Friday, May 1, 1998

Bev the SNAKE KILLER, 1998

Early Summer, 1998:
So, some of my friends requested I tell the story of why I am known as Bev the snake killer by my friends in Springfield, where we lived for 10 years.

When we 1st moved to the Springfield area, we found a house, 3 miles from the main road, that backed up to the woods, hiking trails out my back door, down the hill to the Sangamon River.  It was in between Springfield and Petersburg, IL (where my hubby worked).  The road to our house from the main road had corn fields on either side.  If there was a lot of snow, the blowing snow made the road just disappear and you're snowed in for days unless you have 4 wheel drive on your car.

There was about  a block stretch when you got way back in there, of about 10 houses, that all backed up to the woods and the river.  We lived in a duplex on that block.  It was like a Stephen King novel setting, way way back, very scary at night and during thunderstorms, giant trees falling all around you.  Out our back door was the woods, you could walk down the hill, down the trails along the river, hike, fish, bon fires on the little beach down there, 4 wheelin, etc.  Looked exactly like this pic below that I found on Google, without the tree swing (that would have been cool):

BUT there are also venomous snakes down there. 
SO one day, hubby was at work, our kids were like 5 and 6, they wanted to go in the yard with Max our dog (who was a giant Rottweiler and VERY protective of them). So they go through the mud room, into the back yard and I immediately hear Max barking, and the kids screaming.  As I was running towards the yard, they run past me screaming, "SNAKES"!!!

So I go out there, my neighbors on either side of us are looking out their windows by this time.  There are 2 GIANT red & yellow looking snakes (red & yellow = kill a fellow, as the saying goes), sunning themselves in my yard!  They must have made their way up from the river and they were sunning themselves.   I got a little closer to them and the big one started acting agressive and moving TOWARDS me.  My neighbors Missy & Tim were screaming out their window, "they're the poisonous ones,  get back!!!" 

But all I could think of was primal instinct.  Like a mother lioness, heat rising off of me, like, this is where my dog and children roam.  Seeing something, anything, being aggressive and deadly towards my children, made something  inside of me snap and I went TOWARDS them with a fury I've never felt.  I was thinking, you people sit back and watch.  I'm from Chicago.  I'm big, they're little.  They should have stayed away from my children.  I'll literally rip them apart. They should have stayed in the woods and the river where they belong.  Now they're gonna die.

I was looking for something to kill them with.  I expected them to head for the woods and river but they went for my home and retreated down a hole under my mud room!  OH, HELLLLL NO.  So I THOUGHT I had a great idea and got the gas can.  I POURED GAS DOWN THE HOLE UNDER MY HOUSE THEY HAD MADE and was looking for a light to light it.  Thank God I didn't find a light, my husband later told me that would have been BAD.  But as soon as the gas reached them, THEY CAME SHOOTING OUT, RIGHT AT ME!  I PICKED UP A STEEL SHOVEL (I had for scooping up the giant Rottweiler poop) AND HIT THE BIG ONE ON THE HEAD WITH THE SIDE OF THE SHOVEL SO HARD, I CHOPPED HIS HEAD RIGHT OFF!    But because we were up above the river and sandy shoreline, the ground was a dirt, clay and sand mixture and the shovel was now stuck in the ground from me using Superwoman strength to kill the first snake.  The second snake was coming TOWARDS me and her dead mate.  She didn't look happy.  I realized this is no garden snake showing this kind of aggression.   I finally got the shovel out of the ground and slammed it down on her midsection.  BABY SNAKES STARTED COMING OUT OF HER, LIKE 15-20 OF THEM!!!   I started smashing all I could with the shovel, cursing at them as I went along.   My neighbors were screaming, laughing and cheering out their windows, SNAKE KILLER, WHOO HOOO!!! 

While I was picking up the lifeless bodies of the 2 big snakes and throwing them into the woods some of the babies got away.  I'm sure they grew up to seek vengeance for their parents, I wouldn't know, we moved out after that.  

I've never been that way before or after in my life. In a killer rage. I was like a raging bull, steam coming off of me, my eyes wide and alert, like this is it, life or death. I thought, if I don't hit them hard enough, they'll just come after me and I was a long way from a hospital with anti-venom. 

All the neighbors bought me drinks that night. My nickname went from Chicago to Snake Killer.  And to this day, when I call my country friends Denise or Missy & Tim, they answer the phone "What's up Snake Killer!"  When I'm feeling sad or defeated, Denise still tells me, "COME ON NOW, YOU'RE TOUGH AS NAILS, REMEMBER, YOU'RE NOT JUST A HOUSEWIFE, YOU'RE  MY BEST FRIEND.   YOU'RE THE SNAKE KILLER FROM CHICAGO FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!"

It was unusual to see so many kinds of poisonous snakes, but that year we had record flooding, I think it was 1997 or 1998.  Two rattlesnakes were also killed at different times that summer in those same woods by another neighbor, Mr.Morrison.  Later that same summer, I was walking through the woods with our dog Max and I heard a rattle, so did Max, he wanted to go towards it, he knew by this time snakes were mama's enemy.  It was coming from under some leaves nearby, right off the side of the trail we were on.  Man, I've never run UP that hill that fast in my life.  We always walked with BIG STICKS after that. It was more fun getting down there on the 4 wheelers, less stressful getting to the beach.

SO, If you're from the big city, like Chicago, and you're transported to the country, like unincorporated Sangamon County, just know that your killer instincts go with you.  

We believe the snakes I killed that day were Copperheads.  They looked exactly like this:
Image: American copperhead


American copperhead 
Agkistrodon contortrix
Description: Chestnut color dominates overall, with darker crossbands of rich browns that become narrower on top and widen at the bottom. The top of the head is a coppery color.
Characteristics: Very common over much of its range, with a natural camouflage ability to blend in the environment. Copperheads are rather quiet and inoffensive in disposition but will defend themselves vigorously. Bites occur when the snakes are stepped on or when a victim is lying next to one.  A copperhead lying on a bed of dead leaves becomes invisible.  Its venom is hemotoxic.
Habitat: Found in wooded and rocky areas and mountainous regions.
Length: Average 60 centimeters, maximum 120 centimeters.
Distribution: Eastern Gulf States, Texas, Arkansas, Maryland, North Florida, Illinois, Oklahoma, Kansas, Ohio, New York, Alabama, Tennessee, and Massachusetts.

I knew why she was being so aggressive after I saw she was about to give birth.  She was doing the same thing as me, protecting her young.  But I did what I had to do that day.  And then we moved back to the city.  I feel way safer walking around Chicago than the wilderness.   I thought I wanted the country life but I realized I'm Chicago at heart.