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SNAKES

"THE way a snake catches birds and frogs and things is not by chasing and grabbing them, but by charming them. It just gets its eyes on their eyes, and runs its tongue out and in, and then the bird can't move if it wanted to.

The snake keeps that up a while, and then he can take his own time about doin' the swallerin'. You have to be kind o' careful yourself about not bein' charmed, specially by black snakes. I know there was some of the children out berrying one time, and Sarah Hill came near bein' charmed. They thought she was comin' along all right, when they noticed she warn't with 'em. They ran back then, and Sarah was standin' still lookin' right into a bush. They told her to come along, and she didn't saya word. Then they tried to pull her away; but she said, 'Don't,' because she saw such beautiful sights. Well, there was a black snake in that bush, and she was bein' charmed by it. Little more'n she might a got bit."

When a snake proposes to charm you, it looks you straight in the eye in such a sinister and unwinking way that you are fascinated and paralyzed.

I was told the story of a boy who was charmed one day. His companions found him looking at a snake and making a strange kind of noise. He did not come to himself until they killed the snake, and broke the spell.

An old farmer told me that one morning when he was out mowing his attention was attracted by a bird fluttering around a bush in a queer kind of way. "It was makin' sort of a mournful noise, and flutterin' round and round close to the bush. I went along up to the bush to see what the matter was. Then I see there was an adder in there watching of it, and its nest was in that bush. The snake was charming it; for I no sooner give the bush a little shake and took the snake's attention, than away the bird went as quick as a flash.

"I s'pose most any kind of a snake will charm birds and such things; but I don't s'pose these striped snakes are powerful enough to charm people. Black snakes and rattlers will, though. My uncle got charmed once. He was goin' along through the woods with my father when he stopped and was gettin' left behind. My father called to him to come along; but he didn't pay no attention just kep' lookin' at somethin'. My father see he was gettin' charmed by a snake. So he went back and give him a yank, and then they killed the snake. He said he wanted to come when father called him, but he couldn't. He said that he saw everything that was pretty, all the colors he ever thought of and more too, and they seemed to be right in the snake's eyes."

Many still believe that in drinking from brooks one runs the risk of swallowing a young snake, which is liable to grow in the stomach, and become large and troublesome. In support of this idea, it is related that once there was a certain child that took large quantities of food, in particular a great deal of milk, yet became more and more emaciated. One night when the child was sitting at the table with a bowl of milk before it, of which it had not eaten, a great snake put its head out of the child's mouth. Apparently it was hungry, had scented the milk, and came up out of the child's stomach to get it. The child's father was by, and he gripped the snake by the neck, and pulled it out. It was four feet long.

Some say that instead of a bowl of milk on the table, it was a pailful on the kitchen-floor fresh from the cow.

Another telling of the story has it that a woman swallowed the snake. As it grew she was in great distress, so that finally she could not eat. At length her friends laid her down with her stomach on a chair, and put a basin of steaming hot food on the floor before her. That brought out the snake, and the woman got well.

It is bad enough to have a snake in your stomach, but you are even worse off if you meet with one of these hoop-snakes. Let one of those chase you, and you are a goner. They ain't afraid of a man no more'n nothin', and they can run faster'n any horse goin'. The way the snake does is to pick its tail up in its mouth, and then whirl over and over like a hoop. His tail is sharp-pointed and hard like a spike. When he catches up with you, he just takes his tail out of his mouth, and jabs it into you. Oh, I tell you, you'd better swallow a dozen snakes rather'n get one o' these hoop-snakes after you.

It is said that when a hoop-snake strikes a man it "blasts" him. I suppose that means he is paralyzed, turns black, shrivels up, and like enough blows away. When one of these hoop-snakes strikes its tail into anything wooden, a hoe-handle, for instance, it shivers the wood into splinters, just as if it had been struck by lightning.

Another snake you want to beware of is the "black racer snake." It is said that he has a bluish tinge, and that he will chase a man whenever he gets sight of one.

Kill the first snake,
And break the first brake,
And you will conquer all you undertake.

That is, the first snake and the first brake seen in the spring.

Put a horse-hair in water, and it will turn into a snake. This superstition has two facts behind it which give it a semblance of truth. Firstly, a horsehair put in water will twist and curl quite curiously. Secondly, there is a kind of worm sometimes seen in stagnant pools which strongly resembles a coarse horse-hair.

Cut a snake's tail off, and the tail will not die until the sun goes down. The basis of this saying is that it is a fact that the tail will continue. to wriggle and show signs of life long after it is separated from the body.

Some authorities affirm that you can cut a snake all to pieces, and its parts will not cease to move till the end of the day.

If, after cutting a snake in two, you put the parts into water, they will unite into a whole snake again.

Most persons who meet a snake either run off or try to kill it. Many snakes are known to be harmless, and even useful. People kill them because they are unpleasant looking creatures, and because it is the fashion. But besides there is an inherited and underlying reason, which is that it is understood that God put a curse on snakes in the Bible, and has commanded that they be killed.

"I've hearn 'em tell about how that there was a little girl once that always used to eat her dinner out-doors when it was good weather. She'd get her plate full, and then she'd go off out back o' the barn somewhere, and nobody didn't know what she went off like that for. So after a while her folks followed her; and she went along out there by a stone wall and set down, and she rapped on her plate, and out there come a big rattlesnake, and went to eatin' off the plate with her. And when the snake got over on to her side of the plate too much, she'd rap him with her spoon, and push him away, and say, "Keep back, Gray-coat, on your own side." Her folks didn't like to have her eatin' with a snake that way, and they sent her off to stay somewhere else. When she was gone, they went and killed the snake. Bimeby the little girl come home again, and then she found out her snake was killed. Arter that she kind o' pined away and died.

"I've hearn 'em tell about that a good many times, and I s'pose that's a pretty true story."

THE POWER OF IRISH EARTH

"ST. PATRICK, as is well known, banished all snakes from Ireland some hundreds of years ago. There isn't a snake in the whole country they can't live there. You may take a snake into Ireland in a big bottle, and as long as you keep the cork in, he's all right; but let him breathe the air, or let him touch the earth or water anywhere in Ireland, I don't care where, and he's a dead man in less'n no time.

"Why, there was an Irishman made a bet with an American in Boston, that if he made a ring of Irish earth around a snake, the snake couldn't get out of it. He bet seven hundred dollars, because that was all he had. Then he went over to Ireland, and got a little bag of sand from the shore near Dublin. When he got back here, he made a circle with it on the ground, and they put a snake inside the circle. The snake couldn't get over that ring to save himself, and the divil died there, and the man got his seven hundred dollars."


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