I was going to the gym. Protein shake in one hand, keys in the other. I swung open the door and was overcome with a sensation that something wasn’t right.
Then I saw the snake.
Two inches in front of my foot was the head of a very large snake.
I cycled through my OODA loop. So did the snake. It drew back at the same time I slammed the door.
Luckily for me, it didn’t move toward me and into the house. It moved to the side, but didn’t retreat.
My heart was beating out of my chest.
I then cycled through emotions from relief (that it hadn’t come inside) to worry (that my children would experience this) to rage. Why rage? I’ll tell you why.
I will ignore a snake, even a venomous snake, if I am in the woods and not near it. He’s in his home and I am visiting. No harm, no foul.
That changes entirely when the snake is the one visiting my home.
I live here. My children live here. Lives that I am responsible for.
This snake is no different than any other intruder. Neither is my response.
I stormed out the other exit, drew my pistol, and retrieved a leaf blower. Why a leaf blower? I’m lazy and the snake had slid under leaves I still haven’t disposed of.
I started the leaf blower, blowing air at 165 miles an hour, to draw the little monster out.
When I finally caught a visual of the snake, he’d wedged himself into a corner of my car port. I turned off the leaf blower, circled around, and approached it from my deck. Now I was above and behind, where it couldn’t see me.
I cocked the hammer of my revolver and fired.
Then I fired again. And again. And again. Then twice more.
Snakes take more killing than some animals. If you don’t sever its head or destroy its brain, it will still come at you.
Which is exactly what this snake did.
After the first shot, it was stunned and wounded but far from dead. The second shot informed it where I was, and it began climbing toward me.
I’d been aiming at what I thought was the snake’s head but was actually its tail. What would’ve been a brain shot just ended up pissing it off.
It climbed onto a board, which is where it caught the second pair of shots. These shots both hit it in the head, but did not sever it or hit its brain.
I knew they were both good hits, because I saw the blood streak the board’s corner. The final two shots in my revolver were body shots. Blood loss took its toll and the snake started writhing. I took this as a death rattle, but it was not dead yet.
I took a shop broom that was leaning against the deck railing and unscrewed the handle.
While the snake was writhing, I slid the steel-capped end of the stick under it and lifted. I threw it out into the yard for some animal to snack on later.
As I was walking back to screw the broom handle back onto the head, I heard movement behind me. The snake was still very much alive, and climbing the steps behind me!
My gun had run dry, but it hadn’t proved very effective anyway. I went full caveman.
When the snake lifted its bloody head at me, I swung the stick like a golf club right into its mouth. The impact force lifted the snake and sent it flying back into the yard.
Even though I had probably destroyed its brain, I wasn’t taking any chances with this apparently immortal snake. I jumped off the deck while swinging the stick as hard as I could.
The combination of muscular force, gravity, and sheer weight caused the stick to snap in half between my hands when it crushed the snake’s skull.
You might have some objections to this story.
First of all, if I was firing a gun at a snake in my car port, doesn’t that mean I was shooting at a concrete backstop at close range? Isn’t that dangerous?
Yes, it does. And yes, it is. I don’t recommend you do that.
The gun I was using was the Colt Police Positive Special chambered in .32 Colt New Police. Also known as .32 Smith and Wesson Long.
If you don’t know anything about this gun, just understand that it is very very weak.
As a frame of reference, many consider the .380 ACP to be too weak for self defense, and this cartridge is weaker than the .380 by a wide margin.
I collected a few of the small bullets that flattened against the concrete, as well as one fully separated bullet jacket. The bullets were semi-jacketed soft lead hollow points.
I would not have attempted those shots with a faster, harder, or bigger bullet. I knew these would not have enough force after hitting concrete to do any damage to anything.
The downside is that they didn’t have a spectacular result on the snake.
I’ve taken a snake’s head clean off with my preferred .44 Special load before. That bullet moves 300 feet per second faster and weighs nearly three times as much as the ones pictured.
You might also object, “Lloyd, this snake probably wasn’t even poisonous. You didn’t have to kill it!”
My response: “Fuck you.”
That’s the same logic that considers a robbery a non-issue if no one gets injured. I will never accept that kind of thinking.
When you strip away the non-essential details of the situation, I had a potentially dangerous entity on my property. This entity was on my property, without my consent, and did not leave when given the chance.
What’s more, in my area it’s practically impossible to tell the difference between a non-venomous black runner and a venomous water moccasin unless you see the inside of its mouth. We call moccasins “Cotton Mouths” for this reason.
If a scared child spooks a snake that can’t find an escape route, it will still bite. This one attempted to bite me, which is how I caught it in the head with the stick. Non-venomous snakes still have long teeth like needles.
Given this snake’s aggressive behavior, I assumed it was a cotton mouth and treated it accordingly. No differently than I would treat a home invader.
What I really learned during this experience, though, is about our flawed understanding of weapons and fighting.
We consider the firearm to be the ultimate weapon, when the tool that kept me from being bitten was a simple steel-capped broom stick.
Our understanding is skewed by specialization.
Specialization is the Method of Man
What is specialization? Specialization is what you do when you prioritize something. You make it your priority and ignore everything else.
Specialization is another way to say, “Obsession”. As you know, Obsession leads to Perfection. At least, as close to perfection as you can get.
Specialization is a wonderful thing. Without this obsession, civilizations would have never existed. Man would not be Man if it were not for specialization.
The downside is that the results of specialization are relied upon too heavily, too often.
We forget the old ways. The old skills and technologies. The way people used to do things.
Many old timers will read this and say, “Why didn’t you just take its head off with a shovel?” That’s how they’ve always done it. The shovels were inside my utility closet, and the snake was coiled in front of its door.
Instead of finding something else to cut off its head with, I defaulted to a specialized tool. The firearm.
We consider firearms the ultimate in defensive weaponry. In this instance, its performance was less effective than a steel capped stick. The real moral of the story, though?
I ignored a better solution in favor of one I was more comfortable with.
How many of us are doing the same thing?
The vast majority of shooters I know refuse to lift weights. Why do they need strength? They have a gun.
The vast majority of shooters I know refuse to practice martial arts. Why should they learn how to fight? They have a gun.
The same thing is true of every bodybuilder and martial artist I know personally. They have specialized, to the exclusion of all other activities.
What happens when your strength, or your fists, or your gun isn’t enough?
We should strive to be complete.
Develop strength, learn to fight, learn to shoot. What’s more, build on top of this martial foundation with as many soft skills as possible.
And if both of those fail, leveraging the OODA Loop with this wide variety of skills might see you through. Soft skills have a broader range of applications that you’re much more likely to get value from.
Specialization is simply another name for obsession. Obsession is a precious resource.
Save your obsession for your mission, not the skills you build to complete it.
Also, fuck snakes.