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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!
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!
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 573-722-5322.