It's amazing how the mind of a Southern Humorist works. Even
those of us who are Southern Humorists often don't understand the
process of what goes on beneath the calcium substrate atop our
spinal columns. All we can tell you is - we look for the humor in
A recent turn of events led us to discuss traditionally taboo
subjects - religion, politics and the proper methods of handling
poisonous reptiles, i.e. snakes. Our full time newspaper editor
(also a minister) and official Redneck Genius - Ben Baker - is also
a member of a pentecostal church. When this came up ... inquiring
minds and all that.
Join us as we open the lid on a writer's forum discussion on
SNAKES, CHURCH AND A FEW OTHER THINGS THAT WILL MAKE YOU
LOOK UNDER YOUR DESK
Ben, I love your attitude, the same goes for me. I only have one
question - is pentecostal the religion where they handle snakes in
There are churches which are of the pentecostal persuasion which
seek out and intentionally handle snakes in church. Our church
frowns on that. I once took a dead canebrake into the social hall to
get my daughter to come home and watch me dress it. One of the youth
leaders and one of the young'uns walked past me in the hall, not
initially seeing what I had. On the way back, the two of them had
turned over a table and were hiding behind it, demanding I take the
snake out of church.
The kids in the
social hall ranged from terror to fascination to "Oh, he's just
the newspaper editor. He's weird like that."
At home I dressed the snake (will cook it for July 4th) and a
fang stuck me in the finger. My finger went a bit numb.
A baby rattler (live) cause much the same commotion. This one was
released into the woods.
I've been bitten by snakes several times, much to our mutual
chagrin and annoyance. They were chagrined cause I didn't let go. I
was chagrined cause I was bitten. We were both annoyed by each
other's presence. I don't know who came off worse - me or them. They
all got released in an appropriate location. I suppose the same
could be said of me.
The only critter I have ever killed with a bow & arrow was a
5 foot rattler. I emptied my .45 at the snake, who did not take the
opportunity to escape. I took a broad head off one of the arrows and
shot, pinning him to the ground. I ate him too.
Some handle snakes
Others preach healing on demand
Some speak in unknown tongues.
Asa's reply sparked the following question - This is 3 things
Pentecostals do, I wonder what the other 47 are?
Sounds like a religious Paul Simon song, "Pentecost ways to
Leave your Lover," or the beginning of an example of a humor
column that doesn't know when to stop. Then again, Jeff Foxworthy
managed to successfully take a list of things well beyond the David
Letterman established 10-count.
The idea of Baker "dressing" a snake took on new
dimensions as you might expect when a group of humor writers are
Hey Ben, if you have trouble dressing a snake it's probably
because it's a boy snake. Boy snakes don't like wearing dresses.
But, there are churches which believe in handling snakes. The
Bible does say that the righteous can handle poisonous snakes and
not be harmed. As for moral standing of those who do get bit, we
leave that your mind dear reader.
Snake Handling Religion
They [the church]
once had an evangelist for revival. He was very unlearned. He had to
have someone to read the scripture. But what I remember most was how
he kept asking for someone to bring him a poisonous snake.
The next day we were working in the tobacco field and a man we
knew came by. He saw a copperhead sunning itself on the rocks, so he
put a plank on its neck and called my papa to come and hold it so he
could take out his shoestring and make a halter. This he did,
slipping the noose over the copperhead's head.
My papa told him he should not, but he said the preacher wanted
it. He took the snake to the nearest farmhouse, got a fifty-pound
lard can, put the snake in it, and took it to the church.
Two or three days later, the preacher called for a time of snake
handling. Everyone living close enough to get there went. Well, that
night the members sang very loud, played guitars, danced in the
spirit, and spoke in unknown tongues for some time. There were about
15 or 20 people on the stage.
By now, the snake on the pulpit in the can was scared to death, I
suppose. So when the preacher danced up to can, opened it, and
grabbed for the snake, it bit him in the palm of his hand. He
flinched a little. By this time we were all up on the pews.
We thought the next lady who grabbed it by the tail and slung it
around would surely let it loose. But it did not have time to coil
again when she got it, so it did not bite her. By now it was evident
that the preacher, who had said the snake would not bite, or if it
did would not hurt him, was mistaken. His arm was swelling fast, and
he became very ill. He asked his wife to close the service.
My papa was the only one there with a car. He offered to take the
preacher to the doctor, Doc Martin, as we called him. But the
preacher said, "no." He had to prove that he would not
take medication. He went to our next door neighbor's home where he
Of course, we had some Baptist skeptics. Several young men went
home with them to see what he would do. He was very ill. They
reported that he laid on the bed with his hand hanging off and
poison dripped from his hand. I suppose this helped some. He did not
go to the doctor or take any treatment.
