Thursday, June 25, 2009

Snakes and the Wild West




Despite the brutal heat here in southern Louisiana in June, I’ve been getting out occasionally in the late evening for short walks. And it appears from my walks that our local snake population is doing quite well. Almost every evening I’ve been out, I’ve seen a small snake on the road. I don’t believe they are the same snake, although they look close enough alike to be kin. I’ve seen them in at least three fairly widespread locations. I finally took the camera with me and snapped a few pics. They all look like the one featured here.

The most disconcerting thing about these wee ones is that they look a bit like copperheads to me, although I’ve not gotten down at eye level with them in an attempt to verify that. Even a small snake can cause a man to dance a jig when you nearly step on one. And snakes hardly ever invite you to pull up a patch of ground and visit. They just don’t seem all that friendly a creature.

In other news, I got my copy of The Tarnished Star, by Jack Martin (aka Gary Dobbs), and finished it in a couple of days. It’s really good. Fast paced, and well written in a straightforward, no nonsense style. The characters are clearly defined and you know who to root for. There’s the sheriff, a true upholder of the law, and his fiancé, who is actually a school teacher. There’s a local big rancher who runs roughshod over his opposition. He isn’t completely a villain, but he hasn’t done a good job of raising his spoiled son and therein lies the rub.

There’s considerable action in the book but not a lot of gore. I’ve been thinking lately of the “sub-genres” of western fiction. I’d certainly include The Tarnished Star as a “traditional” western. Think Louis L’Amour and James Reasoner. This is in opposition to the “spaghetti” western, such as the books by Joe Millard featuring the Eastwood character “blonde,” the “hyper-violent” western such as the Edge series by George Gilman, or the “adult” westerns such as the Trailsman or the Longarm series.

All in all, a very promising debut novel from our blogosphere friend.
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39 comments:

Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Charles,

You are brave to get close to one of the evil creatures! I run like hell, poison or no! And I was raised with them. The pictures of the little guy gave me the creeps. Be careful with the smaller venomous ones -- they have more poison when they bite because it hasn't been dispersed throughout their bodies yet. (So my mother used to say.)

Lana Gramlich said...

Thanks for the snake photos, baby. You're a braver person than I, braving the obnoxious heat these days!

pattinase (abbott) said...

It's even in the nineties here in Michigan. And last week it was barely 70.

ivan said...

Shnekindegrass!
Or is it asphalt?

Heff said...

I found a snake on the Floral Heff grounds (actually IT found me), and I screamed like a schoolgirl.

Cloudia said...

Ssssssscintilating Snake post ;-)

Thanks for boosting a fellow blogger, Charles. We'll check it out....Aloha

Comfort Spiral

benjibopper said...

I imagine we don't seem all that friendly to snakes either.

Guess they like the heat. I wonder if climate change is a factor in their boom.

Scott said...

Charles,

I do love animals, but that doesn't extend to the snake family...I'm not necessarily afriad of them, but I don't like the idea of those little fuckers slithering around with poison running in their systems...I've killed a fair number of snakes in my day, but if they're not rattlers or copperheads, I do let them go. As far as pet snakes go, I'm not a big fan either. I've handled a good number of pet pythons and boas, but I don't trust them...you can't read them like a mammalian pet.

BernardL said...

Your snake post immediately reminded me of the late great Croc Hunter. It was the episode he went face to face with a spitting cobra and ended up with venom in his eyes. He jumps up yelling 'Crikey'. :)

Steve Malley said...

I was snake-bit when I was younger-- my folks thought I was lying and told me to walk it off. Lucky me, the venom (whatever it was, hard to see the suckers in tall grass) was mild and I was only sick for a couple days.

Here in NZ, we have no snakes, and that story verges on the unbelievable...

Randy Johnson said...

Yes, I've never two-stepped better in my life than those times I ran into snakes. Fortunately no big ones, though a good friend, six-four, has a picture of one he killed(arm extended straight up, snake lapped across the palm with a lot of tail coiled on the ground).

laughingwolf said...

yup, best to be careful of ALL snakes... til they tell ye different ;)

and grats to jack/gary :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Michelle,

I’ve also heard that some small snakes have no poison because they haven’t started to manufacture it yet. I’m not going to find out either way if I can help it.

Lana Gramlich, yeah, but you like me all sweaty. ;)

pattinase, I would kill for 70 about now.

ivan, gravel in fact. They gravel our road fairly regularly.

Heff, something about a snake turns a brave man’s bowels to water.

Cloudia, lol. He’s right purty. At a distance.

benjibopper, no there does seem to be some ancient enmity between snakes and human kind. I see cycles in animals a lot. I did see some small ones last summer but not as many as this year.

Scott, I used to keep grass snakes as pets when I was growing up, but the green was a pretty good giveaway that they weren’t poisonous. I’d probably not want to mess with a boa over a few feet long. They’re just too strong.

BernardL, I can imagine I’d have yelled something a bit different if this one had come after me.

Steve Malley, quite a few islands have either no or very limited snakes. It’s a bit of evidence that supports evolutionary theory to me.

