My family and I lived out in the sticks just north of Monroe, Louisiana when I was in sixth and seventh grade. We lived in the Lake Park subdivision, a small subdivision of about two dozen houses surrounded by high swamp and forests full of wildlife. I learned to hunt and to run around there without fear of running into critters. The critters were there, but you had to watch out for them and give them their space.
I was a lucky kid; I had a dirt bike, a Yamaha 100. It wasn’t racing quality, but it had the power I needed to run around the woods and kick up some mud. I had many fun hours on that bike.
One evening I was coming home from tearing up some ground out behind the subdivision. It was dusk, and there were more shadows than not by this time of day. To get to the street from the woods there was a clearing through one of the empty lots. This clearing was about 10 to 12 feet wide, just enough to let the utility trucks through so they could check on the gas well in the back. I came out through that clearing and noticed a tree had fallen across it. There was no going around it, and it was large enough for me to pop a wheelie on if I could hit it just right.
I came up to it, dropped a gear, and gunned it. Just as my front tire rolled over it, I pulled slightly on the handle bars, and up came the tire—and both ends of the tree flew up into the air and practically touched above my head. I figured the tree was rotten which is why it flew apart like that. I pulled ahead about 10 yards and stopped so I could look at the carnage I had created behind me. What I saw was quite a show.
The “tree” was squirming and writhing in a big ball of pissed off snake. Obviously the snake was hurt, but not dead. And when it raised its head and starting looking around the area, I knew it was looking for me.
Water Moccasins are mean. If they can’t find anyone to bite, they usually bite themselves just to prove how mean they are. Now, I know the record for a water moccasin is about six or seven feet, but this one was twice that as it spanned that entire clearing. When it found me, and I suspect the heat from my engine, its head popped up, and it started coming toward me in that sideways slithering motion that makes most people go weak in the knees (I’m getting chill bumps thinking about it now). I figured it was time to continue on my way so I popped the clutch, intending to kick up some dirt in its face as I raced out of there.
Chug-chug-achug…the engine died! In my excitement, I forgot to downshift; third gear is not the gear to be in when you want to kick up some dirt. The snake was getting closer. I bounced the gear shift a couple of times, stood on the kick starter, and had it back running in record time. I don’t think I’ve gotten it started so fast in my life.
I got home just fine and, I don’t even think I told my parents about it. Out in the woods it’s common to encounter situations like this (though maybe not this big) so you just go on your way.