Rat Snake

December 4, 2012 

It is so warm that the snakes and skinks have come out of hibernation. Yesterday, just outside a hiking trail that crisscrosses a bluff, I drove around a wide curve on a rural road and came upon a huge black rat snake, looking like a piece of black hose stretched straight. It was sunning itself on the warm asphalt and wasn’t going to move. I stopped and got out. The snake, grooving on the heated surface, didn’t glance back.

Rat snakes are the least temperamental of snakes—unless you’re a bird. Someone was going to run it over—indeed, six cars pulled up from both directions and patiently waited for me—so I gathered it up, five pounds and seven feet of it, and it coiled around my left arm, the black-scaled beauty, and I carried it across the road.

The traffic resumed. The snake raised its head and flicked its tongue toward my face.  O friends who fear reptiles: May you meet with a rat snake, entwine with an obsidian-colored rat snake and feel your blood pressure lower, feel your aches and pains dissolve by reptilian muscles stronger by far than hands.

Reluctantly, I unraveled the beast and watched it glide languidly into the woods.  My arm muscles had been massaged by a living, rippling bracelet.

About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: eugenebaldwin.com. I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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