Richard Butner, copperhead

From Richard Butner — wonderful writer, actor, and all-around delight

I was very young, riding back home from the old family farm. Our house was in the suburbs but the farm was, as they say, out in the country. My father was driving my mother’s old Chevrolet Corvair. It was night, but as he came up the short incline from the creek, he spotted something moving in the gravel road. He stopped the car and went to investigate, confirmed that it was a copperhead. He came back to the car and got a hoe out of the back seat. I sat there, transfixed by the scene in the headlights, waiting for some terrible Hollywood moment where the snake would lunge at my father and bite him, not knowing what would happen next or what would be expected of me. Instead it was much more mundane. He brought the hoe down on the snake with enough force to sever its head neatly. Then he used the hoe to flick body and head off into the underbrush. That’s what you did to venomous snakes in the country.