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The former Daily Statesman is now The Dexter Statesman and currently does not have an operating website.

Snakes Alive!!

Posted Wednesday, August 29, 2007, at 7:17 PM

Of all the pitfalls of living in the country, my continual running battle with snakes has to be the most ....ah, stimulating, shall we say? Nothing like the sight of a snake, slithering around your house to get the 'ole heart pumping.

I have learned to identify a few of these unwelcome creatures, sparing the black snakes as much as possible, so that they can scour the premises for rats, mice, and other more sinister species of snake. However, I fear that I shall never be comfortable with ANY of the creepy crawlies...

I can now classify some of my snake episodes, as follows:

1) Scariest snake: This has to be a large rattlesnake that I killed when my son Todd was about, hum, four? 1978? We had stopped up at the barn to check something in the garden, I think, and the snake came creeping down the hill from that very garden, slithering toward my pick up truck. I think he was watching my little beagle so intently that he didn't notice me. He was heading for the barn.

I didn't know what he was at the time, but he looked plenty ominous, and I was used to killing snakes with a shovel or hoe -- so I came up behind him and rammed the shovel down right behind his head, hard. As I chopped, I analyzed the problem. "Mm.." I wondered. "What kind of snake is this?" (Chop, chop) "Triangular head." (Chop, Chop) "Thick body." (Chop, chop) "Slanted eyes." (Chop, chop) "RATTLES!!! (CHOP, CHOP, CHOP, CHOP, CHOP!!!!) I chopped until there was nothing left of the head, and then I stood and shook....and shook...and shook...

This was before the age of cell phones, so I just stood and shook until my husband came back from wherever he was... When he saw the snake, he was very impressed, and he counted nine rattles and a button. He chopped off the rattles and hung them in the barn.

2) Most determined snake: This was a black snake which was determined to get to a nest of baby barn swallows whose mother was raising them on the back porch light. I was perfectly willing to let the snake go on its way, but I did not want it on the back porch. Ordinarily, a black snake will just retreat when confronted, but this one fought back and acted like a rattler, so it met the same fate as a rattler. I chopped it up in tiny pieces.

3) Most creative snake: Actually there are two black snakes in this catagory. One made its way up to look in the window of the back door, peering in while my son Todd was watching cartoons. I don't remember what happened to that snake, but I don't think it made it out of the vicinity alive. The other one was even more colorful, as it slithered its way up a lawn chair and from there over an old dilapidated desk to peer into my bow window in the living room. My two cats were highly alarmed and promptly did a silly shadow boxing routine through the window with the snake. I believe that snake may have bitten the dust when it, too, went after yet another nest of baby birds on the back porch the next day, though I believe these birds were phoebes, instead of barn swallows...

4) Most recent snake: I wrote about this one in my NSC column a couple of weeks ago. This narrative will be done in shorthand, as my arms are tired, and I'm getting creeped out by this subject:

7 p.m. Madeline happily blogging on Statesman site. Bark, bark, bark: "Mom-come-look-this-is-serious." I look out bow window. Dogs barking at the ground. Drat! Snake! Shovel? Hoe? Nope, 4.10 shotgun, as son has instructed. Put on tall boots, get shotgun and 3 shells, go out and check. Yep. Rattlesnake. Dogs run away. Me and snake eye to eye. Bam! Bam! Bam! Snake undamaged. Drat! Back in house, clomp, clomp. (Wait here, snake.) Five more shells. Bam, bam, bam! Snake still undamaged. Maybe I should look through the sights. Clomp, clomp - more shells. Snake almost to goat pen. Take aim. Bam! Snake flies up in air. Whoopee!! Bam! Snake flies up in air again! Wheeee! Bam, Bam, Bam! Snake full of holes, appears dead, but could be playing possum. Clomp, clomp! Get kaiser blade. Chop, chop, chop! Head is off. Snake certifiably dead.


Madeline posts next blog from jail on charge of killing endangered species......

Life in the country.....Gotta love it!

