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Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Small town paralegal in the city. Once ran a law office, now being run by one. Med mal defense litigation. I think it's growing on me.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Snakes in the Legal Field

When I decided to make a career in the legal field, people warned me to be on the watch for snakes, pigs, and various other nasty creatures. I did not realize I should have taken those warnings literally... until yesterday.

The Boss had just stepped out for lunch, but moments later, I heard the back door open. "Melissa," he called, "do you know anything about snakes?"

"Kind of," I cautiously answered.

"Do you know how to tell if it is a rattlesnake?"

"Um, it rattles?"

I followed him out the back door across our miniature courtyard to his truck. Underneath his truck, coiled casually with his tail lifted in warning, was a small gray snake. He didn't look threatening from four or five feet away. If he had a rattle on the end of his tiny tail, it was too small to make any real sound.

Living in the South, I learned early how to tell the good snakes from the bad ones. I hate killing good snakes. They eat rats and other unpleasant things and generally stay out of my way. Good snakes tend to have sleek heads, and poisonous snakes tend to have triangular shaped heads. Supposedly. But this little guy was too small for me to tell. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but the way he kept wagging his tail, like my angry third grade teacher, seemed sinister, dangerous. I concluded to the Boss that it must be a pigmy rattlesnake and that we should kill it dead at least once. (I had never seen a pigmy rattlesnake in my life. I just figured that because it was so tiny, the name fit the descriptions I had heard of them.)

The Boss seemed to hesitate getting into his truck. He wondered outloud if perhaps the little guy had fallen out of his truck. "I didn't notice him until opened the door to get in," he explained.

The snake didn't get a jury of his peers, nor did he have a chance for a lengthy appeals process. I pronounced him guilty in light of the very little evidence given, and the Boss played Executioner by backing over him. Once the truck was pulled back, we examined the dead little thing close-up. He was gray with angular black spots and a hint of burnt orange coloring misted down his back. His tail was still lifted in defiance. Even close up, it was difficult to tell whether he was carrying a rattle at the end of it. Still, he had held himself out to be a rattlesnake, so I firmly believed he deserved the fate that had befallen him.

The Boss left for lunch, and I went inside to research Alabama snakes. Sure enough, I found a picture of a dusky pigmy rattlesnake that looked exactly like the little guy being laid to rest by the ants outside.

While I imagine the "ground rattler," as they are commonly called here, would have done the Boss little harm, since his bite would have likely landed on the Boss's leather shoe, I've been avoiding our courtyard ever since. My high heels are pretty and sophisticated, but I don't think they qualify as protective rattlesnake gear.


  1. You had me at "wagging his tail". I got all teary-eyed and "live and let live" until you tagged him as poisonous-Mac-Daddy-snake-to-be. :)

  2. We have lots of baby rattlesnakes around here. We've had so much rain that they are starting to come closer to population. I've been keeping my yard cut REAL short. We found one (almost the hard way) out at my brother in law's. Baby rattlers will try and rattle, but they can't. I certainly wouldn't take my chances.