Snake Killers

by bj max

The prime edict of the Happy Bottom Ridin’ Yachtin’ & Snipe Huntin’ Club is to have fun. But, there are those within the group who can’t seem to get a grip on the meaning of fun and all too often they get fun confused with work and for the life of me, I can’t understand why. Long ago, I developed a foolproof formula to insure that I never get fun and work mixed up. It’s simple really. I like fun, I hate work. This formula has never failed me. If I ain’t havin’ fun, then it stands to reason that whatever I’m doing must be work and I quit immediately. Now don’t get me wrong. I believe we should all get involved in community service whenever possible and I’m willing to do my part as long as the edict above remains in the loop. But once it’s removed, my formula kicks in and I’m history.

Somebody, who has to be incredibly stupid, decided that we should get involved in the “Adopt a Highway” program. Now I’m sure this Oscar the Grouch protégé had the best intentions and I didn’t complain at first, mainly because I managed to dodge this filthy detail for the first six months. But I got tricked into leaving my warm and comfortable home to go traipsing up and down the Loosahatchie river bottoms dodging snakes, quicksand and coyote ca-ca, all in the name of community service. It started with a phone call that seemed innocent enough at first, a pleasant chat with a friend. Then, as if it were an afterthought, this “friend” politely mentioned my recent retirement and before I knew what was happening I had been shanghaied for do-gooder duty. A word of advice good people: never tell your friends you’re retired. Once you do, they’ll come up with all kinds of filthy jobs that suddenly only you are qualified to handle.

Five veterans of the garbage patrol and I met down at the Doughnut Hole on a damp and foggy morning. Right off the bat I told ‘em that there was no way I was going out on a day like this to pick up garbage on a road ten miles from my neighborhood. A road, I might add, that I never have the privilege of trashing up myself. I mean if I’m gonna’ go in harms way and clean up a dangerous stretch of highway I would like at least a one-in-ten chance that some of the garbage is mine. Wouldn’t you? But after a couple of not-so-subtle threats, I figured what the heck, might as well tag along. Maybe I’ll get a story outta’ this.

We moseyed outside and piled into a couple pickup trucks and headed out to our assigned piece of highway. And you oughta’ see it: two whole miles of rat-infested swamp littered with garbage so disgusting I hate to think about it. And the State of Tennessee has erected a little green sign out there announcing to the motoring public that it’s OK to litter this section of highway because a stupid motorcycle club has volunteered to clean up after their messy selves. Yeah, that’s right Mr. and Mrs. America. Go ahead. Feel free to toss out any beer cans, Cheeto bags and loose undergarments you may have laying around on the floorboard ‘cause there’s a crew of ninnies out here who’d rather pick up your trash than eat when they’re hungry.

After parking we all piled out and made our way to the back of the pickup trucks. We stood around shivering in the howling wind while our leader passed out trash bags, safety vests and snake killers, the latter being very sinister looking mop handles with gleaming eight penny nails protruding from their tips. These primitive but deadly weapons would come in handy when threatned by water moccasins and they worked pretty well for spearing paper cups and Big Mac containers too.

After being supplied with all the latest hi-tech garbage gathering gear, our leader made everyone beam with pride by assigning them their very own little piece of swamp. You would have thought they had been presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor the way they carried on, grinnin’ and pokin’ one another and shoving each other around. Everybody except me. I was told that because of my rookie status I should stick with the boss so he could show me the ropes.

Wait just a doggone minute here. That ain’t fair, I argued. I really don’t think I need formal instructions on how to pick up trash. The fact that I’m the only one out here that recognized this as something other than fun proves that I’m more qualified than any of these dummies and I want my own section just like everybody else.

Well this stirred up a hornet’s nest of opposition and a snake killer was waved menacingly under my nose. “Not so fast there, Buster. Just who do you think you are anyway? You think you can come out here on your very first day and get your own section, just like that? Ha! It’s taken us months of grubbin’ around in this filthy stink hole to get where we are today and ain’t no two-bit amateur scribbler gonna’ get no special privileges. You start on the bottom buddy, just like the rest of us.” At this point der fuehrer stepped in and threatened to throw everybody in the hole for thirty days if we didn’t shut up. What hole? I didn’t know we had a hole. But then again, I didn’t know the members were allowed to roam the countryside packin’ deadly snake killers either.

The threat of thirty days in the hole settled everybody down and they sulked off to their respective assignments. I had to stay behind with and suffer through a boring lecture on the finer points of proficient waste management, including a lengthy sermon on how to dispose of any hazardous material I might run across like raw blood plasma, nuclear waste or pepperoni pizza with extra cheese.

Trudging through the wet grass and muddy side ditches, stooping for a beer bottle here and a candy wrapper there, with der fuehrer prodding me along with a snake killer, I felt like Cool Hand Luke. I picked my way along the muddy side ditch, the sticky gumbo sucking at my biker boots, trying to pull them from my feet. I was tired and cold, my fingers were freezing, my jeans wet up to my knees, and fun had faded to a distant memory.

After a couple hours of hard labor, we had that foul-smelling bog halfway presentable, so we trudged back to the trucks and tossed our vests and snake killers in the bed. Well, they ain’t so cheerful now, I thought except for our fearless leader, who absolutely loves this crap. He was as happy as when we set out and I suspected he had stumbled across a bottle of Old Rigor Mortis or something and knocked back the dregs. He slapped me on the back and with a silly, self-satisfied grin asked what I thought now that I had participated in this noble cause. I could tell he was expecting a positive response so as gently as I could, I told him that I had rather sweat to death pickin’ cotton in the hottest boll weevil infested cotton patch in Alabama that to come back out here and police this nauseating pig sty again.

I shouda’ joined the Hells Angel’s. Betcha’ wouldn’t catch them out here picking up trash.


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