Randy Johnson, I’ve caught chicken snakes up to about six feet long. They don’t really bother me, but the idea of poison creeping through my veins is not a pleasant one.

laughingwolf, I don’t see many of the green grass snakes around here. Those I wouldn’t mind.

X. Dell said...

Hmm. Might I picture one of the McClangs in a western someday? I'm not a big reader of that genre, but if you start to hankerin' for a Zane Gray channeling session, I might be interested.

I'm learning all sorts of things about you with these last couple of posts. You have a son who's old enough to drink? Belated Happy Father's Day to you.

Travis Erwin said...

I've got to pick up a copy of Gary's novel.

the walking man said...

I fear the two legged variety of snake more so than the no legged kind. I guess it's just that I know the ones I fear better.

Vesper said...

Nice pics! They are kinda scary... but I agree with The Walking Man's comment... :-)

laughingwolf said...

me too... as a kid, i used to catch garter snakes, play with em for a while, then set em free again...

Charles Gramlich said...

X-Dell, my son is just about to turn 22. I adopted him when he was a year old, but I'd actually been his father since he was 5 days old. And actually, the very first novel I ever wrote was a western featuring the MacLangs. There were two brothers, Kendall and Quentin. Kendall became the father of Ruenn and Bryce. That book was written when I was 18 though and wasn't very good. I might use elements from that book in a new western though.

Travis Erwin, it's pretty good. I may look into some more Black Horse Westerns.

Mark, intellectually, I'm with you, but my gut still fears the no legged snakes.

Vesper, there's definitely a reason to keep an eye on the two-legged variety.

laughingwolf, I accidentally released a grass snake on the dinner table one night. It was quite a riot you might imagine.

laughingwolf said...

lol... i'm sure it was, charles ;)

jodi said...

Charles, I held an baby albino burmese python once. He was beautiful and loved my warm skin. End of snake experience.

jodi said...

Charles, I held an baby albino burmese python once. He was beautiful and loved my warm skin. End of snake experience.

benjibopper said...

Coincidentally, just wrote an article about the boom here in invasive species. Not that these snakes are invasive, but speaking of cycles.

Charles Gramlich said...

laughingwolf, Yup.

jodi, as long as he didn't love your warm skin into his belly you can count it as a good experience.

benjibopper, and we were just talking about Kudzu down here a few weeks ago. Talk about invasive species.

Rick said...

I say first we chop off their heads, then we question the snakes about their intentions. I've been bitten a few times and what bothers me most, I suppose, is their faster than I am!

Travis said...

I do not like snakes.

Barbara Martin said...

I have only seen snakes sunning on rocks at a distance.

Gary's new book sounds good, and I'll be looking for it soon.

Charles Gramlich said...

Rick, I once got chased by a copperhead up a road. That time I was faster. but I had a head start.

Travis, if I know what they are I don't mind them. Too often you don't though.

Barbara Martin, they're more exciting up close and personal.

Erik Donald France said...

A nice review.

As for snakes, man! Talk about a primal reaction -- I respond quicker to snakes than anything. Like -- bolt lightning. Must admit, also, that I personally shot or shoveled to death a half dozen copperheads in my youth. Today, I prefer evasive maneuvers unless they're coming through the door.

Wil said...

I don't like no sneaky snake, LOL.

Wil Harrison.com

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, I kill copperheads and water moccassins as a kid, not only to protect our family but to protect our dogs and cattle. I'm like you today though. I avoid whenever possible.

Wil, snakes and people have that in common for sure.

Leigh Russell said...

Now that's scary! Have you read The Speckled Band, a Sherlock Holmes story by Conan Doyle?
There's a great review of Cut Short in my local paper - link on my blog if you're interested. I can't wait to hear what you think of my book, Charles. Bound to be pithy, but sympathetic I hope... !

Charles Gramlich said...

Leigh Russell, I don't remember what Holmes stories I've read and which I haven't. Ordered your book, btw.

jennifer said...

I would start a walking routine every year and really stick to my guns. Then, without fail, I would see a mac daddy black snake on my route. And every year, that would be it for my walking routine.

*note to self: Invest in Richard Simmons videos.

Charles Gramlich said...

Jennifer, I've seen some over six footers in my day. they look like they could eat you, although they're harmless unless your an egg.

David Cranmer said...

Spending last year in Louisiana brought me face to face with your snake population. I prefer our bunny rabbits in NY that are everywhere this summer.

I enjoyed STAR as well. A swift straight forward western that delivers.

Charles Gramlich said...

David Cranmer, we've definitely got the creepy crawly things down here.

Chrissy said...

Hey Charles, Tarnished Star sounds like the kind of wild west book I want to check out.
I just finished one you might like, called "The Shopkeeper" by James Best.
I am shocked at how much I really enjoyed it. I read it cover it cover in one sitting and keep wondering where’s the next one, or even better…where’s the movie and who’s starring in it?
At least consider it next time, I've heard great reviews so I just had to check it out!

Charles Gramlich said...

Chrissy, thanks for visiting.