Dead Cottonmouth Prank
spent most of my childhood summers at my grandparents, who had a
house that fronted Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Here's
a prank I played at that locale, when I was twelve:
a couple preliminary items: 1) in Arkansas one may legally operate
a boat without adult supervision at twelve years of age; 2) my grandfather
had a trim fiberglass fishing boat, powered by a seventy-five horsepower
Mercury engine that enabled it to attain to highly entertaining
afternoon the neighbor kid and I interrupted a water skiing session
to stop at the fish hatchery and watch them feed the catfish --
a detour always worth taking, as the catfish were over four feet
and extremely competitive during feedings. They'd open their wide
mouths so that their upper lips were above water as they swam in
rapid swishing circles, vacuuming up the floating food; they'd make
greedy squawking noises, have territorial disputes -- savagely dart
at one another, frantically thrash.
feedings seldom lasted longer than fifteen minutes; generally, we'd
promptly hop back in the boat and resume racing about the lake.
In this instance, however, our attention was arrested by a man with
a rifle a few ponds away. Further investigation revealed he was
shooting water moccasins and tossing their carcasses onto the pathway.
The man was an excellent marksman: a small twenty-two caliber hole
was in each dead snake's head. We collected the snake carcasses
and tossed them in the bottom of the boat.
we roared over the wave crests at full speed the snake carcasses
were being bounced about, writhing on the bottom of the boat as
if alive: if we didn't know they had bullet holes in their heads,
we'd have no reason to believe them dead. It immediately occurred
to us we could make use of their lifelike appearance to fool others.
We each seized a carcass, held it as we would a living snake --
by the back of the head, with its length coiled about our arms,
taking care that its mouth was wide open to display the telltale
white, as well as the fangs. We gleefully held them aloft while
passing close to other boats -- were most gratified by the looks
of amazement and alarm the spectacle inspired.
entered a cove where about a dozen middle-aged people were gathered
on a party barge. At the sight of us youngsters -- myself twelve,
my friend thirteen -- holding the snakes, seemingly unaware of how
dangerous they were, they burst into cries of alarm. We laughed,
informed them the snakes were "friendly as could be."
I yelled, "Good try, but you're not going to ruin our fun!"
We began calling them names, making desrespectful gestures. Torn
between concern for our welfare and annoyance at our misbehavior,
they weren't quite sure what to do. One woman told us to stop being
"ignorant know-it-alls and listen for a change"; another
man informed us the "harbor patrol would know what to do with
us." My friend, overcome by an "Enough of this rubbish!"
impulse, dropped his snake carcass onto the bottom of the boat,
yelled, "Uh-oh!" and dashed towards the motor. I chimed
in with, "Hit it with the fire extinguisher before it bites
me!" The people on the barge were hanging on the railing, shouting.
I, after gesturing for my friend to sit, thrust the acceleration
lever down hard and our boat bolted from the cove: sheer euphoria!
My friend and I were aching with mirth!
by the success of our adventure with the party barge people, we
approached a boatload of college age girls
and came to an idle adjacent to them. "Check out our snakes!"
we shouted, stretching our arms -- about which the snake carcasses
were intertwined, be it recalled -- towards them. They immediately
realized what sort of snakes they were and began squealing with
apprehension. One of them urgently pointed out we were holding cottonmouths
and that they were aggressive and poisonous; she told us to toss
them overboard before we received bites and died. We answered that
we knew full well what they were and weren't afraid; that a violent
death with plenty of foaming at the mouth and convulsions might
be fun: the looks of bewildered disbelief that assailed their faces
as a consequence of this pronouncement were priceless to behold!
And then I -- eager to be the primary prankster this time -- yelled,
"Here, have one!" and threw my dead snake into the bottom
of their boat. How they screamed and scattered! One girl dove overboard,
the others climbed onto the prow of their boat. All were too frightened
to even think of scolding us. We were absolutely dying of laughter,
doubled over, nearly in pain. Finally my friend, while still bowled
over with laughter, managed to inform them the snake was dead --
ha ha ha! the torrent of rage that descended upon us pleased us
to no end! "Faked you out! Faked you out!" we kept yelling
with glee. Finally, upon hearing the drenched one express a desire
to tan our bratty behinds, we called out "You're gonna have
to catch us first!" and full throttled the motor, not neglecting
to treat them to a flurry of mocking gestures and faces as we sped
away. They didn't bother to give chase.
was approaching and we weren't permitted to operate the boat after
dark; being desirous of preserving our virtually unlimited daylight
boating privileges, we always obeyed this rule. Upon docking, we
tossed the four remaining snakes onto the lawn, and stood for a
few moments wondering what to do with them: for such treasures were
certainly not to be wasted. I'm unable to recall which one of us
hit upon our subsequent course of action; but I do remember it was
embraced with transports of delight, and immediately carried out.
Quite simple: we visited the doorsteps of four neighbors who were
less than enthusiastic about us playing in their yards -- assorted
humorless dislikers of children who'd on various occasions rather
uncivilly informed us to vacate their property; yes, visited each
doorstep and deposited one of the snakes thereupon, carefully coiled
into striking position with its head facing the front door, not
more than a yard away. How we laughed to think of the expressions
that would convulse the faces of these joyless souls the instant
they opened their doors in the morning! Such a shame, we commented,
that we wouldn't be present to witness these responses!
it bothered us a great deal that we wouldn't be there to watch panic
crease the features of the boorish faces of these killjoys -- our
annoyance was threatening to dilute our delight in the joke. Finally,
it was decided it would be impossible for us to sleep soundly without
ringing the doorbell of the nasty young couple who outdid the others
in rude shoo-aways, and concealing ourselves in some nearby pines
to observe the result. So we rang and hid -- oh, priceless the hysterics
-- outright shrieks -- of the wife, quick slamming shut of the door!
We didn't press our luck, were soon racing parallel to the street
while crouched low in a shielding ditch, smothering our mouths to
prevent our mirth from becoming audible. Minutes later, we strolled
into my grandparents' dining room: catfish, okra, and black-eyed
peas were on the stove; hush puppies and cornbread were in the oven;
a pecan pie was cooling on the counter. There's nothing like a home
cooked southern meal: what a fitting reward for our labors! My friend
and I kicked one another under the table throughout this dinner
and exchanged provoking glances, in attempts to get each other to
burst out laughing. Later that night we gave free rein to our sense
of accomplishment, proudly recounted the highlights of our day again
Springs National Park
five Diamond Lakes - called that as much for the crystal clear water
as for the diamond-bearing and quartz-rich areas in which they are
found - are Lakes Ouachita and Hamilton at Hot Springs, Lake Catherine
near Malvern, Lake Greeson between Glenwood and Murfreesboro, and
DeGray Lake at Arkadelphia."