Phillip Thompson

Crime Fiction writer

I’ve been fortunate the last few days to have quite a bit of correspondence with friends and relatives in the Magnolia State, and, as usual, it’s left a smile on my face. Mostly through the magicurse of Facebook, but I’ll take it. The weather’s getting warm, the dogwoods are ready to bloom, Easter’s coming and it’s almost baseball season. Just a recap: a story of a snake that can thank the husband of a girl I know in Starkville for saving his serpent life. She was about ready to shoot it (which is precisely my recommended course of action upon visual contact with a snake), but her husband decided since it was only a king snake, he should be given a stay of execution and relocation assistance. Services rendered, and now she doesn’t have to clean the gun. See, that’s the kind of woman you want on your side. The one knows how to use a gun.

Now you might be thinking, “why would she want to kill a king snake? It’s not poisonous.” Well, right there, we know you’re from Minnesota or New Hampshire or somewhere. And, second, we don’t care if it’s poisonous or not. A snake is a snake, damn it. There’s something like 2,700 species of snakes in the world, and 2,695 of them live in Mississippi. That’s so many snakes that when you see one, you don’t have time to be studying stripes and colors and sizes and all that. Because while you’re doing that, that sumbitch is going to bite you. So you cover your bets and shoot him. Dead. Twice if he ain’t. Because you make one of those silly “red on black” “red touches yellow” sayings, and that “water snake”  you’re eyeball to eyeball with is a water moccasin and you will be the one who’s dead. So you really cover your bets and assume that every snake you see is a water moccasin and shoot it just in case. You know, shoot first, questions later. Because a water moccasin is your worst nightmare. There’s never been a meaner, more aggressive, remorseless creature on Earth (except maybe an ex-wife). You don’t believe me, I’ll take you to the Tombigbee about this time of year and we’ll fish the banks out of a boat. You fish, I’ll keep my hand on my pistol.

There’s all kinds of stories about water moccasins and boats down South. I have personally seen them chase a boat — mine. There’s the one about the old man in a wooden boat taking down his trot line he had tied to a willow tree on the bank. Everybody knows a water moccasin loves a willow tree to get up in and wrap around a limb. Well, this old guy is cutting his line loose when behind him he hear a big plop. Turns around and in the bottom of  the boat is a huge moccasin, thick as his arm. He grabs his shotgun (that he carried along exclusively for this purpose, Mr. Game Warden) and gives the snake both barrels. Kills it. And blew a big-ass hole in the bottom of his wooden boat and promptly sank.

So, no, we don’t take kindly to snakes.

Then, cousin Susan in Artesia made me jealous and hungry by posting her supper menu — “fresh caught catfish and homemade fries and hushpuppies.” I’m still hungry just thinking about that, even though I had that same meal last week.

And then, an old Marine Corps buddy from Biloxi texted me the punch line of a joke I told 25 years ago to a room full of lieutenants in Virginia and we laughed hard all over again. Damn, I can barely remember that joke (which, now that I think about it, I can’t post here), and he’s sending me the punch line of a little Johnny joke. Was a good one, though.

And people wonder why I miss Mississippi.

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