One Mad Water Moccasin

Water MoccasinMy brothers and I, plus some of the nephews had come together to float and fish the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. This is a designed wilderness river. The area we were floating would take five or six days to canoe. During that time we would see no signs of civilization. It was early in the year, and we had the river to ourselves. Our family is scattered across the country, from the Allegheny Mountains to the Rockies. It promised to be a great time to spend some quality time together. We would be fishing to supplement our food supply. In fact, fish would made up the majority of our meals.

On the second day out my brother  and I were in a canoe together. We were busy fishing and had lost sight of the rest of the gang. The smallmouth bass were biting, the weather was perfect. We were having a great time.

cottonmouthInvestigating a disturbance near one shore, we discovered two cottonmouth water moccasins causing it. Water moccasins are pit vipers, like copperheads and rattlesnakes. Their venom is very potent. Cottonmouth venom is composed mainly of hemotoxins that break down blood cells, leading to hemorrhaging throughout the circulatory system. The results can be serious or even deadly.  My brother lives in Arkansas, where he spends a good deal of time on the lakes and rivers fishing. He is very familiar with water moccasins and has no use for them. His immediate response was, ‘kill them, hit’em with the paddle.’

Now, I understand how my brother felt. We grew up in southern Indiana, at a time when copperhead snakes were very common there. It was an era when many people still lived on small farms and had some livestock. It was common practice at the time for anyone who came across a copperhead to kill it. You didn’t want anyone to be struck by one, but you also didn’t want livestock or pets to be bit by a copperhead, which while rare, did happen.

So I understood my brother when he yelled ‘kill them’, and shot the canoe toward them. I responded by hitting them with the edge of the paddle with a resounding whack. The result was that I made the larger of the two very mad. This water moccasin was well over three feet long. It was the largest moccasin either of us had ever seen. And it was mad!  

I have been around snakes, including poisonous snakes most of my life. When I was a kid, I caught snakes and kept them along with other critters. But, I had never observed a snake of any kind respond as this one did. This large water moccasin immediately went on the attack mode. It’s head and first few inches of his body reared up out of the water. His head was as high as the gunwale of the canoe and he was determined he was coming into the canoe after us. I would hit it with the paddle and drive it under the water, then it would pop right back up and try to get into the canoe again. My brother was hollering for me to hit it again, which I kept doing. Neither of us wanted a cottonmouth moccasin in the boat with us. Especially a mad one. After several more attempts by the water moccasin to enter the canoe, and several more hits by me with the paddle, the moccasin lost the battle.  Normally water moccasins are not aggressive.  This one could easily have swam away. It’s only thought was revenge, though, because it was so angry.  

We get like that sometimes. We are so angry and hurt that our only thought is revenge. We can be consumed with getting even, when we could just walk away. Many of us get revenge by bad-mouthing, humiliating or even lying about our enemies. And then sometimes we hold grudges, sometimes for years and years.    It’s usually the person wanting revenge, holding grudges, or hating others that suffers the most. 

The real reason that Jesus tells us not to get revenge ourselves,  is that he knows the damage such thoughts do to us. He loves us too much for that. Who is JesusJesus asks us to love our enemies. He never asks you to forget the hurt someone has done to you. Forgetting is seldom possible, but forgiving is. Forgiving others draws us closer to Christ, and sets us free to move on.  



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