A Snake Story

Even though the copperhead was already dead, Stevie’s first encounter with a real snake scared the daylights out of him. He was 7 years old and at a summer camp in the Poconos. One of the counselors had killed the snake with a shovel, and was making a big deal of showing it off to the kids. Since “showing it off” included suddenly throwing it onto Stevie’s sneakers, you can’t blame the boy for being scared. And, for the rest of the summer, the other kids took every opportunity to throw things at Stevie and shout, “SNAKE.” Stevie’s snake-terrors began then and continued for the rest of his abbreviated life.

In 1966, Stevie was in the Army. He was participating in a training exercise, a simulated attack on a Viet Cong village, when he was singled out for a demonstration of how the VC treated captured Americans. They put him in a coffin-like trunk, blindfolded him, and then threw in a harmless snake. It might have been non-venomous, but it wasn’t harmless to Stevie. Heart attack and dead at age 21.

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