I have men here painting my house. A couple of hours ago one of them came in to tell me that there was a snake in the back yard, a big one, he said, inside a black pipe that takes rainwater away from the house. I managed to get the snake out. It was about a yard long, black with white markings on his belly. It was not aggressive but did take up a coiled defensive stance as I tried to corral it. The men, Hispanics, watched from the other side of the yard, and once when it moved toward them, they took several more steps away. I got it into a large paper bag and brought it into some nearby woods and let it go. I checked on the Internet and found that it was a rat snake, non-poisonous, tree-climbing and feeding on small mammals, birds, and eggs.
I got to thinking about the men’s fears. It could just have been that they aren’t familiar with North American snakes, but it’s also possible that they share what seems to be a very widespread fear of snakes. (Is it universal?) Genesis 2-3 supplies us with an etiology of why snakes crawl on their bellies, and perhaps also helps explain why we don’t like them. My father thought that the only good snake was a dead snake, and that included the garter snakes that are so helpful in the garden. On the other hand, I have nieces and nephews that when they went to our family house in the Catskills, would hope out of the car and run straight toward old pieces of plywood and turn them over in the hope of finding and catching small green snakes. One niece found one snake with newly born little ones, and she came up to the house with the little ones curled around her fingers like rings. Her older brother has a large collection of snakes in his home. So that generation had no fear of them.