I was riding my bike out in the country today when something caught my eye in the road. It was a colorful little snake coiled in a patch of sunshine in the middle of my lane. Traffic was very light – almost nonexistant – on this tree-lined back road late on a Saturday afternoon, so of course I had to stop alongside and check it out.
Golly – seems like all I’m doing lately is talking about reptiles, doesn’t it?
Now bear in mind I’m a backwoods girl raised by a swamp. Never held much fear of snakes and in fact have had my share of the swiggly things tucked away in a pocket or two.
But as soon as I saw this little guy, I knew he wasn’t a pocket-dweller. He was a coral. Red on black won’t hurt Jack; black on yellow’ll kill a fellow. All swamp rats know how to tell the difference between a harmless scarlet kingsnake and a poisonous coral snake. And we never harm the one and just steer clear of the other.
I stared at him and he stared back at me in mutual respect. Skirting him by a safe five feet, I admired the crystilline beauty of his vivid colors. One of God’s masterpieces of design. Coral snakes don’t strike or jump at you like other poisonous snakes; they’re actually not aggressive at all. You have to practically step on one for it to defend itself and bite, and then it has to sort of chew on you to do any damage.
Anyhow, along comes a truck toward us in the other lane. A shiny silver pick-up driven by a young redneck in a cowboy hat. He slowed down a mite to see what was so interesting to the lady on the bike, and then sped up right as he got to us. Swerving way out of his lane, he intentionally ran his oversized tires right over the little snake, squashing reptile innards all over the road at my feet.
Now I know there are different ways of looking at every issue, and I might feel differently if a coral snake were latched onto the ankle of my toddler, but my blood boiled at the needless taking of this life just because of the color of its skin.
That little snake wasn’t bothering anyone. It was just enjoying a little sun-bathing on a warm road. It wasn’t encroaching in anyone’s habitat, we were in his. I can’t believe I’m admitting this but my eyes teared up at the unjust scene of a destroyed creature whose only offense was being himself and a smug self-appointed executioner driving away to his Bud Light.
Makes me realize the sting of prejudice among humankind. The unfairness, the folly of judging someone simply by the color of their skin. Or their tribe. Or their ancestry.
Maybe it’s the judge – the guy in the truck and even me sometimes – who ought to be squashed all over the road. There but by God’s grace goes each of us.