Margo and the Snakes


Margo, our innkeeper, wanted to talk about snakes. This was at breakfast, in Galax, North Carolina. In fairness, the Canadian woman, Lori, brought them up. She and her husband, Glen had a close encounter the previous day when cycling on a trail.

At the inn, you have breakfast with other residents. 8am. Breakfast on the table.

We knew that Lori and Glen had been cycling yesterday within minutes of meeting them on the porch the previous evening. They were keen to share how sore their butts were. Oh, well.

A good age for it, in fairness, they were both in their seventies. And the bikes were speedsters, drop handlebars, the whole works. We saw them the following day, on the back of their car. They’re settled in Charlotte.

Also keen to tell us about their five weeks on vacation in Ireland some years previously. We’d get more of that the following day, too, in between the snakes. They looked well heeled; certainly very well educated. They’d spent five months in Europe after retirement. 90 days on the continent, no less, as well as long stints in the UK and Ireland. In fairness.

They’d fallen victim to some strikes in France. Trains, truck drivers, farmers, air traffic controllers. It happens. In France.

They’d been on a trail the previous day, cycling. The main reason they came over from Charlotte, that trail. They did 40k. They were hoping for 60k but, well, the butts…

Interesting they used k, not miles. A Canadian thing, I guess. Also their distaste for Trump. They brought him up, not us. Pure disgusted they are. We said nothing.

On the way back, on the trail, Lori almost went over a snake, sunning himself. Lain right out. She thought it was a branch, a bit of wood. No. The snake was dark, almost black, Glen said. He was behind her. Apparently it’s often the second person who gets bit. Good to know.

Well, anything could have happened, Lori said. If I went over it, it could have flipped up and bit me, or got caught in the spokes or … anything! She was animated. Glen smiled, tolerantly.

Well, if it was black or dark, it wasn’t a copperhead or rattlesnake, Margo said. This appeared to be good news.

My sister had a copperhead in her garage last year, Margo said. She isn’t more than five feet nothing (Margo puts out her hand and holds if flat about shoulder height). Ind’t no bigger than a minute.

What did she do? Lori said.

She killed it with a shovel, Margo said. Chopped it right in two. She said this with pride. She went to pick up a leaf in the garage and saw it, right there. If she hadn’t, it might have come right in the house or Lord knows where.

Margo lives alone. Appears single, no ring, no mention of kids or a partner. She wasn’t happy about the rain. She was all set to cut her hedge today, but because of the rain … And because of the rain, everything is growing, apparently. She did have a male neighbour who used to help her out, but he went away.

Margo is worried about the inn. It’s for sale. The owner lives in Florida. His wife died and he left, and went south. He remarried and has young kids. Set up as a realtor in Florida. His wife died suddenly some years ago on vacation. Young woman, only 60. So he left.

A few people had looked at it about buying. One to live there – he was a doctor gonna get a job in the hospital but that didn’t work out. Another woman was interested in it as a B&B. She’s blowing hot and cold. One minute …

We heard all this the morning before. When we were having breakfast with Diane and Bill. They’re from New Hampshire. Came down to travel the Blue Ridge Parkway on their motorcycle, but they had an incident in Pennsylvania on the highway because of the rain and the motorcycle is damaged, and ‘is tied up in insurance’. They had been towing it on a trailer with their truck when the incident happened. They were unhappy with the rain. April is supposed to be the wet month, not May. They came down in May specifically because of that. They’re going home early. Diane wants to stay longer but Bill wants to cut his losses. There appears to be a problem with the insurance.

They told us their eldest grandson has just joined the marines. Straight from school, just turned 18. A quiet boy, an introvert, they were all shocked. And, he is colour-blind. Oh, well. He wants to be a medic in the marines. He was ranked highest in New Hampshire (New England, dear), sorry, New England, in some exercise for high-school kids. Well, at least there isn’t any war on, right now.

Margo was shocked when her daddy told her about snakes as a child. I never knew there was snakes in Virginia, she said. And we used to play in the woods above the farm. I grew up on a farm. Strangely, Ciara didn’t share that experience with her.

Daddy said they found thousands of snakes when they were making the Parkway. Daddy worked on that. Oh, some of them were maybe 12 feet long. One day my sister (Remember her? No bigger than a minute?) was playing in the woods and a snake chased her right home. He lifted up his head and she ran and that snake just took on after her. All the way to the creek, but it didn’t go any further.

Sometimes they just drop out of trees. Nothing you can do, Margo said.

Good to know.

We’d had a hike in the woods the day before, ourselves. Lots of rocks and hanging trees for snakes to hide in. Then through the meadow with the long grass. Then the rain began and we got soaked, even after taking shelter. Serious rain. 30 minutes of a downpour. Every so often, under the slanted tree, we’d hear the rain soften and the dripping decrease in intensity, and our hopes would rise. Then the rain would build again and build and we’d hear thunder in the distance. More dripping, lots of it. Lovely.


Margo had said that there wouldn’t be any rain until 8. Oh, well.

We made it. No copperheads dropping out of trees, or chasing us as far as the creek. No rattlesnakes in the long grass. No incidents on the highway. A lot to be thankful for.

I hope Margo will be okay. I hope she gets her hedge cut. I wish her well.