Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mushrooms, Meeting Cousin Moe, Rain, and Hog Nosed Snakes...Part #2/Snakes from my past, Venice, Florida...

Since returning from Northern Lower Michigan, the one thing that has not changed around these parts is the miserable, wet, cold, weather this spring has brought....the only good news is that the Summer months ahead are expected to be below normal, temperature wise...maybe we will get a break from the heat and humidity, which is sure to be around, considering the record rains that continue to fall.  My game at Lima Central Catholic yesterday was canceled, giving me a chance to mow both our lawn and Mom's....just Anissa's to go, and then probably back at it over the weekend.  The equally bad news concerning the rains...they are, this morning, backing up from the east coast, and now appear they will be around until at least Thursday...the extended forecast until the early days of June, don't look much dryer...warmer, yes, dryer?, not this year.

A Michigan Hog Nose and Snakes from my past_____

After leaving Cousin Moe's part of Michigan and returning the 30 miles south to the Boyne Falls area, we re-started the campfire...being in a damp, open location, we did not need to worry about starting any wildfires from our site....so we left the logs on the fire and kept the campsite warm, even while we were gone, and we had plenty of neighboring campers to keep an eye on things while we wandered off in search of the elusive Morels.  As we headed out towards the hills and woods to the north, some 50 yards from the campfire, I hear Rick say "Hey, what is this thing"?...I look over and can see what can only be described as a pile of dog dung....until Rick poked it with his walking stick.  That's when it came alive and headed away from the our walking path...until Clint, our 58 year old college buddy, decided to grab this snake by it's tail!  They come in all ages folks....lol!

By this time I was convince it was a Massasauga or Northern Michigan Timber Rattlesnake...although by the time Clint dropped it, it looked more like a Viper of some sort...whatever I thought, the damn thing looked poisonous to me.  Rick and the boys headed north, away from the action, while Clint and I decided to screw around with the snake...whatever it might be.  Clint was looking for a "Pet" to take to his house aquarium back in Kenton.  I wanted to get some good photos of the thing, so I could figure out just what the Hell we had come upon.

I grew up in South Florida back in the wild days of that area...the 1950s and 60s, long before the mass Blue Hair and Northern Snowbird Migration period.... and before the developers decided to pave the damn state from end to end, except for a few beaches.  My brother Mike and I had robbed Alligator nests, collecting small young gators, and keeping them until their teeth and bites got too dangerous for our fingers.  We also had a variety of snakes for pets... Rat Snakes, Black Racers, etc, to go with the Gopher Turtles and Toads we kept for varying lengths of time, until we got bored and let them go, or they took off and escaped on their own.  On two notable occasions I had face to face encounters with a couple of Florida's deadly snakes...and even a albino Wild Bore(which I wrote about on this blog a few moons ago).  But the snakes are today's subjects...

While living in South Venice, Florida, in the early and mid 50s...our home was a old trailer camp, where we rented a cottage at Alston's.  Our neighbors were the Ellis family...a family of good ol' boys and girls from the south.  Billy was the oldest son, and at about a year older than Mike(who at 2+ years older than me was the oldest sibling of our small tribe)...we boys constructed a "club house".  It was made of plywood, and we had candles and blankets in the interior, a dangerous combination in itself...but not nearly so dangerous as the one afternoon when we returned from an outing and decided to hang out in our little house.

After setting in BSing for a few minutes, we heard Billy cry out:  "SNAKE!!!!!"...and he wasn't bullshitting.  I looked towards the north and saw a large slithering beast heading under the old army blankets that covered the dirt floor.  Billy grabbed the forked stick, as he did, he knocked out the candle that dimly lit the club house.  Mike bolted towards the hinged door, opened that, giving us some light, and I, quicker than I had ever been before, or would ever be since, was right on his heels...leaving Billy and the Snake.  Billy had that sucker pinned down with his forked walking stick, as we ran to get dad and Billy's old man...Dad came running with his shotgun, as we watched Billy back out of the plywood house, still holding the snake down with stick.  As he back off, Dad took care of the snake with one well place shot with the 12 gauge....as it turned out, it was a 5 foot Diamondback Rattler....the two fathers made quick work of our Club House...pushing it over, and after adding gas, burned that sucker down.

