(Today’s blog is by guest writer Lucas Ward)
Snakes are a fact of life in North Central Florida. Out in the rural area I grew up in -- a mix of cow fields, piney woods and swamplands -- we had eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, timber rattlesnakes, cottonmouth moccasins, pygmy rattlesnakes, coral snakes and the occasional copperhead. Not to mention the many varieties of non-venomous snakes. One of the first things Dad taught us was to watch where we were walking. You kept your eyes on the ground 10-15 feet ahead of you and swept your eyes back and forth 7-8 feet on each side of the path you were walking. If you wanted to look up and admire the sky/clouds/trees then you stopped walking and looked up. You then looked back down at the ground before taking your first step. Since snakes are very well camouflaged, you don't look for snakes, you look for smoothness and roundness. Whether walking through high grass or brambles or through the forest, smooth, round things stand out of you are looking for them. While you may not see that diamondback rattler as a snake in the pile of leaves under the shrub, you will likely notice something smooth against the more jagged background. Nathan and I got very good at seeing the snakes and staying away from them. Whenever we had people from church over, we often took the poor, deprived city kids on walks through the woods that surrounded our property. Before we left, however, we always warned them to stay behind us and stop if we stopped. We knew that they weren't aware of the potential dangers and that our parents and theirs were counting on us to keep them away from the snakes.
I was taking a walk with my roommate one night about a year ago. We walked down the road to the bridge over the Santa Rosa Sound and then came back. Suddenly, he says "look out, snake!" and I jump because the thing is right between my feet. We then notice that it was dead -- and not poisonous anyway -- and of no danger. But it kind of got to me that I had almost stepped on a snake. ME! The North Florida backwoods boy who was watching for snakes since I was 7 or 8 years old. Wow, that's not good. That's almost as unbelievable as Dad hitting himself with an axe, but, then again, that has happened recently too. You see, I've been living in town for the last 18 years. I've gotten out of the habit of always watching every footfall. There just aren't snakes in town. Not with anything near the frequency there was back home. (We used to regularly kill 4-5 rattlesnakes a year and about as many of the other poisonous varieties.) So, I had gotten complacent. Now, if I was in the woods for some reason, taking a hike, or whatever, then I still have enough of the country boy in me to watch where I'm going, but in town I was careless.
The big snake, Satan, sometimes catches us in the same way. When we are in a situation where the temptation level is high, we are on guard. When we think things are safe, we sometimes slip up. We don't lose our tempers and scream at the jerks at work or the jerks on the road, or the general jerks we meet in the world, but then we come home and our wife/husband or kids says something a little off and we lose it big time. At the beach, surrounded by people in skimpy bathing suits, we are careful to keep our libidos in check, then at church on Sunday one of our sisters leans over and her blouse hangs loose and before you know it we are considering things that are best left unpondered. Just like snakes can sometimes find their way into the biggest of cities, The Snake can attack us when we least expect it. We can never let our guard down too far, no matter how safe we feel.
There's one thing I know, though. The streets of gold are snake free.