Before moving to SC and almost stomping on two lovemaking rattlesnakes, I didn't really have a problem with snakes in the grass. I grew up in a gentle clime where nothing but cute little garter snakes roamed. My brother and I loved to catch them, and because we are a family of animal lovers (or a bunch of bums who are good at finding excuses to avoid manual labor), we would skip out on mowing the lawn for a week or two if anyone found evidence of baby snakes hatching.
My uncle even had a 5' boa constrictor that I was allowed to hold that one time until I had to get help gently unclenching her tightening grip from the warm pulse points on my bird-thin neck.
(I know - if you're afraid of regular snakes, you are probably squirming in disgust. But yeah, I really never minded snakes.)
Except for water snakes.
I grew up swimming in my grandparents' pond. It was edged with cattails and filled with little gummy bluegills, submarine-sized goldfish, and frogs of all sizes. I was fearless (oblivious) swimming in this stew of writhing animals, until a few back-to-back incidents introduced me to my young self's nemesis: the water snake.
It started when I was standing neck deep (seriously, ew) in the pond, facing the beach with my fellow swimmers all within my line of vision. I felt something brush against my leg and remember thinking that fish of any size were all cowering on the other end of the pond, and nobody else was anywhere near me. Pivoting to inspect my surroundings, I was suddenly eye to beedy eye with a water snake.
It was close enough to feel my breath on its face. I could have kissed it. Instead, I thrashed my way to the shore and cowered under my towel on a railroad tie, knowing that the youthful innocence that let me dive headfirst without a second thought into a murky pond was fading fast.
Not long after that, I was standing on the edge of the water poised to snap my hands around what I thought was a frog's body. Guess what: It was a humongous water snake. It thrashed like a whip cracking as my fingers closed over its head, and I almost crapped myself lifeless on the spot.
Fast forward 15 years. South Carolina's swamps sealed this phobia into my psyche, because snakes draped themselves over tree branches and all the rivers carried water so black you could submerge your hand to your wrist and not be able to see your fingers. I'm not cut out for swamp life.
Tune in next time for more ammunition to torture me with if I ever cross you! Happy Halloween, everyone!