That Handsome Warrior Known As The Water Moccasin

“Very sneaky, but I’ve got your number,” I mumbled to the tiny red stemmed sprouts with the tell-tale winged leaf sticking out of the middle. “You can’t masquerade as a baby cabbage—I’m no fool. I know a Spanish needle when I see one.” I fluffed the soil between my fingers, loosening the weed seedlings along the row of exposed earth, but then stopped as a sound caught in my ear.

Silence. It was the sound of suspicious silence. The garden, at the far end of the property, had easily been in earshot of the playing children. They are old enough to no longer require constant watch, but the last I had seen them they were playing at the edge of the woods, and I knew what that meant.

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It is a strange business parenting. There is always a debate, and you waffle back and forth between using your own childhood as a measure of what ought to be done, or a measure of what ought not to be done. I grew up playing in the woods and walking the creek that trickled by my childhood home, unattended. There was the occasional nightmare of walking into a banana spider web with the hysterics that followed it, countless poison ivy exposures that taught me I have no susceptibility, the collection of lots and lots of fossilized sharks teeth millions of years old, but mainly what I recall about my time in the creek was the desire to explore and make something my own. The adults didn’t want the creek, so I did. I think that desire is innate in children.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. And that is just fine, other than my one creek adventure misgiving: that handsome warrior known as the water moccasin. He also likes the creek.

I’ve Met That Handsome Warrior Known As The Water Moccasin A Couple Of Times

He has shown up twice in the ten years I have lived at my current residence. Both times he was such a gentleman that I wasn’t sure what to make of him. There are just so many stories of how aggressive and vicious he is—was he wily like the fox, and waiting for me to let my guard down? He simply sat there, cool and collected.

He is undeniably the warrior of the snake realm, well, him and his friends the rattlesnakes. His thick body looks so dramatically muscular compared to the twiggy-armed nonvenomous black racer or red corn snake. His head is an artistic looking arrowhead shape, so sculpted, so strong—sort of the Greek god version of a snake. While all the nonvenomous snakes I have met nearly fell into a swoon upon seeing me and hysterically escaped my presence, the water moccasin calmly gazed at me. Neither time did he assume a threatening position, despite Big Dog bellowing at him from a safe distance. (Big Dog is instinctively wary of snakes.)

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The Warrior started the conversation something like this:

Well hello, I don’t believe we have met.
No…and I was hoping we never would.
I was thinking the ssssame, but I was too polite to ssssay it.
Are you going to bite me?
Frankly, I’d prefer not to. You see, venom takesss energy to make, and I am not a terribly ambitious ssssnake.
I see.
But I would like to point out that people mossst often get bitten by us when they are trying to kill us.
Noted.
Ssso…do you think you could just go your way, and I will go mine? I was hot on the trail of a little brown moussse.
Yes, of course.
Lovely meeting you. Please stop talking to the Ssspanish needles—they don’t understand you.

So, as you can see, thus far my experiences with him have been pleasant, but that doesn’t mean I trust him.

So I Left The Garden And Went To Investigate

The saw palmettos prefer to hide the path that leads into the woods. They always hang their big fronds across like Roman centurions rudely holding out big shields. I pushed past them—I descend from Romans and will take none of their flack. As the land slumped downward and slowly turned from thick palmettos to thick ferns, to thick lizard’s tail, to thick black mud, coiling brown tree roots stuck out and tricked the eye into thinking the warrior was under foot.

I had stopped to admire the biggest pine tree I had ever seen on our property—somehow it had escaped notice there all this time in the tangle of palmettos and ferns and lizard’s tail and all the other less stately pine trees—when I heard a not too distant giggle. I crept along, dodging rotting limbs and a few feathers that looked painfully all too familiar, until I spotted them down where the mud was thick and the creek sluggish.

“Go on,” the boy was urging his little sister to cross back the way she had come on a fat fallen log, and she was looking very small and clumsy. She was wearing plastic sandals really not appropriate for slippery log walking, and in another moment took a dive feet first into the thick black mud. She was well coated about mid-way to the knee. She let out the shriek of a girl that really prefers princess slippers and stuffed animals to nature walks.

Being the heroine that I am, I pulled her from it and over to the hard packed earth. The boy passed us and casually handed her something small as he headed back home.

“The mud is pokey,” she said as she wiped at her ankles. I slipped off her shoe and uncovered the culprit. She grimaced at the small stick and then grimaced at the mud streaked down her. Mud has a way of being contagious, and it seemed to have already attached itself to her shirt. She grimaced at that too, but suddenly brightened.

“I got this badge for crossing the log,” she said proudly. She held up a small piece of broken glass. In a former life it was a brown beer bottle, and the piece at hand had somehow managed to break just so, having almost a rounded quality without sharp edges. I wasn’t sure if I ought to be proud or insulted on her behalf. Clearly the boy had designs for her—he was going to train her to have the adventure-seeking-outdoors-woman qualities he expected in a playmate.

We made our way back to the garden as the sun was turning golden and beginning to lash out at our eyes. The girl lifted those Roman centurion shields for me, explaining that saw palmetto fronds are actually drawbridges—sharp drawbridges that occasionally saw at the mothers trying to pass under them.

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This is Grandpa Luffa. We picked him on the way in.

And So We Returned Without The Slightest Sign Of The Warrior…

…Or the raccoons, bobcats, possums, skunks, foxes, armadillos, rabbits, turkeys, deer, or many other creatures that were no doubt somewhere not too far away, but wanted nothing to do with us.

I think the mud may have put off the girl from the woods for a while, which will force the boy to come up with something new to explore, and I can’t say I am unhappy about that. Meanwhile, I will keep an eye out for the warrior.

I bet he is in the garden chasing a mouse right now, and probably talking about it with the Spanish needles.

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