Vicious venom voided; vows validated

When Kay and I were dating, a snake may have figured into her decision to marry me. She and her daughter Melissa were visiting me in my mobile home when she looked out the window and there was a big snake in the yard. Summoned, I reached in the closet, picked up my .22 rifle, opened the window and put a bullet into the serpent’s head. She told me later that my heroic action regarding the snake prompted her decision to want to marry me, which she did.

Thirty-nine years of wedded bliss later, another snake incident occurred that validated her decision that she’d married the fellow who would take care of her, at least as far as protecting her from snakes was concerned.  Sunday afternoon, while I was gathering household garbage to take to the dumpster, she was checking her flower beds out front when she called my attention to a snake — not just any snake but a deadly coral snake crawling through her flower beds.

My machete was in the corner in the garage, I retrieved it and I walked over to where she was pointing and sure enough, I immediately recognized a coral snake crawling along. A couple of quick whacks and the deed was done.

A few days earlier, a friend had reported on social media of an encounter his six-year-old daughter had with a coral snake.

He reported that she had found the brightly colored snake in the front yard, picked it up to bring to show him where he was sitting on the back porch. She told him it bit her finger; he immediately identified it as a coral snake and headed with her to the doctor. A helicopter ride to the hospital followed, and thankfully, the snake had apparently not been able to release much venom. She recovered nicely, leaving her and her dad with quite a story to tell. Not many people are bitten by a coral snake are so fortunate.

After I posted a photo on Facebook of the snake in our yard, there was a flood of responses that varied from a couple who were not in favor of killing any snake to upwards of 80 who were relieved that I had put this poisonous snake out of its misery. Most respondents had never seen a coral snake with a few reporting encounters a time or two; finding coral snakes are relatively rare occurrences.

OK, so just what is a coral snake and why are most people so interested in them? I did a Google search on coral snakes and confirmed much of what I already knew. The number one criterion in identifying a coral snake from other similar species is the little rhyme that says, ”Red and yellow, kill a fellow; red and black, venom is lack.” The one in our yard had the telltale markings where the narrow band of yellow was touching the wider band of red. There was no doubt about this snake’s identity; it was a coral snake and at about 30 inches long, a mature one at that.

Unlike other poisonous snakes which are pit vipers, coral snake venom is neurotoxic which affects the way the brain communicates with muscles, slurring speech, affecting movement and ultimately ceasing cardiac or respiratory function. Coral snakes are related to mambas, cobras and sea snakes. Differing from pit vipers, coral snakes do not strike but because of such small mouths, they latch on and chew, releasing the toxic venom. Fortunately, no deaths have been reported since 1967 when antivenin was developed.

I love living in the country. I love to watch the deer over in the pasture, see an occasional fox and turkey. But coral snakes? No thank you, even if dispatching one affirms the fact that Kay married the right guy, at least as far as protecting her from snakes is concerned.

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