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Vertrees: Fear of snakes only rational, he hissed

Carrol Vertrees

Carrol Vertrees

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Updated: April 24, 2014 6:19AM



I stand solid as a rock on this: I’m agin sins committed by other people, all potholes, long sermons, guns in schools, baseball in cold weather.

I am slow to anger, usually quick to forgive and only modestly humble. But I am not quite ready to forgive the people responsible for the photo on page 22 of last Sunday’s paper. I refer to the place where I spent a long un-illustrious career.

In a story about the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore there was this scary picture of the eastern massasauga, also known, pardon the expression, as a SNAKE.

I reckon it is time for me to open up — I am a HERPETOPHOBIA person, meaning that snakes scare the dickens out of me. Me, a farm boy.

Back home, I often walked down our dusty lane on warm days to pick up our mail delivered by the rural mail person. Sometimes I saw a snake’s track where it had crawled across the sand. That always caused me to run and leap. I still wonder why a snake crosses the road.

We often saw a snake in the garden that looked fierce when it flattened out and hissed. We called it a “spreadin’ viper.” I heard that it was harmless. It was always scary to me. I wondered, even as an unschooled kid, why we need snakes of any kind in our world.

When our condo was still new, there was a slight opening at the bottom of the screened in porch and one day I saw this wiggling giant of a snake almost as big as a pencil that seemed to be saying in snake talk, “Hey, look at me.”’

I got a lifesaving break when our dear neighbor, Anita Kemper, who left this world too soon, saw that I was struck dumb. She got a piece of newspaper, came in and took the big reptile away, to where I did not ask or care.

I wish the National Lakeshore place a lot of success, but I am not going to the “Focus on Reptiles and Amphibians” later this month.

The rattler out there in the Lakeshore area is, in the comforting words of a research ecologist, the only rattler we have around here. And this one is hard to find and “reclusive.” I had not planned to search for it anyway. I will just be sure there are no cracks left on our porch.

The weirdest snake thing that I can remember was in a recent story and photo about a snake worshipper wrestling with a big rattlesnake in a religious ceremony of some kind. The snake bit him and he died. People were watching, and I wonder what they thought. This reminded me that some people believe there was a snake in the Garden of Eden, but they cannot prove it.

I believe in religious freedom — do not dare criticize Methodist potlucks — people should be free to do their own theological stuff if it does not hurt others, but I have never understood how worshipping with snakes fits into the meaning of life. Actually I don’t try to comprehend it.

Snakes are not only a slithering bother and unnecessary, they can kill, as this incident proved. Or we can ask Elizabeth Taylor, aka Cleopatra.

Please excuse what may sound irreverent, but I am old and need a lot of answers before I go.

My question is: Did the folks watching this fatal encounter forgive the snake?



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