Appalachia Pap

Snakes and Brothers


Pap and his family – Pap is the boy in the overalls

The oldest child in the family is often asked to mind their younger siblings. When Pap was about five years old his family lived on Harshaw Road just above the folk school. One day his mother laid Pap’s younger brother Ray on a blanket and told him to watch after him while she worked in the garden. Pap said he watched his little brother really good…until he got bored and then he started playing in the edge of the woods leaving the baby alone on the blanket.

Pap decided he better check on Ray and just as he looked that way he saw a big rattlesnake crawling right towards the blanket. Pap’s mother saw the snake at about the same time and took off running to grab the baby up just in time. Pap said he thought he was about to get the worst whipping he’d ever had, but his mother just said “Come on its time to go to the house.” Pap said his mother never said a word about the snake nor about his shirking the duty of minding the baby.


Granny told me the story about the brothers and the snake a few months back. She said she was sure Pap’s mother killed the rattlesnake. Granny said “I know she would a killed it because she wasn’t afraid of nothing.”

I’ve been pondering the story ever since Granny shared it with me. I wonder why Mamaw didn’t whip Pap. Maybe she realized Pap was too little to be watching a baby or maybe she was so relived Ray was okay there was no need to do anything but go home and be thankful.


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  • Reply
    October 15, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    Tipper, I don’t ever being whupped by my Daddy, cause he could put me to tears with a “look”. Even when I was 55 years old and helping him build my house/. we were up on the roof , I don’t remember what I had done wrong but he yelled at me and I got the look. I had to get down go around the side of the house and cry. Even as adults we still respect our Mothers and Fathers.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    October 12, 2018 at 6:03 pm

    One time I went up the creek to check on my mountain water. This was about 5 months after he died and his boys convinced me to move into his house. After finishing with the water, I decided to check on my other house and as I neared a bedroom and pulled out a drawer, a huge Rattlesnake came out and slithered onto a shelf, underneath my old CB. I looked for something to hit ’em, but there was nothing. After he quit singing, he dropped down on the floor and went under some cabinets. There was a hole in the floor and he went outside. I looked and never could find him. It was one of those snakes that the Government turned loose. Several years ago, our government turned loose over 5,000 of these boogers from Clingsman’s Dome to the Nantahala M
    ountains. One finally made it to my place and this one got away. I’ve done away with my share.

  • Reply
    October 12, 2018 at 4:45 pm

    Omg Tipper! That makes my heart race. Shew! That makes me think of a time when my dad, mom and cousin’s went huckleberry picken. My cousin was throwing grass at my dad, playing with him , he felt something grab him on the bib of his overhalls. He look down and he was looking right at a copperhead. He slowly raised up and it crawled down off his body. Then he killed it. And my brother and me was looking up in the woods one day, i was moving leaves and such when i felt something move in my hand and i looked down and i was holding a copperhead. I slung that thang and took off running. It was in the sleeping season and the warmth of my hand woke it up. I had to go get spring water as that was one of my jobs. I squatted down to dip the water in my bucket and right beside me was a copperhead. I went ahead and filled my bucket and slowly got up and went back and told daddy. So i showed him and he killed it. We lived back in a hollow and we had alot of snakes. Hate them!!!!

  • Reply
    Tom Deep
    October 12, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    Tipper: What a great story and Pap already knew he had done wrong.

  • Reply
    October 12, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    My mother is renowned for “the look”, whIch is more powerful than words or spanking. It could be used to stop wars. One time she was upset with a store clerk and gave him the look. He froze in place and turned pale. She has dementia now and the caregivers say she still uses the look, but they are wise to her. Frankly she can still get me to go pale if the look is directed towards me.

  • Reply
    Michael McLain
    October 12, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    Copperheads are plentiful this year in Brevard. We moved into our house in January 2015 and never saw anything but black snakes until this summer and we killed 2 copperheads within 30 feet of our front door and other friends in the area have had similar experiences. I like having the black snakes around, but no thanks for the copperheads!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    October 12, 2018 at 9:30 am

    Snakes, primarily copperheads, were apparently plentiful as pig tracks on the little farm where Daddy grew up (and where you and the girls were part of the group who bushwhacked to the location after his funeral service). He had a tale of one falling into a dishpan and Grandma dispatching it with a stick of stove wood; another story of Grandma returning from the spring house to find a fascinated infant crawling towards a copperhead (that one’s demise came at the business end of a hoe); and a third story of a sister turning over a large, flat stone while hoeing corn and exposing a veritable “nest” of copperheads.

    Interestingly, snakes are not nearly as common in the Park, and the Smokies generally, today as they were in my own boyhood. I think the prevalence of wild hogs may well be the primary explanation, because hogs will eat them with gusto.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    October 12, 2018 at 9:17 am

    A snake will not strike unless it feels threatened. A baby on a blanket wouldn’t be a threat. In all likelihood, if Marie hadn’t noticed it, the snake would have probably crawled right on by avoiding the blanket altogether. Snakes swaller their food whole. A baby would have been way too big for any snakes native to Cherokee County to swallow. But that wouldn’t make much of a story.
    I’m not recommending that babies be left alone by any means. There are lots of other dangerous critters out there that would be more likely to harm a child.

  • Reply
    October 12, 2018 at 9:17 am

    Pap’s mom was probably thinking that Pap could have also been the snake’s victim that day. Moms are so thankful for little things kids will never understand.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 12, 2018 at 9:15 am

    I’d say, from a mothers perspective, that she was just so relieved that her baby was ok that nothing else mattered!
    My Dad was an oldest child with two younger brothers. It was his job to watch the two younger while his mother worked outside. He told me she would sit the youngest boy down by the kitchen table and put the table leg on his dress tail so he couldn’t wander. You know back then both boys and girls wore dresses.
    My dad also did some cooking. He told me about making biscuits standing on a chair to reach the counter.
    It really was a different world back then!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 12, 2018 at 8:16 am

    Maybe she felt like the experience carried its own punishment. And quite possibly she was so weak in reaction she couldn’t do anything right then. I expect that is why she said it was time to go in.

    I expect that experience made your Dad more responsible the rest of his life.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 12, 2018 at 8:15 am

    Possibly, I know how it feels to be expected to do things as well as an sdult when a child. Then punished when you can’t wise not to push him

  • Reply
    aw griff
    October 12, 2018 at 7:31 am

    Snake stories are always interesting. That story makes you ponder a lot of things.
    I have to agree with TMC on the look of disappointment. That’s a heart hurt that lasts longer than a whuppin.
    Of all the time I’ve spent in the woods I’ve only come close to being bit twice. Those were copperheads and not nearly as bad as a timber rattler. That rattlesnake would probably have killed Ray.

  • Reply
    October 12, 2018 at 6:31 am

    Some of the worst punishments I got was the look of disappointment from my Mother or Fathers face, would have rather had a whipping. Maybe that was the look she gave and he knew it and she felt it was enough.

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