News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

November 12, 2013

LIZ CIANCONE: Even mild forecast can give you the shivers

TERRE HAUTE — The local weather report the other evening included a bit of folklore. Our weather guru said that the story is that if snakes have not crawled off to winter quarters by late October, we were in for a mild winter.

I was sorry to hear that snakes are still out there enjoying the autumn weather. I hate having a walk in the woods spoiled by a chance encounter. A sudden slither through the leaves makes my blood run colder than anything winter can throw at me. I’d trade a cold winter for the assurance that snakes have holed up and I can only wish the move were permanent.

Don’t bother to tell me that snakes don’t like me any better than I like them. I concede that I intrude on their territory. I suppose snakes are as anxious to avoid a chance encounter as I am, but …

My history with snakes began when I was about five years old and Dad ran over a rattlesnake. He stopped the car, got out and, with his pocket knife, cut the rattles off as a souvenir. He had that ghastly reminder in his desk until the day he died.

Then there was the garden snake Mom shook out of her skirts. I am sure her screams still echo down the valley at Apple River Canyon.

Our home in Yorkville overlooked Blackberry Creek, a site apparently favored by the creatures. They haunted our swimming hold at the foot of the hill and, occasionally, paid a visit to our chicken house. They could almost always be found sunning themselves in our rock garden.

Number One son found a snake when we visited my Aunt Ethel on the banks of the Mississippi River in Iowa. He insisted on bringing it home, and I spent a nervous night in the motel hoping “it” was not able to slip off the lid on the coffee can Aunt Ethel had provided. I drew the line at a snake in the house and, when last seen, it was wriggling off into the wilds at a strip pit lake.

I pass over my horror when a boa constrictor as thick as a tree made a move when I was taken to the snake house at Brookfield Zoo. It was caged, but I thought it was a fake snake big enough to eat anything, including me.

And now I’m told they are still out there predicting a mild winter. Personally, I’d settle for a real cold snap. Any day now would be fine.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send email to

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