It’s not as bad as it sounds, but it was, in turns, scary then hilarious. You see, all summer, I had been hearing local stories of copperheads. For those of you unfamiliar with scary snake stories, copperheads play a big role in southern versions, and Cottonmouths are their only real competitors for being the bad guy. Warnings about copperheads started when I was a little boy. I have never seen one, and I seriously doubt any of those who warned me had either. But, the stories persist.

The stories this summer raised the stakes because they took place in my part of town. People in my neighborhood strike me as level-headed folks not given to wild imaginations, so the stories stuck with me. At this point, the snake stories were interesting but not a concern. That changed when a few people said they found snakes in bales of pine straw.

I keep pine straw. Usually, there are at least five to ten bales under the deck. My yard is a civilized place, so I had no reason to expect a snake—any snake—to find its way under my deck. I live in the middle of the city, for crying out loud. Well, the comforting facade of city life disappeared quickly when, after ripping apart two bales, the third yielded my friend pictured above.

Holding a wad of  straw in my hand,  I went to pick up some that had I had dropped when the fallen straw moved! Still, knowing I lived on a street with fire pits and fiber internet access, I paid little attention to the movement. If I recall, I was leaning over to grab the next handful when my brain registered, SNAKE!!!

Isn’t it amazing how in two seconds one can remember EVERY copperhead story ever heard and jump three feet at the same time?   Then, it occurred to me–this is a baby only a few inches long—so I calmed down. Next, it hit me—where are mom and the sibs??? Panic!!! There was still an undisturbed bale near the one I was pulling straw from, so I realized I needed a strategy other than panic. At this point, I took a picture, put the runt in a flower pot, and googled to see what it was—a harmless brown snake. Whew!

I decided not to kill it but then could not decide its fate. What I didn’t want to happen was that later when it was larger, my wife would casually happen upon it, forcing me, after the screaming subsided, to explain why I had allowed it to stay.

Next, I considered putting it in the far corner of the backyard but then thought none of my neighbors, who let their dogs play in the back,  and who, no doubt had heard copperhead stories themselves, would want a surprise encounter either. So, after staring at it for a few minutes, I decided to do Schrödinger’s cat with a snake and put it in the trash. That solved the immediate problem, but there is still pine straw under the deck, and I have never seen the rest of the family. I hope they don’t know any copperheads…

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