Monday, August 13, 2012

The snake in the tree

A few weeks back we were clearing out the tangle of deadfalls and standing dead locusts and rotting logs from the East 40 -- maybe an acre or two of dense woodland ringed by briars and held together by some tough old laurels and rhododendrons.  We had cut and stacked most of the locust for firewood, and hauled five or six trailer loads of hawthorne, greenbriar and moldy half-gone limbs and punky trunks down to the burn pile in the bottom.  I was bringing the tractor in with a chipper-shredder attached to get the last of the green limbs when I spotted a six or seven-foot vine that seemed darker than the others we had cut.

Then I saw why. As I pulled by that limb, it began to slither. It was black, with just a suggestion of a light yellow underside, almost a racing stripe at first glance, and it was gorgeous.  Never mind that I'm so respectful of snakes that I normally go the other direction. A friend of ours, Boyd Allred, used to say, "I'm afraid of only four kinds of snakes: Little snakes, big snakes, live snakes and dead snakes."  That pretty much summed up my attitude.

But this thing was beautiful. I ran to the house for the camera, and by the time I got back it was climbing the trunk of a tree right at the edge of the field.  I could hear the raucus cries of a bird way up in a neighboring tree, and I suspect there was a nest where that snake was headed.  I snapped these pictures before it disappeared into the upper reaches.  When I came back for another load of limbs, I no longer heard the cries of birds.

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