I am a Vermonter, and up here we don’t have poisonous snakes – mostly, anyway- but my mom used to mow them over when she saw them. She claimed she didn’t want them to get into the woodpile or the basement. I’m sure somewhere in her past she has a story of being assaulted by a lowly garter snake or milk snake, but anyway. She used to destroy them.

For some reason unbeknownst to me, I decided to ramble on about this to a coworker today, following up with how my brother used to collect these mown over bodies in a shoebox and kept them under his bed. Consequently, said coworker seemed a little weirded out. Rightfully.

But after he left, I thought of an even more bizarre story, regarding the snakes of my childhood.

My parents built their house on ten acres of land about 22 years ago, a great big colonial with fantastic views of spruce mountain, in East Montpelier. When we were moving in, my older brothers helped move the heavier things, and a lot of this stuff went in through the bulkhead doors to the basement.

In my mom’s telling of this story, she recalls Jason, my oldest brother, opening the bulkhead and screaming like “a little girl faced with a big old bear.” She, of course, ran to his side, but made it there only after Jeremy, the younger of my two older brothers, made it there first and proclaimed loudly, “oh shit!” When she looked down to the bottom of the bulkhead stairs, there were snakes everywhere. They were there coiled around each other, obviously disturbed out of slumber. Milk snakes, especially, which are especially disturbing when you see them out of their element- great, long, black snakes.

My mom stood there for a minute addressing the situation before she said, “I have an idea. I’ll be right back.” She dug through the garage and found her weed-wacker, slung it over her shoulder like a rifle and marched down the stairs of the bulkhead. She turned it on and let it rip until every last snake was torn apart and dead.

Brutal. I sometimes laugh and think she fancies herself Vermont’s own personal Saint Patrick, destroyer of snakes. She brings real meaning to the term “wacko.”

Anyway, I’ve always found this story hilarious for a few reasons. First, the snakes at the bottom of those basement stairs were harmless. Sure, they could have gotten into stuff and been a pain in the ass, but largely they wouldn’t have done anything. And this story offends a lot of people. “Why would she do something like that?!” People ask, the look of horror carved deep in their faces. And quite frankly, I don’t have a real answer.

By and large though, I still find the whole thing pretty hilarious.

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