It was a great start to the summer when I was between 11 and 12 years old. The neighbor down the road a quarter mile away and I decided to go to the only farm in the valley and go woodchuck hunting. The farmer told us it was always a big help to get rid of them because they were so destructive to his gardens. I had worked on the farm so he knew I had a good handle on the specifics of the property and would be safe while hunting there. My friend and I took a mile walk to get there and scouted around the fields. We were on our way home and came upon a man who was maneuvering a bulldozer around the huge stone wall near the Mactice house on the corner intersection of the two dirt roads. He had been moving the stone walls out of the way in order to build a post and rail fence. The fence was partially built and he had a half dozen dead adder snakes draped over the top rail of the fence. We were standing there looking with amazement at how he’d gotten so many at once. He began acting all macho and telling us he had no fear of the snakes and they were some he’d basically gotten in collateral damage while bull dozing the stone wall. I asked him about why he had hip boots on to run the machine. He explained he’d been fishing during a break and gotten about 25 stocked brook trout from the pool by the bridge. “Where are they?” I asked.
“Some in my truck and some in my boots”, he said.
I instantly became angry, “Hey those are the only fish we have to catch all summer long, you’re wrecking our summer fun!” I said. He started laughing and making fun of my frustration.
He looked back at the fence and said, “I bet you’re afraid of those snakes if you run into them alive aren’t you? I’m not afraid of them. I’d eat ’em for breakfast!” he said as he picked up his beer and began tipping the bottle up. My friend was staring at the snakes and telling him we never see that many dead at once. While they were talking and he was paying more attention to his beer than me, I picked about a 3 foot long adder off the fence and swung it in a circle and wrapped it around his neck from behind. The head of the snake flew up in his face and he let out a scream, dropped his beer and he took both hands to unwind the dead snake from his neck. We laughed and took off running up the road toward home with our 22 rifles in hand, looking over our shoulders at him standing in disarray with a spilled beer on the ground. He shouted and shook his fist yelling that he’d get even and we’d be sorry.
About a week later I was home alone and a red pick-up truck pulled up to our driveway. The driver got out and shouted, “Is anybody home?” I came out of the house and recognized him as the same guy I had wrapped a snake around his neck. I instantly became tense and defensive.
“I’ve got something in the back of the truck you’d like to have, if you’ll come down here and get it,” he said.
“I’m not going down from the porch to your truck, you’ll just do something to me for throwing that snake around your neck,” I said.
“No I’m not going to do anything. I thought that was kinda funny after I thought about it,” he said with a snide grin.
I was way over curious and finally told him, “If you do anything to me, my old man will kick your ass out of the valley.”
“Come on down and see what’s in the box,” he goaded again. I couldn’t resist, so I walked down in a in a kind of sideways position in order to be ready to out run him if he tried to grab me. I got to the tailgate and he pulled the box a bit closer to the edge of the body.
I stood poised to run and said, “So what’s in the box? Let me see.”
He reached over to pull the top open and said “I found this on the side of the road, the mother must have been run over.” He picked up the box and tilted the opening toward me. Inside was a baby raccoon. It was very small, cute and pretty mobile. I kept the raccoon for quite a while as a pet, during which time it caused its share of trouble in the house eating birthday cakes and pasta…I’ll talk about that another time. Eventually its natural urges took it back to the forest to live.
Photo: Years later, my sister ended up with another raccoon…maybe related?
(c) Rick Wyman