By Karen Middleton
Most people have an aversion to snakes, probably rooted in primitive survival, but at the same time, many find the slithering creatures fascinating.
While snakes have their place in the ecology of the planet, there are those who unhesitatingly say, “The only good snake is a dead snake.” But sometimes a snake is a good snake and best left alive.
Those who work on road crews in primitive areas, say fear of poisonous snakes is probably warranted.
Two Limestone County Engineering Department employees, Derrick McGlocklin and Ronnie Thompson, nearly stepped on two of the bad ones Tuesday. McGlocklin and Thompson brought the dead rattlesnakes by The News Courier office in the back of their pickup truck.
“We were inspecting a bridge on Lentzville Road, the Temperance Oak, and I was stepping over a guardrail and saw a snake skin, then I saw a big old snake coiled up near it,” said McGlocklin. “I had nearly stepped on it.”
The snake, 48 inches with 10 rattles, had begun its warning rattle before McGlocklin dispatched it with a steel bar.
“Right after we killed the first one, we heard more rattling, and a second one was coiled up ready to strike,” said Thompson.
The second snake, about three-quarters the size of the first, had seven rattles. People along Lentzville Road in the Temperance Oak area have from long experience come to think of the neighborhood as “real snaky.”
District 4 Commissioner Ben Harrison said when he was a child his family rented acreage directly across Elk River from Temperance Oak. He said he and his brother came upon a den of rattlesnakes under a large rock one day and the sound was tremendous.
County Commission District 4 Foreman Randy Mashburn said one of his tree crew, Jonathan Bates, killed two large rattlesnakes in the same general area a week ago while “bushwhacking,” or using a hydraulic arm to remove tree limbs.
“One had five rattles and the other had four rattles,” said Mashburn. “There’s always been a lot of snakes down there at certain times of the year.”
District 3 Commissioner Bill Latimer said he has not seen any rattlesnakes in his southwest Limestone district, but does see an occasional copperhead.
Steve Turner, District 4 commissioner in the southeast part of the county, says his workmen don’t see rattlesnakes.
“We’ve seen several water snakes and cottonmouths,” said Turner. “I don’t want my men messing with them at all, but if they’ve got to kill them, then kill them. But if it’s a blacksnake then leave it alone because they kill rodents.
“We probably don’t see as many of them as our litter crew. One of our men goes to the county jail and picks up a couple of inmates in the morning. They are not on machinery like we are. They are down in the ditches and undoubtedly run across a few.”
District 1 Commissioner Gary Daly described his one encounter with a snake off Easter Ferry Road before lines were redrawn to put that area into District 4.
“We went down the road off Easter Ferry behind the Elkmont Rural Village to get some gravel,” remembers Daly. “This had to be about three years ago. I got out of my truck and was walking down the road to the gravel pit when I came on a rattlesnake all balled up.
“I backed up and eased on back to my truck. By that time he had crawled off into the woods, probably to wait for me, that’s how they do. I got my personal gun (.380) out of the truck and walked back and shot him.”
Daly describes the serpent involved in that incident as 39 and a half-inches long with seven rattles.
None of the commissioners could remember any of their employees ever being bitten by a snake.