One day, I was probably about 7 or 8, I found my grandfather sitting in the garden. When I asked him what he was doing, he pointed to the ground and told me he was watching the snakes.
There were two snakes there - what my grandfather called a king snake, which was just a plain black snake, and what he called a garden snake, which was a bright green. I would like to be a good blogger and look them up for you, but I can't handle looking at pictures of snakes. But at that time they didn't bother me.
So there were these two snakes there, black and green, in the dirt under the pine tree, hugging. No, they weren't hugging, he told me, they were fighting. I wanted to know why he didn't stop them. Well, you don't stop snakes from fighting. They'll kill each other and then you don't have to do it.
I had seen my grandmother chop the head off a snake with a hoe - just like chopping the head off a chicken, she said. I'd never seen her chop the head off of anything before that day, since Bell's carried chickens already chopped up for you, but it made me feel safe that she was prepared to do just that if need be. You never leave a snake in the yard or you'll get a mess of snake babies in the house, so chop it she did. Because God forbid.
So I stood there beside him and watched the snakes writhe together. It was a slow process - apparently they'd been at it a while and were tuckered out with the dying. Eventually I got bored.
A few days later, I saw them again. They were dead. And flat. Weeks later, they were flatter still. I never understood why he didn't move them, toss them somewhere out of the way. Eventually, they were gone. Into the dirt, I imagine. Into the peas or corn, growing in the tomatoes or watermelon.
Years ago I had the idea that I would paint this scene of the two snakes intertwined under the pine tree. It will be a folk art-type painting (the only way I'd know how to do it), with a crown on the black snake's head. I don't have any paints, though, so it'll have to wait.