What he said was the Lord would take care of him. And maybe he
did, because the preacher did not die or take treatment, although he
was very sick for about two or three weeks. He continued his revival
with his arm swollen too large to go in his coat sleeve.
by Gladys Adams Crump (via Sheila Moss)
Mrs. Crump's story about the snake-bit preacher resulted in
this never-before-published piece.
I sat down in the
pew, not knowing precisely what to expect. I'd coached with Pastor
Lamar Lee in rec ball the season before. I'd even been to the youth
But, I was in a new place, a place I had once upon a time said I
would never set foot into. I was in a Church of God house of
worship. Holy Rollers. Raise the Roof - literally.
When the electric guitar player behind the projection screen
began playing "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple before
services began, I REALLY began to wonder what I was in for. I also
began to think I was definitely in the right place. Deep Purple
I was sitting, Pew 3 in the main hall of the Christian Union
Church of God about to experience the regular Sunday morning
I was raised half Baptist, half Catholic, and 9/5ths hunter and
fisherman. When I was growing up, Church to me was a place to sit
and be bored still while some adults sang mostly off key and another
adult sometimes got apoplectic on a stage while Grandpa snored.
Later on, serving as an altar boy, I fought the Baker Tradition to
go to sleep because sleeping and falling over on the priest
mid-service was frowned on and would likely result in the parish's
nun paying an after-church visit to the house.
My only prior experience with "charismatic" churches,
aside from the Youth service which I expected to be pumped up, was
listening with much amusement to a church which met for several
hours at a stretch across the road from the deer woods camp in
My church upbringing also instilled in me the very first row of
pews was reserved for visiting ministers, couples about to be
married and the immediate family during funerals. Pews were also
supposed to be place very close to the dias, lectern & etc. Why,
I don't know. Perhaps it was to make sure people got up close &
personal when they went to the back to go to the bathroom
The singing was more in line with a funeral dirge than making a
"joyful noise unto the Lord."
The pastor and choir were also supposed to be barricaded by
intricately carved fences, a massive altar and a lectern carved from
lead-impregnated oak, thick enough to prevent even cosmic rays from
penetrating let alone let us see what color the preacher's pants
At Christian Union, the lectern was clear, glass or plexiglass.
The choir simply stood behind the preacher with one row on a small
shelf (not wide enough to be a stage). Lamar was wearing a gray-ish
(colors are not my forte) suit with pants.
Only the band was hidden, behind the projection screen. Why, I
don't know. Maybe the audience was known to get rowdy from time to
time and wad up their bulletins to throw at the band to register
their displeasure with the band's version of "Are You
At this church, there was enough room to play a game of
full-contact volleyball between the first set of pews and the stage.
I later learned this was so the church could come forward, en masse,
at various points during the service to stand, knee, cry and
generally carry on in such fashions as to make a Babdist ressurect
the idea of excommunication.
Lamar came out. The band fired up and the speakers rocked the
joint belting out decibel levels associated with a Guns N Roses tour
and a beat previously only heard at raves. I approved heartily.
Music, good music, is meant to be played loud enough to be heard 2
weeks ago. The church sang, led by Lamar. Hands waved. Feet stomped.
It was fun.
I forget most of what Lamar said. I just know he was excited
about it. Judging from the number of people at altar call, they were
Me, well, I was just happy to be alive.
Then, sometimes we surprise ourselves.
I just went back and read what I posted (which was written a
couple of years ago) "Music, good music, is meant to be played
loud enough to be heard 2 weeks ago." I can't believe I wrote
something that perspicacious. I'm also impressed I know what
perspicacious means, even if I had to use 2 dictionaries to get the
Next time, go electronic. Dictionary.com caught it on the first
Although I was raised as a Baptist, I love a good shoutin',
praisin' God church service. I am fortunate enough to be a member of
a little church that has these meetings still. I have often wanted
to attend a Pentecostal service, but haven't yet. I do believe in
God's healing power.
Sheila, I love your mama's story. she is a good writer. I almost
felt as though I were in the service with her.
Ben, I marvel at your perspicacity. :-)
Believe it; you did it. You even spelled it right; keep both your
If I'm reading
your previous somewhat correctly*, the visual and audio impact of a
Pentacostal service is such that one remembers less what is said,
than the energy behind the saying of it. So in between "Praise
Gods," he could be talking macroeconomics in frightfully boring
detail. But with 'Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water, coupled with an
inspirationally animated delivery-- perhaps with an occasional snake
flying through the air, for emphasis in some venues -- the shouted
frenzy of the revved up throng is inspired to His Word. As well as
to cost/debt ratios.
