My columns on the milk snake and hoop snake have generated so much interest that I have been flooded with letters and phone calls from readers all over southern Indiana. They all wanted me to learn about the stories or personal encounters they have had with snakes.
While I can’t possibly relate all of these stories, I had to pass on some of these accounts as they are real classics. Let us start with William Hart of Martinsville.
Mr. Hart began, “Sometimes snakes do milk cows. This is fact which I personally witnessed when I was 10 years old. We lived at Sommerset, Kentucky, on a 130-acre farm. We had a cow which had lost its calf to a pack of dogs.” Hart goes on, “When it came milking time she would not give out her milk. When we would release her she would head for the back pasture. My grandfather had me follow her.”
Now for a vivid account — “She went up to an old hollow stump. A huge snake rose up from inside the stump and began to nurse. My grandfather didn’t believe me so the next day he went himself.”
Neal Allison, who lived south of Washington, had a lot of snake stories. I can only relate one of his most interesting accounts.
“When Dad and his brother and uncles farmed in the White River bottoms they stayed in a cabin for a week at a time. One day dad put his team in the barn. He reached into the feed box and got hold of a chicken snake. He killed the snake.” This however was not the end of the story.
Allison goes on, “Dad got heck from his uncle who was the chief cook. He was mad at Dad because he had killed the snake. Uncle Mit told by father that the snake kept the rats and mice away from the cabin.”
My father, Martin Allison, also had some stories about the old river bottom cabin.
Now for a real whopper of a tale. This one is from Ross Andrew of Spencer. On a mushroom hunting trip Andrew heard this story from a man at a sawmill.
The man asked if they had seen any snakes. Then he began, “Well if you do see any snakes I hope it isn’t a hoop snake. They are the worst of them.”
The story teller and another man had been hunting in a woods south of Paoli when they had an encounter with a hoop snake. The story goes on, “We startled a hoop snake. It became very excited, took its tail in its mouth and started rolling toward Elwood. He heard it coming and jumped in time and the snake missed him and hit a chestnut tree.”
Now starts the whopper, “The venom from the snake entered the tree and the tree began to swell. The tree was cut and the stump was 10 feet in diameter. The tree was sawed into lumber and there was enough of it to build a three bedroom house.”
This was, however, only the start, “When the lumber was painted, he used a white lead thinner with turpentine which removed the venom from the wood. The wood now began to shrink.”
Going on the story gets even better, “When it stopped shrinking the house became so little that it was used as a dog house.”
Andrews asked the man if this was really true. He replied, “If I ever told the truth, that actually happened.”
Well you can look at this statement two ways. It really happened, or he never did tell the truth.
I have run out of space and still have many stories to tell. Will have to feature more in future columns. Thanks to all those who gave me permission to pass on these accounts.
If you also have nature stories drop me a line at 6350 S. 100 E., Washington, IN 47501. I enjoy hearing from you.