Monday, July 14, 2008

Well, we're still are in the Low Country of Coastal Georgia. Everything is quiet and we are just taking it easy. We are doing a lot of reading, walking, bike riding and some fishing. A very quiet summer. We did have an exciting experience here in our campground this past week, however.

We are staying at the Fort Stewart campground located about 35 miles southwest of Savannah. Fort Stewart is the largest military installation east of the Mississippi and is the home of the 3rd Infantry Division (ID). The 3rd ID is a military unit steeped in history. It is also the unit that was tasked with securing Baghdad at the onset of the Iraqi invasion. They have rotated back to Iraq three times since then. The latest was to head the "surge" that is ultimately bringing peace to that country. They are the true heroes of this conflict.

The entire installation sets on typical coastal low country terrain. This means it is flat, wooded and lots of water. Usually the water is in the form of swamps, small rivers and creeks. It is beautiful and teeming with wildlife. The campground has a small lake close by and it is inhabited with many different types of waterfowl as well as three resident crocodiles. Our campground itself is home to many different species of birds, squirrels, armadillos, and, oh yeah, snakes. Most of the snakes, however, are beneficial and keep the rodents away. This past week, though, things changed a bit with this snake population.

One afternoon I was doing some housekeeping and was about to store a mobile tank under our trailer when, through pure instinct, I jumped up and away from where I had been standing. I stood at my new roost for a few seconds before I became aware why I had jumped. I immediately brought into focus a very large Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake that lay coiled up under some pine straw and leaves right where I was walking. It is by the grace of God I did not step on it.

I looked at it for a minute or so then went next door to our camp host and explained to him what I had found. He came over and was amazed then immediately called the post's Game Warden. It was about 45 minutes before the warden arrived and it took him several minutes to access the situation. He eventually grabbed the animal around the neck with a snake catcher stick. He then placed the animal in a large plastic garbage can and secured the top with a small tarp and bungee cord to prevent its escape. His mission: Accomplished!

He eventually took the big fellow off to a remote area of the post and set it free. No need to destroy it. There have a purpose here, too. I have included several pictures highlighting the snake. The first is a close up. Notice how it blends in with its surroundings. Perfect camouflage. It was at the base of a tree where squirrels are usually about. He seemed to be waiting for a dinner. The second picture also highlights the snake and shows how close to our trailer it was. This animal did not move once from the time I almost stepped on it to the time the warden grabbed it. Even then it wasn't until he started to pick it up did it begin to resist. It measured between 5 and 6 feet long. It was large and older specimen. But this is not the end of the story.

Two days later, Tom, the camp host, and I were photographing a large outcrop of mushrooms that had sprung up about 20 feet from our trailer. Tom was 3-4 feet from the rooms when I began to walk into the outcrop's center. Again, I jumped back instinctively without knowing why at first. It was immediately clear, though, after no more than several seconds. I quietly told Tom to freeze and move backwards. A seasoned military Veteran himself, he did as I asked without hesitation. I directed his focus to the center of the rooms and he picked out the Eastern Diamondback right away. This one was not as large and was coiled on top of the leaves and pine straw. Again, a call was made. This time, however, a campground employee arrived. He was trained in handling these types of situations. At least that is what he told us.

The Crocodile Dundee of Ft. Stewart deftly picked up the snake and placed it in a covered container very quickly. But does this end here? No-o-o-o-o-o. Before we could catch our breaths, another camper came up and said he had a large coiled snake in his site on the other side of the campground. With a grin and passion, the "snake hunter" headed for this quarry. He, again, made quick work of his prey. Like the warden, he released the snakes in a remote area of the post. Folks around here understand we have to share, although the infrequent camper kinda gets shook when they see this animal.

We have had quite a bit of rain recently and it has caused the snakes to come to higher ground. We know they are out there so we are cautious. Other than that, things have been pretty quiet. If another exciting situation pops up, I will post the details as they have happened. For now, the Berry representatives in the Georgia Low Country are signing off.