Snake Hate and Sophocles

By on September 1, 2011

By Chris Wave –

I hate snakes. Snakes are no friend to Homo sapiens. Achilles knew this. Cleopatra knew it and Eve knew it with certainty. My personal snake-hate hails back to a childhood of summers spent in the swampy, musky south. This deep-rooted, protective mechanism embodied my youth thanks to mean boys and cousins in the South Carolina tobacco fields.

I was a “hander” back in those pre-teen days. Handers handed tobacco to Stringers (pronounced; Straaaanger), and lickety-split, mind you. Stringers were paid by the stick and they got testy when paired with slow handers. So you get the point that this was a high-pressure job for my three dollars a day.

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A good hander handed by feel; three sturdy leaves, four if a puny one showed up in your fist. A good hander never examined the leaves for say…a sidewinder. Mean boys and cousins knew this. Just about the time you had a good rhythm going and your stringer was happy as a clam, some squirmy, black vermin would be laying in your leaf pile hissing and rattling its forked tongue at you.

Sometimes the mean, devilish boys would think it uproariously funny to remove these predators from their natural habitat and place them down unnatural habitats, like the backs of pre-pubescent stringers or in your pile of tobacco leaves.

As if this were not enough torture, snakes would sidle up the side of your fishing boat on weekend outings; skulk around the swimming hole, or dangle in the ditch behind the house waiting for you to saunter by unawares.

*I probably didn’t see this many snakes in this many places. My memory is creative and makes up stuff. This is the problem with most of my irrational fears—my good brain goes whacky in the imagination cubicle and poof! Some new horrifying threat rises from the mist like… like a snake, by golly!

Glory hallelujah, there is a God in heaven who had mercy on me and caused my South Carolina-born and bred mother from this snake-infested state to marry a Yankee man so I could be reared in a snake-less Chicago suburb and put my imagination to rest for half a century.

Snakes in Illinois are mostly museum displays for the purpose of educating snakeless, Midwestern children. The perp of my nightmares is usually behind glass; dead, stuffed, shellaqued, and artfully arranged between dusty, silk plants proving to me nothing has moved in that aquarium for years.

A recent trip sported me off to the swampy south again. Caught unawares, having all but forgotten my snake-hate, my enemy emerged again to terrorize.

Unloading the trunk of my car that steamy morning I heard it again…the dreaded hissssss of my childhood. I cut my eyes to the left and the right without so much as a twitch of muscle fiber. I took note of the unmowed grass filled with oniony ramps (snake food!  To be sure), muddy lake, cracks in the sidewalk, tree branches dangling over my head. The demon could be anywhere. I leaned into the trunk of the car. HSSSSSSSSS. Low grade panic lodges in my gut and flashes cold all over my body.

I scratched my memory, back to the hander years. I remembered that certain snakes would scoot away from you at a satisfying clip if you turned and ran at them. The big question was; which snake dallies away from your bold advance and which of the viperous buggers tucks in to your ankle for lunch?

Hissssssssss. I pondered climbing onto the deck of my car, pulling my vulnerable little feet into my suitcase. I prayed. A picture of Apostle Paul, a man who ate rocks, emerged. This guy shook loose from embedded reptilian fangs like they were Cheetos snaggled up in his sleeve.

Faith waxes strong inside the Bible belt. My newly emboldened, prayer-fortified self, turned around to face the enemy. I leaned, backside against the open suitcase, almost sitting on my curling iron. Hissssssssssss. Long and threatening hissing now and close. Very close.

I backed tighter to my suitcase. Hssssssssss. Something wet on my butt! Hissssssssssssssssss. Then I smelled it; the unmistakable odor of hairspray hissing and spewing, terrorizing me, provoking cardiac arrhythmias and faintness of spirit.


*There is a good message here about facing-the-enemy or the enemy-is-within. Just as soon as I grieve the loss of all that expensive hairspray, I’m going to ponder that message in earnest. For now, some good words to live one’s life by are those of wise, old Sophocles that bastion of good advice;

To him who is in fear, everything rustles—or hisses.


Chris Wave, author of Conversations at the Girlville Diner (Hariold Shaw 1999, Waterbrook 2001)

About Chris-Marie Wave

Chris Wave is a former R.N working in many fields of medicine from maternal/neonatal, Coronary Intensive care units, Surgical Urology and orthopedics In 1988 her focus turned to more natural, gentle and complete healing modalities which led to a limited, acute care apprenticeship with a local homeopathist. In 2006 Chris became a Certified Natural Health Practitioner (CNHP) and then began pursuing her Naturopathic Doctor from Trinity School of Natural Health Studies. She also obtained a Master Herbalist in the process and is a Certified Nutritional Microscopist, assisting clients to total wellness using live and dry blood cell analysis and nutritional biofeedback.

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Snake Hate and Sophocles