The next notable encounter was a few years later, when my childhood friend, Mike Graff, and I used to prowl the streets and surrounding wooded areas of our Edgewood Section of the eastern side of Venice.  One day while exploring the area to the south, which today is a city recreational park, we came across a small stream that had become swollen and deeper, because of the summer rains of 1961...at 2 or 3 feet deep, we decided to walk across to get to some climbing trees on the other side....as we sunk down to neck levels and cruised across, I looked to my right, and not 3 feet away, was a adult Water Moccasin....looking me right in the eyes.  Needless to say, I was assholes, legs, and elbows, getting out of that ditch....Mike Graff was quicker than me, and led the way to the tree stand to the south, we didn't look back.   After our day of activity in the woods, we took the long way back....just so we would not have to cross that damn "ditch" again.  Snakes were a part of living in South Florida...our Red Bone Hound, "Brandy" killed one in our yard..sadly she paid the price as the snake sunk it's fangs into her neck, and she died as well...a few hours later at the vets.  I don't hate snakes, and am not afraid of them...but I do respect them, and unlike our friend Clint, I'm not picking one up without knowing just what kind it is.

So I know a little about snakes...but was puzzled by this one...it looked mean, looked to be poisionis, but had no rattles and never showed a fang....even while Clint was screwing with it, and I was snapping photos with my soon to be wet camera.  I finally told Clint to leave it alone...rattler or not, this thing had to be a protected variety, besides, I am not into killing wildlife just for the sake of killing....this thing was in a hurry to leave, and wasn't going to bother anybody.  After we returned from another not-so-successful try at mushrooming, I called Cousin Moe, and asked him if he knew what if might be.....

Moe, wasn't sure from my description, but guessed that, since it had no rattles, it was probably a young Timber Rattlesnake.  I wasn't sure, because it was somewhere between 18 inches and two feet long...but that was as good a guess as I had.  I would not find out until returning home on Sunday night, that we were wrong about the type of snake and the dangers.   After researching our "Rattlesnake" online for a few hours Sunday night, I was convinced that our deadly snake was just a scared Eastern Hog-Nose, that was more frightened of us, than we were of him(or her).....but it sure made for good photos and some stories to tell around the campfires of future trips.

For more on the Eastern Hog-Nose Snake check out this link:

As you can tell by the second photo...this is the snake we encountered....guess we didn't really have to check our sleeping bags and boots before we next used them...but I wasn't taking any chances.

Tomorrow, The Mushroom Hunting Goes South_____

Shortly after our Snake encounter and mushroom walk, which netted another 3 or 4 blacks...we headed back to camp, to eat supper, which was to be followed by some serious Cigar Smoking and beer drinking....we would get some unexpected advice from a Veteran Mushroom Hunter, from Jackson, Michigan.  That and the final part of my trip story coming up tomorrow....

back later>>>>

Photos-top left, my best shot, as the Hog Nose appears to be smiling at me...then as he looked as we came across it...looks dangerous to me, but he was just hiding out.  Our campfire and the small Trout filled stream we camped beside..which I also drowned my Fuji Camera in....at least the chip was waterproof, the camera?  Not so much...more on that tomorrow....Alston's Cottages in South Venice, the "X" is where we called home from 1954 until the Summer of 1957...brother Mike, me, and the various Poling cousins, and Ellis clam, spent many hours hiking and avoiding getting bitten or eaten in the swampy area to the east(right looking at the photo)..and finally a top view of our Hog Nose...looking much like the one on the attached link:


1 comment:

Deborah Wilson said...

Looks like you guys had a good time. I must say that the pics are very good - at least now I will remember what a Hog Nose looks like.

Rat snakes are prevailent in my area - in the summer time, at night, if you live in the woods or close to them [as I use too] every so often you can hear the screams of small rodents/other small animals. Rat snakes like to hang out in trees and sneak around bird feeders. I have a pic of a rat snake on my blog.