Around here my husband and I are big on division of labor. We help each other of course, and we share jobs and work together, but we each have our own tasks we’re most suited to. One of my jobs is skinning and processing small game. Mostly that means things coon sized and smaller, rabbit, squirrel, chicken, possum… Once I did a deer on my own, but usually I work under my husband’s directions with larger animals, and oversee the parting out and packaging in the kitchen on butchering days.
Most of this negotiating, who does what job, happened naturally in our first year of marriage. I wish I could have seen ahead just a little in the future. If I could have known what was coming I would have said “But not snakes. You have to do the snakes.”
Last summer one of our friends gave us a rattlesnake as a present. It wasn’t so much a snake anymore I guess. It didn’t have a head, and hadn’t for several hours, however the snake didn’t seem to know it couldn’t be a snake anymore. It was still curling tightly around my wrist as I held it out the truck window so it wouldn’t drip on me while we drove home.
When we got home, to my horror, my husband got ready to go back to work and leave the snake to me. And I was about to go along with it until he turned back and so helpfully hollered, “remember they’re live bearers.” Out! I was so out! I chased after him with my bloody snake bracelet and flat out refused to have anything more to do with it.
Rattlesnakes are one of the few snakes, along with copperheads, that don’t lay eggs. Instead they give birth to squiggly baby snakes. Youtube can show you, but don’t look, it’s one of those things you just can’t unsee. It may just be local legend, but it is routinely said that the bite from a baby snake is much worse than the bite from an adult. The theory is that the baby snakes have not yet learned how to control how much they poison you and so they let loose and give it their all.
I don’t know, but I don’t need too. I just know that I don’t want a jumbled mess of squiggly new snakes falling out onto my hands.
I was not budging in my resolve, so he pried the snake off my wrist, got my good kitchen scissors and proceeded to slice it’s belly open. I watched very closely from across the kitchen to see if he would get bit to death by baby snakes. He didn’t, but what did happen was almost as bad. The snake just would not accept reality, it wouldn’t admit it was dead, that it had in fact been dead for hours. It kept trying to slither away, and once he had the skin off it got really mad. As he started gutting it it coiled it’s headless, skinless, half gutless self around his wrist and bit him repeatedly. But it had no head, and therefore no teeth, so it just made a wet slapping sound as it slammed it’s bloody used-to-be-a-head stump into his hand.
When it was done, when the snake was skinned, gutted, clean as a pork chop from Walmart, it should have just been done. But it wasn’t, it was still trying to get away, it was still trying to bite. We put it in a bowl of salt water in the fridge to soak until the next day. It tried to slither out so I put a lid on the bowl. Dale went back to work, but I could still hear it knocking around in the fridge for a few more hours.
The next day we had friends come over and we fried up the snake who had finally given up and agreed to be dead. It was good, very good. There wasn’t a piece left. I’m just not sure it was good enough. You have to draw a line sometimes, and mine is at snakes. I don’t care at all to do the squirrels, possums, even the deer, but just take the snakes on to my husband.