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Oh, you bring back many memories. One was of an instance when I was cleaning out the shed and reached down to discard some old black coiled cable. But, of course, it wasn't cable at all...rather, the biggest black snake I'd ever seen. I called for reinforcements and was shortly thereafter witness to a well-deserved murder. Many years prior to that incident, the then-husband and I, along with three children under four, were driving down T Highway by Lake Wappapello when we spotted a rattler on the road. By carefully swerving the tires, he managed to stop it in its slithering tracks and the then-husband, judging it to be a "keeper," retrieved the varmit and placed it in a cardboard box in the back of our 1975 green Chevrolet station wagon (with woodgrain trim). The problem arose when it began striking the folded box lid. It was, needless to say, a bit perturbed (as was I). As I recall, it took about 12 miles of convincing before the now-ex determined he should probably pull over and strap the not-yet-carcass atop the car rather than place it a foot behind three pre-schoolers. Upon arriving home, I recall that the now-ex chopped as you did, and then slit the slitherer in an effort to retrieve the "meat." The poison, however, was evident and could be seen running through the body of the rattler, who incidently had 13 rattles and a button. Its skin was housed in our master bedroom closet for years. It was only when he became an ex and I became happily single (with good reason)that I trashed the very brittle nearly seven foot long rattler skin with 13 rattles still in place. Snakes alive, Madeline, you bet!

-- Posted by bringwine on Wed, Aug 29, 2007, at 8:10 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
A more deserved EX status I never saw, Bringwine!! Good riddance!

Actually, I called a friend - my daughter's ex-boyfriend - after I killed the last snake, and he came out to retrieve it for eating purposes. However, I had shot it full of too many holes, so he just saved it to scare friends and family!

Those two "EX's" would have gotten along famously, I feel sure!

I know PETA will scream killers to you Madeline, but I would rather have mice than a snake anyday! I think you are quite an Annie Oakley to live in the country,because I could never shoot a snake-but I'd call my Daddy or my boyfriend to do it.You are really brave,I am impressed.

I can be brave,like wear white after Labor Day brave,but it takes some guts to be a Missouri Jones-kudos to you!

-- Posted by Yellow Rose of Essex on Wed, Aug 29, 2007, at 9:08 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Well, in fact, my very own precious daughter is a PETA cruelty case worker and does not look upon my snake-killing ways with favor. In fact, she reminds me that these delightful creatures are protected, and I should not be broadcasting my snake elimination methods.

A while back, a neighbor repeated the old rumor that the Conservation Dept. had re-introduced rattlesnakes into Missouri, but I checked on this, and it's not true. They've always been here.

Guess you're gonna have to have "snake-y" awards like the "Rellies" on Regis and Kelly. Never a dull moment, huh?

-- Posted by scotswoman on Thu, Aug 30, 2007, at 3:39 AM

If you wind up in the pokey because of your snake exploits Madeline, I'll bail you out.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Thu, Aug 30, 2007, at 2:22 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Thanks, FJGuy, I'll ring you up if they haul me off to the hoosegow! (I just learned how to spell that word. Now I need to look up its origin!!)

Gee, I could write my stories from the brig! How exciting is that?? All my bloggers could come to the jail and march outside with signs!! "Free our blogger!" "Down with the Department of Conservation!"

I like it!!

Oh boy, did this ever bring up memories. Once, in a galaxy far, far away, I was visiting one of my loving siblings in a distant, but also rural part of the state. When I got home I went into my house with one load of stuff and came back for the last load. When I picked up my tackle box from behind the driver's seat who should pop up but old slitery-dee himself (black snake). I left the door open and ran for a stick or hoe or something (anything). Came back. No snake. I refused to get back into the car until my neighbor came over and checked everywhere. I phoned my sibling/family and told them to keep their @#*&)$ snake to themselves. I drove 4 hours with a snake curled up right behind my car seat. Thank goodness it stayed curled up. I can see the highway patrol report now as I would have vacated the car at a high rate of speed leaving the snake to do the driving. I don't think they drive very well.

-- Posted by Ducky on Thu, Aug 30, 2007, at 3:02 PM

Excuse me - slithery-dee. I got so flustered my fingers stopped working.

-- Posted by Ducky on Thu, Aug 30, 2007, at 3:04 PM

This is going to sound really horrible and hillybilly-esque, but my kids were home alone one day and left the kitchen door ajar --- so a snake, of course, came in. The kids chased it through the house and out the laundry room door. From there it skittered across the driveway and went up into the truck from beneath, ending up wound around the engine, striking at them. The boys got in the truck and drove it around the "block" (about five miles), but the snake was still there.

The thing was, my mom and I were going to the chiropractor in Dexter later that day -- and I wanted to get the truck inspected while we were there. We drove it with our feet up the whole way, and when I left the truck at the service station, I said, "Now, there might be a snake in there!" However, they didn't find it and we never saw it again, to my knowledge.

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Aug 30, 2007, at 9:32 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
That's the trouble with black snakes. They think they should be a part of the family. They like to come in the house and visit, but they like to go for road trips even better!

