Whitesburg KY
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No copperhead is a good one unless it is a dead snake

Points East

Last week I was taking the scenic route home from Berea along White Lick Road. During one four-mile stretch of road I saw three copperheads at three different locations. I found this strange because I’d never seen a poisonous snake on that road.

I wasn’t able to kill either of the snakes, only because they got across the road and into the underbrush before I had a chance to run over them.

And yes, incidentally, I do know a copperhead when I see one and I have three scars on my left leg to prove they can inflict some hurt on you. The bites I received in my youth did not happen because I was deliberately trying to harass or bother the perpetrators. In all three cases the snakes were well concealed and I was struck before I realized there was a snake within a mile.

Suffice it to say I am not a believer in the notion that copperheads are basically harmless. I know five other people, including my brother Keeter, who have been copperhead bitten. In all five cases, nobody was trying to pick a fight with the snakes. I am sure, though, that they would all agree with me that the only good copperhead is a dead one.

I’ve also known a couple of people who were bitten while they were handling live snakes in church. As far as I’m concerned, anybody that stupid just got a good dose of reality. I figure my attitude will generate some hate mail, but what else is new?

When I was growing up it was not unusual to hear of somebody getting snake bitten. It was a common occurrence to kill copperheads in the garden, in a tool shed, on the road, or even under your house. If someone had come along and told you to “leave that snake alone” while you were in the process of killing one, they would have been considered fit material for the nearest insane asylum.

We had a little rat terrier dog named Luly who would hunt them down and kill them. She stayed swollen during warm weather from copperhead bites, but she had been bitten so many times she seemed nearly immune to any serious effects of the bites. We never thought about going to the blackberry patches without taking Luly along for protection.

Uncle Stevie also had a snake dog. His was named Butch. He was so fast that he could kill one without being bitten most of the time. One day, Uncle Stevie was standing in the yard with Butch when Duck Campbell, the mailman, came by. Duck was chewing the fat with Uncle Stevie and wanted to know what kind of dog he had there.

Uncle Stevie told him he didn’t know for sure what breed Butch was, but knew he was the best snake dog on Blair Branch. Duck’s eyes lit up as he asked how much Uncle Stevie would take for the dog. Uncle Stevie told him he’d have to have fifty bucks. Of course that was an unheard of price for a dog in those days. You could have bought the best coonhound in the holler for half that price.

Duck was highly insulted. His face got red, he threw his truck in gear and drove on up the road. A few weeks passed and Duck stopped by again.

“I bought the best big mule I’ve ever owned at the (Isom) stock sale the other day for fifty dollars,” he told Uncle Stevie by way of letting him know what a ridiculous price he was asking for Butch.

“I’ll bet that mule won’t kill a copperhead, will he?” asked Uncle Stevie.

Duck never said another word. He laid the gas to his truck and drove on up the road.

Letcher County native Ike Adams grew up on Blair Branch near Jeremiah. He now lives at Paint Lick in Garrard County.

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