Frozen Moccasin
Most people will not believe that Florida, especially south Florida, can get cold, close to freezing. For the most part they would be right, but during the late 1980's, Florida and the rest of the U.S. experienced some very cold winters. This story takes place during one of those cold winters. This trip was during December and a cold one it was. The early morning temperatures out in the Big Cypress Swamp were in the low 30's. Now people from the north are saying, 30 is not very cold and they would be right, if they were up north. But in Florida, even in the winter, the humidity stays very high. This dampness allows the cold to creep in, no matter what you are wearing. Sort of like a chill factor with the wind, but in this case a chill factor from the dampness.

The whole day was cold and everyone on the trip was bundled up. The group of us had not been successful, in a morning of hunting. It seemed as though the game had found a warm spot and they were hanging out there, out of sight. There weren't any fresh tracks to be found near camp. In the afternoon we decided to take a buggy ride and find this secret spot. We headed north of camp, to an area we call Drake's. Drake's at the time was a cattle ranch, about a square mile of fenced of swamp. We decided to follow the south fence, just outside of it, heading in a easterly direction. This area was somewhat new to us, so we were exploring. The area consisted of open prairies, with a sprinkling of cypress heads.

A cypress head consists of a low area, usually with a pond in the middle of it. In this low area, cypress trees grow from the middle of the low area out. The bigger trees are in  the middle of the head and the smaller trees toward the outside of the head.  The older the cypress head the bigger the trees. The cypress heads usually have a hole in the middle of it. In a few, the oldest trees have died off, leaving their old rotten bones (stumps) in the middle of it and the mature trees still alive, in a circle around the middle, with the smaller trees in a circle out side of them. Most of them have a hollow spot in the middle because the water is too deep to support the cypress tree growing there. The shape of the whole cypress head viewed from a distance would resemble a mixing bowl turned upside down. Not that anything in nature actually grows in an exact shape, but that gives you a general idea of the shape of a cypress head. The water in a cypress head gets deeper as you go toward the middle of it. The middle of a cypress head can have two feet of water in it while the outside edge is just inches deep or even dry.

On this trip to the Big Cypress the water level was mostly down, but water still stood in the middle of most of the cypress heads. As we rode along the fence at Drake's, we came to a large cypress head. Lewis, Tom and I wanted to explore this head and asked Hoss, whom was driving his buggy to stop. Hoss decided to stay on the buggy, but the rest of us spread out and entered the cypress head.

As I walked along the edge of the head, right about where the water started, I came across a 4 foot water moccasin. Water moccasins are poisonous and fairly common in the Big Cypress Swamp. Now snakes, like all reptiles don't have a way of warming themselves, so they take on the temperature of the area surrounding them. This poor snake was very cold. Actually at first glance, I wasn't sure it was even alive. But on closer examination it was. This snake was so cold that it could barely move its head. I took the barrel of my shotgun and scooted it under the middle of the snake. Lifting it up, it slowly relaxed over the barrel of the shotgun, eventually hanging in a loop with the head and the tail straight down, looking quite dead. I decided to carry the snake back to Hoss on the buggy and show it to him.

As I approached the buggy, Hoss was sitting in the drivers seat. The buggy in front of the drivers seat has about a three foot area of deck over the engine. Hoss seeing the snake drooped over the barrel of my gun said, "I didn't hear you shoot  that snake". I said "I didn't". Now being a little bit of a practical joker, I placed the snake on the front deck, Hoss said "what did"? I  quietly replied, "nothing". About this time, Lewis and Tom came out of the cypress head and Hoss's attention went to them. Hoss said to them, "what did you see, any sign of game"? Hoss, Lewis and Tom started talking about what they had seen, talking about this and that, while I listened to them. This went on for about ten minutes or so, all the while the water moccasin was sitting on the deck over the warm engine, thawing out. Suddenly, Hoss noticed movement down near his feet. Looking down, Hoss saw the water moccasin was coiling up into strike position. Now Hoss doesn't like snakes at all. He yelled and jumped over the seat into the back of the buggy. He grabbed his shotgun and started yelling, "get that thing off my buggy or I will blow the front of the buggy off". Now Hoss really couldn't shoot the snake without shooting his engine, so I let him suffer a little bit. All of us laughing at how Hoss reacted.  Hoss paced back and forth on his buggy, which is only 6 feet wide, constantly mouthing off, all the while making sure the  snake wasn't crawling toward him.

It was starting to get dark and it was getting colder, so it was time to head back. I took the end of my shotgun and flipped the water moccasin onto the ground. I'm sure it would have prefered to stay where it was because it was warm, but Hoss wasn't about to share his buggy with the moccasin, so it had to go. Hoss, to this day, tells this story of the dead water moccasin coming back to life on the front of his buggy.

This story written by Steve November 17, 2000

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