After you get out of the "hoosegow" you'll need to have a celebration party featuring finger lickin', lip smackin' barbequed rattler! Invite some PETA folks, but don't tell them what the main course is. They'll probably tell you, "Wow Madeline, this is good stuff!"

-- Posted by FJGuy on Fri, Aug 31, 2007, at 3:42 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Sneaky idea, but it's unlikely that rattlesnake meat would pass as tofu. I'm sure that my shrewd little daughter and her compatriots would be able to detect the difference - and the resulting confrontation would not be a pretty sight.

How did a nice girl from Advance end up working for PETA?

-- Posted by Coach on Sat, Sep 1, 2007, at 4:39 AM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
I've often wondered that myself. She found the application on line the summer after she graduated from Semo, and the next thing I knew, I was helping her move to Norfolk, Virginia.... Must have been out of my mind...

I'm like that a lot...

Congratulations, you must have been a good mother; your daughter works. Quite an accomplishment in todays world.

-- Posted by I.B. Le Truth on Sat, Sep 1, 2007, at 11:50 PM

It sure is. Congrats.

I've actually eaten fried rattlesnake. I grew up in South Alabama where they have rattlesnake rodeos (or did have pre-PETA days). It tastes like chicken. I had alligator once, too. It tasted like the eraser off the end of a pencil. Same texture too. Real chewy.

Don't worry about being thrown in the hoosegow Ms. Madeline Oakley, you can always claim self-defense. Honest officer, if I didn't kill that snake I woulda had a HEART ATTACK!!

-- Posted by Ducky on Tue, Sep 4, 2007, at 12:54 PM

Hi Maddie, since you were a teacher I was wondering if you knew Melissa Ezzell she was my 2nd grade teacher in a small country school East of Bloomfield, I think it was 1934. I see by the Statesman that she has passed away.

-- Posted by bent nail on Tue, Sep 4, 2007, at 6:16 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Sorry, Rusty, the name doesn't ring a bell. My family moved into Southeast Missouri in the early 50's when Malden Airbase reopened, and we lived in Dexter until 1960. I wasn't familiar with Bloomfield teachers then, and my teaching has been farther north.

Maybe some of the Bloomfield crowd will see your question and come up with an answer. I had in laws in Dexter by the name of Ezell (one z), but my sister-in-law, Betty Ezell, died recently. Are you sure your teacher's name was Ezzell?

Yes, Mrs. Ezzell was well thought of as a teacher in Bloomfield. Though she is not a close relation, I am sorry I didn't get the chance to meet her, but my dad (the inlaw you mentioned in your reply) told me about her. He did some work for her at her home in Bloomfield over the years.

I'm sure the vast majority of census takers and county recorders did their best in the "old days" to spell names correctly. Trouble was... many people had no clue how to spell their own names! DeJournett was ... and still is in some families... spelled DeJarnat and DeJarnette. Likewise, Ezell is sometimes seen as Ezzell, Ezelle, and Ezel. Who knows which, if any, is right!

I remember that rattler story. There have to be some more huge, "old timer" timber rattlers in those woods! Still amazes me today how all of you managed to escape being snakebit!

I had to laugh out loud at the post above (#4). I can see you with that shotgun chasing down that poor snake.

I enjoy your column, and your blog. Keep up the good writing.

-- Posted by sezell639 on Thu, Sep 6, 2007, at 9:39 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Aha! Scotty! So good to see you on our blogs! I had no idea!

I love to go to a restaurant - even as close as Cape - and give my last name to the people taking names. Tickles me when they try to pronounce it!!!

I had a seventh grade history teacher named DeJarnett. Seems to me that she wasn't related. She was TOUGH!

Thanks for the insight on Mrs. Ezzell.

Did you get that, Rusty Nail?

Yes, yes. Keep writing. Keep fighting the good fight against the slithery d.

-- Posted by Ducky on Sat, Sep 8, 2007, at 8:57 AM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Thank you for your encouragement, Ducky Dear! I think perhaps I have no choice in this matter, if I'm going to exist on this remote hill out in the Tillman Outback...

Friday a neighbor came in to eat at the senior center with us, and he said that he and his wife saw what had to be a nine-foot rattlesnake in the woods out our way. He said, "It was this big around!" And, I swear, he put his hands in a 10-inch diameter circle! I sure I don't meet that critter out here in my yard! All the more reason to wear tall boots in the woods.

I think I need to learn to shoot a bigger gun.....!

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Madeline DeJournett
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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