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A Few Appalachian Snake Tales

Dwellers of the north Georgia mountains have to contend with an array of poisonous snakes, including rattlesnakes and copperheads, but their folktales contain even more perilous serpents…

The coach whip snake’s mechanism of killing is to fascinate its victims with its hypnotic powers and then tickle them to death. So say the optimists; tellers of darker tales say the coach whip snake operates more like its namesake. It attached itself to its victim by putting its head down the victim’s throat, which has the added advantage of silencing any cries for help, then lashing the victim with its thin, whip-like body, like a coach driver lashing his horses, until its victim expires.

The hoop snake overcomes a snake’s typical absence of vehicular speed by tucking its tail into its mouth, forming a wheel out of its body, and then rolling downhill at great speeds towards its victims.

Snakes have powerful poisons, too. Once, a man’s walking cane was bitten by a snake, and the cane swelled up so much from the venom that the man sold it to a saw mill, which made ten miles of railroad ties out of it. When the rain came and washed out the poison, the ties shrank back down, with disastrous consequences for the railroad tracks. But the enterprising man collected the shrunken splinters and sold them for toothpicks.

Another poisonous serpent bit a watermelon on the vine; the watermelon swelled and burst, causing a flood of watermelon juice through the valley. Only those who clung to the seeds survived.

The easiest way to get rid of snakes, of course, is to get a second snake of equal size and strength. The two snakes will get into a fight, and each will start to swallow the other, starting with the tail. And as each snake keeps swallowing, working its way forward — suddenly, they’ll both be gone! They’ve swallowed each other up.

Most of these snake tales come from A Treasury of Georgia Folklore, collected by Killion and Waller.

Written by timwestover

September 17th, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Posted in folklore

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