Animals In Appalachia Appalachia

Snake the Beds


snake the bed, snake the covers verb phrase
See 1972 citation.
1935 Sheppard Cabins in Laurel 48 Aunt Polly can see the old times if not the new. Going barefoot to the long church-house, with rags wrapped around her legs for warmth; “snakin’ the beds” before she would dare crawl in between the covers. 1970 Mull Mt Yarns 7 So “snaking the kivvers,” that is removing  all the bed clothes from beds before retiring and shaking them good, became essential. 1972 Cooper NC Mt Folklore 32 In early days, before the family retired for the night, the bedding was removed and shaken lest a snake had slithered into the house and was waiting to strike. This practice was called snaking the beds.

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


I never thought I’d have to worry about snaking the beds, but I came very close to having to do just that about a week ago.

It was on the day Brasstown received the most rain from the recent tropical depression Alberto. The road we live on sometimes floods at the first creek crossing, so late that afternoon when the college said anyone who lived in a flood prone area needed to go home I got in my car and left. The creek was just up to the top of the culvert on each side of the road, but I made it through fine and went on home.

The girls came in just a few minutes behind me and as the rain continued to pour I suggested they go ahead and take a shower because the power could go off at any time.

Chitter got in the shower and about the time The Deer Hunter walked in the door from work the water quit. The power was still on so that wasn’t the issue.

Chitter was all soaped up and with no water to wash off in she quickly became a sticky mess.

The Deer Hunter had a hard day of work and now it looked like he was going to have a hard evening of work at home fixing the water.

I was in the kitchen trying to finish supper when The Deer Hunter started downstairs to the basement to see if something was wrong with the pressure tank. He opened the door and then quickly shut it and ran around the house looking for something. I said “What is it? Did you figure out what’s wrong with the water?” He said “Do not look down the stairs and hold your ears.”

I noticed he had a gun and immediately knew it was some sort of critter in the basement.

I stuck my fingers in my ears and one shot later it was over.

The four and half foot long blacksnake you see at the top of this post was on the landing of our basement steps. The Deer Hunter knew if he didn’t get the snake killed with one shot we’d be looking all over the house for it and that I would most likely move out till he found it 🙂

I guess the blacksnake took all the rain it could take and decided to try out our basement for its new digs. After I got over being scared to death that a giant snake was in the basement, the girls told me the snake had broken a lot of my jars and old bottles as it climbed along the shelves looking for a place to curl up. Being sweet girls, they cleaned up all the mess for me.

The water turned out to be an easy fix. A lighting strike had burnt up the control box. A quick trip to town for a new one and within five minutes The Deer Hunter had the water restored and Chitter finally got to wash the soap out of her hair.

As we discussed the evening’s excitement I told The Deer Hunter “I can’t believe I live in a house where you need to snake the beds.” He said “So what? I always snake mine when I’m at deer camp.”


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  • Reply
    Sharon Schuster
    January 16, 2021 at 8:46 am

    I share the fear of snakes that many of your readers have described. Can’t help myself – when I see one I scream. My big dog and I were out walking around the barn on a summer afternoon when she got ahold of a big blacksnake. She had it in the middle and slung it from side to side. Of course I was screaming and was not sure which way to run. I figured she’d let it go and it would go flying in whatever direction. Only came across one when I was picking black raspberries. My screaming brought someone running to remove it. I always wear boots when I pick berries. Gramps used to have a blacksnake that he kept above the doorway of the barn. Said it would keep mice away. I would rather see a mouse than a snake. For mice, I keep barn and house cats. Daddy always let blacksnakes stay in buildings with the same reasoning. He did kill a copperhead with his pistol, Deer Hunter style. I have heard they smell like cucumbers. If I come across a snake, I use a hoe, just like those women of long ago, to kill it. They are safe as long as they don’t invade my space.

  • Reply
    Stephen Suddarth
    July 1, 2018 at 9:48 am

    Good story, Thank you…

  • Reply
    June 10, 2018 at 4:15 am

    When I was in the Army and out in the field, I would tell my squad to snake the sleeping bags before going to sleep. After explaining what that meant they would laugh their butts off at me. Then one night is Saudi, someone found a very poisonous snake in their bed. They were laughing at me any more and every night you would hear someone say, Don’t forget to snake the bed!”

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    June 9, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    One of the reasons I live Hawaii. No snakes!!

