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Oh, the joy of living in the hills!

Posted Tuesday, September 13, 2011, at 6:48 PM

This is the copperhead that I killed last night in my driveway next to my geraniums and sweet potato vines!
Coping with the Crowley's Ridge crawlers

I didn't sleep well last night. I was getting ready for a school board meeting about 6 p.m., when my border collie issued her "intruder bark" from the driveway. I know not to ignore that bark.

When I opened the front door, I expected to see her looking at something across the pond--perhaps a deer eating pears off the pear trees, a coyote, or a stray dog trying to decide whether to venture up to the house.

However, she was looking down at the driveway beside my flower pots. "Oh, drat! A snake!" I thought. Well, at least it was daylight, so I could see it.

Sure enough--a copperhead. Dogs seem to know the difference between a black snake ("Bark, bark!") and a copperhead or rattle snake ("BARK, BARK, BARK!!!GET YOUR BUTT OUT HERE AND KILL THIS SNAKE! BARK! BARK!!!).

Okay--next decision--Do I grab the shovel or the hoe? Voice of my son comes into my head, "MOM! Don't kill those snakes with a shovel! They can GET you! Use the 4.10!"

Okay, Okay, Matthew--I hear you!

Go inside the front door, get the 4.10, look for shells--ah, up on the nightstand in the bedroom.

Meanwhile, the snake proves itself very accommodating by remaining in the same location.

Take aim! (I learned that lesson on the last rattlesnake I killed in the front yard)

BAM! It flew up in the air into the gravel of the driveway, where I got the shovel and chopped off its head. I have a superstitious belief that if you don't remove the head from the body, the snake can somehow pull itself together and come after you at a later date!

This is probably only the third or fourth copperhead I've killed in the 36 years I've lived in the hills of Crowley's Ridge, here in North Stoddard County, MO., and it's been years since I've killed a rattlesnake up on this hill.

When we first moved to the farm in 1975, I had run-ins with snakes every week. They were usually black snakes, which are good for keeping the vermin population down--so I don't kill them. However, the rattlesnakes were pretty populous, too, and I don't suffer them to live, if they venture up to the areas of human habitation. There aren't as many as there were in the 70's, I've noticed. Maybe they just keep out of sight, if there's noise and movement.

The snake population is all the more reason to keep dogs around a country home. They warn you of so many dangers, and they keep the coyote population at bay.

I keep a minimum of three good-sized dogs on my place, and I consider them worth their weight in gold. The border collie is the best watch dog, though she's not as mobile as she used to be. The other two are good back-ups for her. The big guy weighs about 75 pounds and was a Bollinger County Stray Project dog that I brought back from Ruthie Shirrell's place near Arab, Mo. The hound was a pup my daughter picked up from a neighbor. They are my friends and guardians. They even tolerate the outside cat, which came to live here when my son's neighbor in Kelso objected to her digging in her flower beds.

It takes a special kinds of mindset to live in these hills. When I drive down south through Dunklin and Pemiscot County, I can't imagine living in the flatland. I guess they don't have as many copperheads and rattlesnakes, but those wetlands have to be an ideal home for water moccasins. Yes, I have those creepy crawlers around the pond, but they rarely come up to the house.

To each his own, I suppose. To me, it's worth a little inconvenience (and, sometimes, danger) to look out over the hills and valleys of my Crowley's Ridge home.

I took a flashlight with me to the school board meeting last night, and when I got back home, I checked out the driveway and front porch to make sure I wasn't stepping into the jaws of an unwelcome stranger!

From the hills of Tillman, MO., this is your rural reporter Madeline, surviving in the wilderness another day!

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

When I get back to my car after riding around Florida's Lake Okeechobee at night, I always shine my light under the car and around my tires to make sure there's not a snake or an alligator lurking where I'm going to be racking my bike.

Haven't seen one yet, but it pays to be careful.

-- Posted by ksteinhoff on Tue, Sep 13, 2011, at 9:31 AM

Oh, boy---as bad as a snake is, an alligator would REALLY be a shock!!!

I've killed a bunch of snakes with a shovel. You can do it, if they're distracted by something else, but it's tricky if they see you coming up on them. Raise it up with both hands and come down right behind their head, hard. You do have to get pretty close to do it.

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Sep 13, 2011, at 11:30 AM

Like you goat lady, I would rather look out my windows and porch and deal with the wild life than live in town. I also have 4 great dogs that keep animals at bay with one exception, my daughter's dog is afraid of deer.

-- Posted by starry_056 on Tue, Sep 13, 2011, at 11:45 AM

You have got to love the way dogs watch a place, and everything that moves on, in, near or about!!! I'm with you, MD, I love living in the hills, and better yet having a couple of border collies for buddies down at the Lake is priceless. Keep watching the ground, and pet that pup for us, and by the by, the shotgun gauge is .410, #4's or #6's are very effective copperhead erasers!!!!! Loved the blog, regards, kkr

-- Posted by kkcaver47 on Tue, Sep 13, 2011, at 12:58 PM

Oh, thanks for the firearm lingo, kk. My consultant is out of the state right now, so I'm without a proofreader.

Tomorrow, I'll pick up some hot dogs for my dogs, but, until then, the border collie's reward is for me to play with her! She brings me her squeaky toy, and I throw it out in the yard. She brings it back, and this game goes on until she's worn out! Sometimes, we switch off to her yellow tennis balls.

I'm hoping it does turn cooler tomorrow. Too warm out there right now.

When my husband died, my friends urged me to "move to town!" I've lived in towns before, and it is not fun. Why would I want to leave my furry friends behind??

-- Posted by Madeline1 on Tue, Sep 13, 2011, at 6:44 PM

I swear I'll dream about snakes tonight!

-- Posted by lovebooks on Sun, Sep 18, 2011, at 3:18 PM

SHICNDNFNRNT!!!!!!!!!!find the hidden word!!!!!bet that scared the dnajsjfnne out of you!!! where was my brother!!!!

-- Posted by brndoakley@yahoo.com on Wed, Sep 21, 2011, at 7:22 PM

My dear, your brother was NOWHERE to be seen! And it's just as well, because he would probably have tried to boss me around--and I'm used to killing snakes more than he is!!

-- Posted by Madeline1 on Thu, Sep 22, 2011, at 1:34 PM

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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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