Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 74

GUEST COLUMN

By CATHRYN HANKLA

COPPERHEAD CONFRONTATION

Going Rural

P

icking up the last remnants of
shriveled oak leaves wedged
between the heat pump and
the house, I had one of those
very human moments when you
find yourself alone, surrounded by
nature. There's a certain stillness I've
come to recognize that means you are being watched.
The human is object not subject; the gaze of nature turns
back or the silence of nature is held in suspense as you
stumble into it. Late autumn chilled the air, in the shadow of Virginia's iconic McAfee Knob, and just past my
left foot a young copperhead lazed on a warm orangeybrown slab of flagstone, perfect cover for the snake, as
rock and snake share the same mottled color. The snake's
head tensed up, sensing in my direction. I glanced to
check its pupils and confirmed that they were elliptical
like a cat's. There was no mistaking this narrow fellow for
a non-poisonous variety.
Copperheads are born live and emerge from a viscous
pool of something akin to the primordial soup. Until I
saw this, I thought they came out of eggs.

I glanced to check its pupils
and confirmed that they
were elliptical like a cat's.
74

BLUERIDGECOUNTRY.COM

SUSAN JAMISON

Cathryn Hankla is an intrepid traveler and the author of more
than a dozen books. This excerpt is from her latest book, a memoir
in essays, Lost Places: On Losing and Finding Home (Mercer
University Press, 2018)
Cathy Hankla: "When I first moved from the
suburbs, I was not capable of killing a mouse,
let alone a snake."

The copperhead was very near, but I
worked my way around it. Stealthy in
my motions, I dashed inside for my largest kitchen knife, afraid the snake might
slither too far if I trekked all the way to
the shed for the hoe. The knife was one of
those heavy cleaver jobs best wielded by professional chefs that amateurs keep in their kitchens
for inspiration. My chef's knife had come with a Germanhoned set and so far I'd only used the paring knife.
Leaving out the details, I used the big chopper on the
copperhead, knowing they usually travel in pairs and
hoping this one was still young enough to be dating
around, but old enough to have wandered far from its
nest. Seeing it so close to the foundation gave me a shiver.
I wish I could say that I regret having done it. When I first
moved from the suburbs, I was not capable of killing a
mouse, let alone a snake. I carried all ladybugs and stinkbugs outside, leaving the spiders be and puzzling over the
ants, large and small.
Clearly, country living has not been the constant pastoral, the peaceable kingdom I once imagined. The first
thing I saw when I moved to the Catawba Valley of Virginia was a bunch of slaughtered hogs hanging on big
hooks at the side of a barn. My new neighbors smiled and
waved as I drove by in my Honda Civic. I traded the sedan
for a 4-wheel drive that bounced me around inside as if
I were a pebble. It could nevertheless drive up a tree in a
snowstorm, and a version of that option has saved me
more than once.
Excerpted from "LOST PLACES: On Losing and Finding
Home," by Cathryn Hankla, with permission of Mercer
University Press.


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018

Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - Intro
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - Cover1
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - Cover2
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 3
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 4
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 5
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Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 7
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 8
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Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 11
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Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 74
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - Cover3
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - Cover4
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