  • Reply
    Darrell Cook
    June 9, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    I went to Union County Georgia schools growing up. Our science teacher gave extra credit should we bring animals to school. I caught a large black snake and took it to school in a pickle jar. The teacher asked me to take it home that evening because she was afraid someone would knock the jar off the filing cabinet. I took it home and placed it under my bed. My brother came in my room on the next morning, a Saturday morning and said, “come on, get up, time to get to the fields.” I told him I would get up in a few minutes. About 15 minutes later he came back to get me up and again I said, ‘I will get up in a minute.” The third time he entered the room he said nothing. I distinctly remember hearing the lid come off the pickle jar. I rolled over and he had the 5-6 foot long snake held high in the air. Quick as a wink he pulled the quilt up and threw the snake on top of me. The snake was cold and scaly and coiled up leg. I shot out of bed like a cannon ball.

  • Reply
    June 9, 2018 at 9:25 am

    I hate snakes! The last snake that came in my house must have been living in my basement/cellar. My hundred year old house is built on a rock foundation with plenty openings and lots of cool shade. I seldom go down there even during tornado warnings. It is scarier than the storm!
    The snake entered right in front of my eyes as I propped the kitchen door open and waited for the heating and air guy to arrive. My closet looked like a burglar had visited by the time my son-in-law found it. The ‘experts’ at Bernheim Forest took one look at it and identified it as a Copperhead. Maybe I need to snake the kivvers!

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    June 9, 2018 at 8:29 am

    We have already killed one copperhead this year. There have been 3 blacksnakes also. One right near the house. in the garden, and between the garages. I don’t know if the rain flushed them out or why so many in one week. We move the blacksnakes to the woods but I worry about them getting the baby birds that are still in the nests.

  • Reply
    June 9, 2018 at 8:29 am

    Oh dear!!!!! Oh dear! One my biggest fears. I have lots snake stories I won’t bore you with,…. esp in FL. How great it was tho to see an osprey flying over with a snake rather than usual fish! Haven’t seen one here but I keep a lookout. I’ve never shook the kivers tho! Granny was the champion copperhead killer on Little East Fork with 410. If I go on vacation out west, it’s in winter snow I’m so scared of rattlesnakes.
    Your water going out was a blessing! Even with the soapy hair.
    Oh dear!! Oh dear!!

  • Reply
    June 9, 2018 at 7:57 am

    Is there no place private enough she couldn’t have rinsed off outside in all of that rain?

    • Reply
      June 9, 2018 at 9:14 am

      Vanessa – I tried to get her to do just that but the silly girl wouldn’t listen 🙂

  • Reply
    Colleen Holmes
    June 9, 2018 at 7:55 am

    I hate snakes too. Here in Michigan we rarely come across any dangerous ones. Just playful gardners.

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    June 8, 2018 at 9:02 pm

    Lord have mercy, I try to be brave but I am not. To show you how afraid I am of those things, I didn’t get today’s post but when I looked at yesterdays, I noticed the snake. Now that is a small picture and wanting to read the post, I clicked on it and sent my chair on wheels whizzing across the room. lol Whew!! It scared me but I just knew that picture was going to pop up large with that thing. It was dead, could not hurt me, but that didn’t make any difference. Daddy had a big black snake that lived somewhere, probably the barn, and I would see it coiled up so I stayed far away. He always said they are good to have around because they will take care of the mice and also a poison snake. Don’t know if that is true or not. I have heard many scary snake stories when I was down South and a couple of snakes getting in the house with my grandmothers. My grandmothers were tough much tougher than me. I laughed Tipper, when you said if your husband hadn’t shot it dead you would have most likely moved out. If I had opened the door and saw it I would have gone screaming down the road, over the creek, and been in a hotel room in town in a New York minute OR I would have just fell over dead from a heart attack. Thank goodness, the Deer Hunter took care of it.

  • Reply
    Detective Dan
    June 8, 2018 at 6:57 pm

    Lots of times the ladies I knew did carry hoes just in case they ran across a snake when they were out picking blackberries or about anywhere else they would be in tall grass, weeds or brush. They also used it to beat undergrowth back so it would be easier to walk.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    June 8, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    Dear Tipper, I have a deep fear of snakes. I don’t like to see the harmless one’s killed unless necessary, but I sure hope they don’t come around my house. Last year we had a long blacksnake around here and I could not walk through the yard without being nervous. I remember when I was young people sometimes found snakes in their house. Thank goodness it was never at my home.

  • Reply
    June 8, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    My worst fear is a snake in the house. The sliding glass doors in back are checked often. My cousin had an off bedroom, and he was apparently in the habit of leaving the door open. They found a copperhead in the room, so I still shudder when I see a door ajar in Summer. I even keep a double draft stopper under door down to basement to keep any stray critters out.

