds?

With this in mind, Robert stood up and leaned forward as far as he could, peering into the weeds. By this time I was standing behind him and “accidentally” bumped into him sending him sprawling into the weeds. Realizing it was now or never, I jumped behind him and pulled the end of the raft up onto the bank. Without missing a beat, Robert rolled to his feet and grabbed the raft on one end as I picked up the other. We bulldozed our way with no regard to life or limb through the high weeds, losing our lunch, cooler and sunglasses as we went, around the treetop, to the river below. We literally threw the raft into the water and jumped onto it before it had time to make a splash! We looked back in disbelief of what we had witnessed as we floated under the bridge at Cowan.

We talked about what we saw as we looked for a place to get the raft and us out of the river. We soon found a place about a half a mile down river, called for a ride and waited to be picked up.

I still don’t know what kind of snake it was or if it is still in the river or not. I figure it must have been some kind of boa someone has turned loose and it survived by eating rats and other small game around the river. Needless to say, that was our last rafting excursion. True story.

James Fields lived in Whitesburg for 54 years. He now lives in Berea.

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