Biochemical Soul Musings on Nature, Science, Evolution, Biology, and Education

22Aug/08Off

A Small Example of the Ignorance of (Some) Rednecks

Black Rat Snake (aka "the only good snake is a dead snake")

Today, once again, I witnessed a not-too-uncommon display of ignorance and primitive barbarism in the rural south.

I was driving along a small country back road near my home in North Carolina, listening to a book on CD (no it’s too embarrassing to tell…OK, fine – it was “Twilight” the first novel by Stephenie Meyer about a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire. Hey screw you – it has amazing character development and who doesn’t like vampire stories?)

Anyway, I was ambling down the road when I saw what I thought might be a snake crossing up ahead. No one was behind me, so I stopped in the middle of the road and got out to check it out. I’m usually the guy who stops to pick up box turtles and carry them across the road – what can I say? I’m a biologist. Sure enough, it was a black rat snake of average length - about 4 feet long – stretched out across the road and moving as if in no hurry. I was glad he had not been run over - usually when I see a snake in the road it’s already dead.

I see a truck pull on to the road a quarter mile down and head right toward us. “Shit,” I think, “This truck will probably aim right toward him.” So I grab the tip of the snake’s tail with the intention of toss him in one quick movement into the ditch. But the snake’s scales were firmly latched onto the blacktop. Plus, he was much quicker than I anticipated. He lashed out at me and coiled into a raised striking position in the middle of the road. He did not find my actions quite as altruistic as I did. Black rat snake bites can be quite painful, considering their row of tiny sharp teeth. I’ve been bitten by one before. They also have a tendency to chew on you once they grab hold. So I backed off.

The truck was not slowing down and other cars were now moving towards us. My car was parked in the middle of the road. I could not see any sticks or anything to handle the snake with, so I decided to leave it to the fates. Maybe the redneck will see that I was just out looking at the snake and will leave it alone, just for my sake (note: I come from a long line of Arkansas/Texas rednecks myself). I get in my car and quickly start it up. I slowly pull forward, and the truck, which had a long trailer attached to the back pulled to a stop in front of the snake. I watched an elderly man get out of the pickup in my rearview. He glanced at the snake, jumped back into the cab, swerved his wheels into the center of the lane, and squashed the snake.

Yet this old man went out of his way to smash a creature that spends its days protecting the man’s crops, or his neighbors. Out here, I’ve seen people swerve to hit opossums, raccoons, snakes, and any other little non-dog-or-cat species.

I saw it writhing over itself - dying - as the truck righted into the lane.

Why do I taste burning rubber?

The black rat snake is non-venomous. It feeds almost solely, as its name implies, on rodents. The land around where we had been is all farmland, the truck was carrying farm equipment, and the man looked himself to be a local farmer.

It makes me sick. I simply cannot understand the mind that would derive pleasure from brutally snuffing out our animal neighbors, particularly considering that these are people that have been raised in their presence. I’m not a hippie PETA activist. And I’m not a vegetarian. In fact, I do experiments on animals for brain research. But the pointless, barbaric smashing of animals with a car for pure fun simply reinforces my own views about large swaths of the human population – namely that in many people, pure barbarism lingers within their psyches, reinforced by superstition, fears of things they don’t understand, and utter unadulterated ignorance.

Comments (5) Trackbacks (1)
  1. I agree with your reaction. I get sad even when people kill bees or spiders that happen to find their way indoors. I have to wonder how likely it is that that other driver would describe himself as pro-life.

  2. Re: spiders and insects

    That’s another one that really bothers me. I mean, if you have a brown recluse in your house that’s one thing. But I simply cannot understand how people will go out of their way to kill anything unnecessarily.

    I have had only one occassion to kill any wildlife at my house. A few weeks ago I found a huge Black Widow (I have lots – pictures here (this one I let go). Most of them I am fine with, but I found one with a giant egg case on my porch. I have WAY too many already, so I killed this one. It made me feel more than a little guilty. A deep guilt that made me think that if a tree fell on me, I would deserve it. I only did it because of its proximity to my front door, because of the high danger level (serious neurotoxin), and because of the huge population.

    But seriously why do people hate insects so much? I love finding Widows, Copperheads, or any other critters around my house. I think they are all beautiful and amazing. I caught a copperhead on my porch and took him to a woodpile in my back woods.

    I occasionally will think that it’s just because I grew up in the woods – that I’m used to them and have learned to respect them. But I know hoards of people who grew up similarly, yet they still slaughter anything they don’t like.

    Color me baffled.

  3. I tried to get a snake out of the road today, too… but when I got a closer look, I could see that his head was already crushed. =/ I think he was a Black Racer, but he might’ve been a Black Rat Snake… I’m not sure. He was still alive, and trying to slither away, but he was only slowly writhing in the same place. I picked him up (there’s no way he could’ve bit me because of how badly his head was damaged) and put him in a woody area on the side of the road. At least he can die there instead of being continuously flattened on the road. Poor little snake. D:
    Though in this case he was probably hit on accident… but I DO live in Florida, and there are a bunch of rednecks like that here, too. I even see dead Armadillos! The speed limit coming out of the college is 15 mph, and Armadillos are always moving so slow… I can’t imagine anyone hitting one of them on accident when you’re only going 15-25 mph, you can see them in your headlights way before you get to them. ><

  4. When I first moved to the south, I was driving for a field trip to survey mussels in Alabama and I came upon a pick-up stopped in the middle of the road. My coworker, born and raised in Mississippi said “Oh, he’s killed him a snake” eventhough we were still at least a half mile away from the stopped truck and we couldn’t see much detail. Well sure enough my seemingly psychic coworker was correct. I got out of the truck and saw this gentleman holding a 5 foot long, very beautiful, very dead, timber rattlesnake. I said “Oh you killed it” and he said “yeah” then I asked “what are you going to do with it?” He proceeded to throw it in the back of the truck and said “I’m gonna take it home and eat it”.

    I was angry when I first came upon this scene, but very quickly I was glad that he wasn’t going to let this snake go to waste. I thought to myself “maybe he didn’t kill this snake out of ingnorance, but rather for food”. This is one of two stories I tell to family and friends when they ask about what it was like to move to the south.

    A couple years later some guys killed over 140 cottonmouths here locally within a few mile radius. The cottonmouths were moving out of the hills to get down to the river and unfortunately the rednecks were there during this migration. The rednecks documented their ‘hunt’ in an e-mail that circulated locally. I hear they may have gotten in some trouble, but I’d be surprised if it was anything more than a slap on the wrist.

  5. I have seen the same thing on more than one occasion.
    Redneck = glorified ignorance. If these people are not killing, shooting or abusing something or someone they are not happy, all in the name of some god they think condones such actions. Two nights ago a big wheels truck drove through our neighborhood and shot a sleeping deer in the middle of the night. Big macho men, big truck, big guns, compensating for a tiny brain and tiny wee wee.