May 14, 2008
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
Nate Matthews, who runs this blog, has just returned from an excellent safari to South Africa where he shot well and killed everything. Before he left, I filled his head with all my African expertise, but I apparently neglected one important item of information, because he encountered a puff adder and did not make it a dead puff adder. His excuse was that there was no time to take its skin, but I think it was a simple lack of civic responsibility.
The puff adder is a short, thick viper that is responsible for more bites than any other serpent in Africa. It has long fangs, a bad temper, serious hemotoxic venom, and a very fast strike. It's fond of sleeping in the dust of footpaths, and when you step on it, it will bite you fatally and then go right back to sleep.
Nate's obligation was to make adderburger out of it on general principles, and possibly even theological ones. It says in the Book of Mark that "thou shalt take up serpents," but I think this was mis-translated and originally read "thou shalt hack up serpents," which is why the hoe, the shovel, the pickup-truck tire, the shotgun, and many other excellent tools were invented.
This may be the place to pass along my favorite serpent story, which I got from a 1920s edition of Field & Stream, where it was represented as the truth:
It seems that back in the days of the Old West, New Hands in an outfit were subjected to cowboy humor, which got pretty creative at times. Anyway, one night this particular outfit decided to have some fun with its New Hand. The cowpokes collected a rattler who was frozen near-stiff from the cold, sewed its mouth shut, and put it down inside the New Hand's boot. (In them days, working cowboys wore stovepipe boots, very high and tight-fitting, and impossible to get on or off inside of 15 minutes).
So morning comes, and the New Hand puts on his boot, and the serpent, thawed out by now and very cross, makes its presence known. The New Hand goes berserk trying to get the boot off, and unbridled hilarity reigns in the bunkhouse. Finally, the NH gets the boot off, and says:
"What son of a bitch done this?"
To which a grizzled cowhand says, "Waaal, I reckon it was me."
Upon which the New Hand pulls his gun, shoots the man dead, saddles his pony and rides off into the sunrise.
To me, that is a snake story with a happy ending.
And a non-serpent note: In a previous blog, I referred to Cabela's Bell & Carlson Gator knife. This peerless piece of cutlery is jointly made for Cabela's by Gerber and Bell & Carlson, and is so good that none of you are worthy of it. It is not yet available, but will be in the big Cabela's catalog in August, and in their stores in September.
Editor's Note: Per your requests in the comments section, here's a photo of the knife.