    It is great that you have the Deerhunter to take care of that matter. I knew many and heard of many folks talking about killing snakes with hoes back in the day. Obviously all the ladies did not run around with a hoe, so most of this took place in the garden or around a shed where garden hoes were stored. Those girls are mighty brave to go right down there and clean up the mess. I would be terrified he had a friend nearby.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 8, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    I didn’t get the Blind Pig and the Acorn in my Inbox today, but I used yesterday’s post and got it in the bottom right hand corner under “Recent Posts”. …Ken

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    June 8, 2018 at 11:36 am

    I don’t like to kill Black Snakes! They are known to kill and eat Copperheads and other snakes…However, I would not like one invading my private space as this one was in a determined mine to do…
    When you live in are about a woodland area one can expect to see snakes on occasion. I have only killed one Copperhead here and that was the first year we moved here…We tried to clear brush, rocks and keep the yard mowed right up to the edge of the woods to help keep any creepy crawlers from wanting to move into our area…When we had the large run of Rhode Island Red mix of chickens…we saw Corn snakes, Black Snakes, Rat Snakes around the large hen house on occasion…looking I suspect for eggs and maybe looking for mice that fed on fallen grain as well…
    Right now our biggest problem pest wise are those pesky squirrels…running across the top of the house and maneuvering every which way to climb a close tree to drop from several feet onto the feeders…They are so sneaky that they can hide and know when the Red Tailed Hawks do their screams and what time they hunt. A Hawk can grab a unsuspecting squirrel right off the side of a tree trunk and not miss a beat…
    My Mom and Dad would always “snake the kivvers” when visiting their old homes…especially if we were to bed down in some of the rooms that hadn’t been used in years…Although the houses were built tight, somehow a critter can make it’s way in around old fireplace rocks up from the ground…or up thru the steps and railing from the basements…
    I only saw one snake in my house…it came thru or around the window air conditioner years ago. It was about four or five inches long…I never did catch that rascal..put out those sticky thingys along the walls around the room where I saw it…no snake got stuck…I hope it went back out the way it came in…It would be at least thiry five years old now…so I hope I never see it..for it would be a biggen’…
    Loved your post today,
    Keep those snakes away…there is a lot of oils and herb oils you can make to deter snakes…Get the girls busy making some of the tried and true remedies for keeping them away…

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 8, 2018 at 11:10 am

    That was an enjoyable “Snake” story. One time several years ago, I came in from work a little early and the Sun was still shining. I noticed something all quiled up on a crosstie I had in my yard for some reason I had just cut the grass and that thing stuck out like a sore thumb. It was a rattlesnake,sleeping and had just shed it’s outer garments. I stepped inside and got a .22 and it never woke up. The dogs were out hunting somewhere. I took the rattlesnake out to the edge of the yard and the next day, two crows were on that sucker having a feast.

    If you live in the beautiful Mountains, you need to keep your eyes open. …Ken

  • Reply
    Detective Dan
    June 8, 2018 at 9:48 am

    Are you sure it wasn’t ricochet shots from the shotgun blast that broke your jars and bottles? If the snake was knocking them off why wasn’t you hearing that? Just wondering!

    • Reply
      June 8, 2018 at 2:09 pm

      no it was the snake. The bottles are in a different part of the basement.

  • Reply
    June 8, 2018 at 9:36 am

    I am well aware of the practice but have never heard the phrase.
    We have a well here with a cover that looked like a little house. You have to lift the whole thing off the well. One day a neighbor, a sixty some year old man, came and asked me to help him uncover the well. When we lifted it, there laid a big black snake. When he saw it Charles let out with a scream that sounded like a little girl and took off toward his house leaving me holding the whole weight of the cover. After a bit of a struggle I managed to get the cover off and found me a stick. I held down the snakes head and caught him around the neck (if snakes have necks). Charles have recovered a little by then and was sitting out on the porch with a cigarette so I decided to show off my trophy. When I got near he saw the snake again he screamed again, threw his smoke down, went inside and slammed the door. None of the other neighbors wanted to see him either so I took him out in the woods and turned him loose with a warning. I never saw him again. I’ve seen plenty more black snakes around since but none as big as this one. As I was carrying him around I was holding him at arm’s length and a good foot of his tail was dragging the ground.
    I don’t have as much a fear of non-poisonous snakes as most people so I don’t kill them if I don’t have to. But, I also won’t hesitate to execute one that bucks up on me. If he will turn and slink away he is safe. If he quiles up and/or strikes at me, he is a goner.

  • Reply
    June 8, 2018 at 8:17 am

    Yep, almost stepped on a chicken snake in our garage one morning, just had one eye open, I was just barely awake until, I liked to have —– all over myself, and one day I went to get something out of the freezer and had one caught on a glue board I had put out for those pesky mice that want to get under the garage door. It can be a startling moment.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 8, 2018 at 7:37 am

    That looks like a head shot….the Deer Hunter is good! That shot was from the hall upstairs to the bottom landing in the basement! I had a black snake about that same size in my yard a few days ago. He was just under the mull berry tree, hanging out and munching mull berries no doubt! I told him he better stay out of the house or I’d call the Deer/Snake Hunter.

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