July 25, 2010

Allen Afield: You seem to love those snake stories


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This is Long Pond in Belgrade Lakes, where the Ken Allen was wading for bass one night. Then along came a northern water snake and –¦ well, he never has forgotten what happened.

2005 file photo

click image to enlarge

There are no poisonous snakes in Maine, but yes, snakes do have teeth. And beyond that, lets face it, it's simply not pleasant having even a garter snake crawling over your body.

"Watch out," I warned. "He'll bite you for sure."

I had played with snakes enough to know that nonpoisonous ones do bite, but he just looked back and said, "You blankety-blank fool, snakes in Maine don't bite!"

A split-second later, the trapped, threatened garter snake grabbed Bud in the meaty flap of skin between his thumb and index finger and held on like a junkyard dog. Bud was desperately trying to shake it off, but those folding teeth worked well for several long seconds.

The late Edmund Ware Smith, one of Maine's most successful outdoor writers, once wrote a true story called "Death of a Haunted Tent." It involved a snake anecdote that ranks as the mother of them all.

Smith and a guide were camping in West Virginia, using Smith's tent that had a hole in it. In the middle of the night, the guide woke Smith quietly and told him that a rattlesnake had come into the tent.

The night was black so Smith asked how the guide had arrived at such a conclusion, and the answer made Smith sweat plenty.

As the two men had slept, a timber rattler had crawled through the hole in the canvas and had then wiggled across their feet, waking the guide.

Also, rattlesnakes smell like cucumbers, according to the guide, and Smith could smell that distinct odor as soon as the guide mentioned it.

I read the story 39 years ago and don't remember the ending, but it was a scary enough tale so the horror of lying in a dark tent with a rattler has stuck with me all these years.

And even now, I make sure the zippers are tightly closed on my tents and might even take a plastic, bread-bag tie to fasten the sliding tabs.

Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes is a writer, editor and photographer. He can be contacted at:



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