"That looks weird," I said, nodding upstream as my friends and I pulled our kayaks onto a gravel bar for a break in our half-day float down the Buffalo River.
"Maybe a branch ..." Mikey replied, unconvincingly.
"Not like any branch I've seen," I answered. I dropped the line to my tiny kayak, aptly named The Minnow, and stood still while Baxter ran ashore.
"Let's fix some lunch. What are y'all lookin' at?" Joycie hollered as she freed herself from her boat and grabbed a cooler.
"That," I pointed.
Everyone turned. The tangled brown blob with a "branch" sticking out of the water like a periscope floated near us and struck powerfully against the steep bank immediately across from the gravel bar. The thick mass of long, dark snakes disbanded and slithered effortlessly up the bank and into the brush.
No one moved or said anything for several moments. Then everyone spoke at once.
"I don't have to pee anymore."
"That was so Lonesome Dove!"
"Hey, Lisa, you like Lonesome Dove!"
"Not THAT part, I don't!"
"Can you believe that just happened?"
"I don't want to get back in the water."
"You were in more danger a moment ago when WE were in the water WITH THEM. Now, they're out!"
"Oh, you weren't in danger then either. They didn't want you. They were mating."
"Yeah, we're not their type."
"I don't know. With lawyers around, those ARE their type!"
"Please, a snake wouldn't hurt a lawyer -- out of professional courtesy!"
The jokes and jibes continued for the next hour or so as we all processed what we'd seen.
"What kind of snakes do you think those were?"
"I don't know. You could cross the river and go ask them."
"Do you think they were poisonous?"
"I don't care if they're poisonous or not. The only good snake is a dead snake."
"My grandmother used to say you could tell if a snake is poisonous by looking into its eyes. If its pupils are slits, it's venomous. If its pupils are round, they're not."
"Your grandmother didn't live long, did she?"
"Probably just water snakes."
"That's creative. Snakes. In water."
"No, seriously, that's a type of snake. They aren't venomous. But they could have been cottonmouths."
"Are cottonmouths and water moccasins the same thing?"
"Can we PLEASE talk about something ELSE?!"
"Yeah, they're the same thing. That's what was in Lonesome Dove."
"I am never getting in this river again."
"Ok, we'll leave you here. With the snakes."
We finally managed to eat lunch, round up our dogs and get back in the kayaks. As we drifted along the remaining half of our journey to camp, we had a new appreciation for the water and its inhabitants. We knew we'd seen something relatively rare. And I'd like to say we were stronger for it, but even the toughest among us eyed every limb in the water with suspicion thereafter.
Hey, we were rattled. You can't venom all.
NAN Our Town on 05/31/2018
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