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Spring heatwave produces critters

WESSON — A flock of vultures flew a circular pattern high inthe noon sky, focusing on some carrion morsel which would provide alunchtime buffet. The broiling sun frowned on the Wolf Hollow GolfClub, making one compare Wednesday to a sultry, 92-degree day inmid July.

Outside the fairways and greens, the parched soil was beggingfor rain, red clay cracking in the heat,. Thankfully, irrigationkept Wolf Hollow green, like an oasis in a desert.

Justin Smith, Wolf Hollow manager and Copiah-Lincoln CommunityCollege golf coach, dismounted from his cart, brandishing a .410shotgun. Another serpent had permanently bit the dust. Cottonmouthwater moccasins and other reptiles were thriving in theunseasonable heat.

“I’ve killed about 25 of them in the last month,” said Smith,carving a small notch on the shotgun’s stock. “They’re anuisance.”

Certainly, snakes are not conducive to attractive golf,especially if you have an aversion to reptiles. Personally, theycan add a lot of character to a course.

I remember way back when, before Wolf Hollow was carved out ofthe red clay hills, the old Co-Lin Golf Club existed. On one summerafternoon. former Co-Lin golf manager Alton Greenlee helped mepursue a large moccasin through the the thick undergrowth locatedalongside the old No. 4 fairway. He was deadly with a shovel, aswell as a pitching wedge.

Greenlee had many more snake stories to share. Once upon a time,on a cool November afternoon, we searched for one of my balls on ahillside near the 16th fairway. As I stooped low to dodge anoverhanging branch, I noticed a large snake about three feetaway.

Fortunately, it was a non-poisonus snake, a Hognose. Only aherpetologist could appreciate its distinctive markings andcolor.

As an only child growing up in Houston, Dallas and Milwaukee, Ispent a lot of time at the library. Snakes fascinated me. Thesesecretive creatures were despised by most folks but they caught myfancy. Many idle hours were spent looking under rocks and logs.

Garter snakes and ring-necks were the most common discoveries. Ablue or black racer were almost impossible to catch because theywere so quick. In high school, I once made an A-plus on a biologyreport when I brought a ribbon snake to school. The teacher, aDominican nun, was fascinated, allowing the snake to slitherbetween her fingers. Most of the girls and many of the boys inclass refused to touch the harmless 13-inch critter. It had beencaptured outside Escanaba, Mich., during a late spring snow in theupper peninsula, and carried back to Milwaukee in a mayonnaisejar.

Moving to Mississippi some 39 years ago, I realized I wasentering a paradise for critters of all shapes and sizes. If itbites or stings, crawls or slithers, flies or swims, the MagnoliaState provides ideal habitat.

Nowadays, snakes remain a fascination for me. King snakes, thespeckled black ones, are a favorite in Mississippi. Several 5 and6-footers inhabit our property which is located in western LincolnCounty. King snakes are immune to the poisonous venom produced byrattlesnakes, copperheads and moccasins.

You could say, king snakes are man’s best friend in the ruralcountryside. My yellow lab, Benton, would growl and argue thatstatement.

Benton was bred to be a retriever. So what does my 100-pound lablike to retrieve? He prefers terrapins.

The slow-moving tortoises leave a scent trail which is followedby other terrapins. Benton is adept at finding terrapins in thedeep undergrowth during our countless ATV trips through thewoods.

Once Benton finds one, he gently carries it in his mouth forseveral minutes before dropping it in preference for a drink ofrefreshing water from our pond or Hurricane creek. Then he’s off tofind a replacement.

For sure, you have to admire and thank God for His patience. Wesin and fall flat on our face almost every day.

Going back to the Garden of Eden, God could have destroyed Adamand Eve when they sinned and created some replacements. Instead,God had a plan, and His master plan for mankind continuestoday.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com