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Be careful what you grab

They were children or young teenagers, Mrs. Janice Munn of Newton County says, when she and her friends sat in their usual spot in church and had what became a snake-handling experience.

Though neither of us live there anymore, her hometown of Chunky is my hometown, too. And although from different generations, we both have fond and fun memories of the small town. Munn shared several of hers with me one recent morning.

“In the Old Chunky Church … you had a door in the church that opened on the side next to the branch — or trickle of little water that goes down that way,” she said, referring to the watery gulley just to the north of the property where the wood framed church building once stood.

Her first cousin Roland Barber was pastor at that time, and the youth were paying as much attention as they usually did as they sat in their usual corner toward the front of the church and near the aforementioned door. Until someone noticed something unusual.

“We looked under the pew in front of us, and there was this great big ol’ snake laying there asleep,” she said. “So we put our feet up on the pew and were quiet.”

But the snake must have heard the rustling or felt the movement, or just decided to wake up from its nap and it began to move around. The more the snake moved, the more the youth moved. The more they squirmed, the more the reptile on the floorboards squirmed.

Though they tried not to call undue attention to themselves — or their predicament — cousin Roland got distracted and finally asked, “Jan, what in the world is going on over there?

She blurted, “There’s a great big snake over here!”

You couldn’t have cleared out the building faster if you’d announced a free fried chicken buffet outside the front door — first come, first served. Services were over.

Some of the men and older boys went after the critter and corralled it. Someone grabbed the good-sized snake and deposited it in the “crick” outside.

Someone took a photo of her friend Danny holding the captured offender by the tail, “and it was about to the ground. I don’t know what kind of snake it was. But it was a snake.”

That’s all that mattered.

When I lived down the road at Mars Hill years ago, the church’s teens were playing football in our front yard after a church event. An errant pass bounced into the edge of the woods, where the intended receiver found it next to an old rotted log and an angry black racer snake.

The boy thought it would be a great idea to terrorize everyone else with his find, so he grabbed the snake by the tail and waved it around as he stepped out of the trees.

“That thing’s gonna bite you, Will,” someone said.

“Nah, I’m fine,” he said. “It won’t bite …”

Bam. It bit Will on the arm, a strong fast strike with razor teeth.

He dropped it. It fled. He bled. And I don’t remember what happened with the football, but the game was over.

We’re not as likely to see reptiles that need wrangling this time of year, but critters and things we don’t like or don’t understand nevertheless fascinate us — though they can make us squirm and draw blood.

Be careful what you grab by the tail.

Lifestyles editor Brett Campbell can be reached at