* Disclaimer: the previously stated interpretational opinion of
aforementioned SH er, aka Danged Fool Yankee, is just that: the
previously stated interpretational opinion of the aforementioned. It
is in no way representative of Pentacostal practitioners, snakes,
healers, blue or otherwise, macroeconomists, redneck editors/arsenal
holders, grits lovers, grits haters, Deep Purple groupies,
snake-bitten appendages, old coffee cans not used for bacon grease
storage, other SH ers on either side of the Mason-Dixon, and/or
others of discernibly like-minded perspicaciousness, especially if
redundantly stated herein. Void only where restrooms allow for
proper HAZMAT disposal.
But the issue of snakes, much like archetypical beast of myth,
refused to die.
Well, the snakes are not an option for me, I am scared to death
of them. I do, however believe in "healing" of the hands
and I guess I also speak in unknown tongues --- at least that is
what my stud muffin always tells me.
I can't believe him though, he tells me a lot of stuff that is
not always true. Years ago he told me to ask the clerk at the
vitamin store (where I was going with my mother no less) for spanish
fly for him. I said that was a "myth" and he insisted it
wasn't. So as a devoted wife I was checking all the shelves for
spanish fly while my mom got all her vitamins. I went with her to
check out and waited in line to ask the cashier if she knew what
shelf it was on. The clerk almost choked and I was so humiliated
when the others in line burst out laughing. My mother acted as
though I was a total stranger as I ran out of the store as fast as I
could and my sneakers left skid marks.
True story, it also quite awhile to forgive my stud muffin. I
bought a shirt for him to wear to parties when all our friends got
together which read "OLD GOAT, FORMALLY KNOWN AS STUD
See what I have to live with, no wonder I get brain farts!
Sheila, I now know
where you got your gift for writing (from your mother)! After
reading this I almost needed a "nitro" under my tongue to
finish the article to see if your mama was bitten by the snake or
not. I don't know if it takes total trust in God to "heal"
you after a freaking snake bite without hospitalization or just
stupidity. I would have slit my arm open and ask the congregation to
just "believe" and suck out the poison
Exerpted from Origins of Hawgin': How to catch wild
hogs on topwater tackle.
From the chapter - Feelin' Froggy.
“Gottan idea,” Hawgin’ Fishbreath announced after pulling
up in the yard. I was busy tending the damfinos, which I usually
tend by mowing ‘em down along with the grass, so I was extremely
interested in doing just about anything else. Besides which, the
first blossoms of spring were in the air and spring always turns a
country boy’s thoughts to ... frog legs. Hawgin’ was thinking
the same thing, which proves again great minds think alike. “Gonna
get some frogs tonight,” he said. We quickly laid plans to float
down Little River shining the banks for frogs among the willow
What he did not bother to tell me at the time was how he intended
to catch the frogs. This waited until we slipped the canoe into the
river. He reached behind the seat of the Stumpjumper and withdrew a
single shot shotgun. From the back of the truck came a bucket, which
I had previously ignored.
Hawgin reached into the bucket and withdrew something the likes
of which I’d never seen before. It was a 12 gauge shell with the
shot cup cut off. In its place was a twisted salad fork painted
“Stealth frog blaster. Painted it black. Frogs’ will never
see it coming,” he said.
“Aha Einstein, and just how are you going to recover the frog
after you shoot one? ”I asked.
“Not a problem. Just gotta be sure we either shoot one on the
bank, on a tree limb of shoot low across the water so the fork will
catch the frog and scoot it along the surface to the bank,” he
It sounded like a logical idea to me. By pinning the frogs to
bank or tree limb, we could avoid the problem of get- ting wet.
Besides which, the frog blaster was much shorter than the gigging
poles we normally used which meant that we’d both come home that
night without black eyes. Many of you know I wear glasses, but that
was not always the case. I’ll just say it’s hard to keep up with
the butt end of a frog gigging pole in the dark and leave it at
We eased into the water and hooked up the Q-beam. AQ-beam can
cook frogs at close range so Hawgin’ had the battery half-charged
to keep the light’s power on low. The trolling motor pulled us
along as we slid under, around and through the willow trees. Then, a
glint gave away a frog’s position. I turned the light full on the
frog and it froze in place. Hawgin’ took aim. He pulled the
trigger. The noise was considerably less loud than a standard dove
load from the same gun and the recoil barely budged Hawgin’ from
the front of the boat.
The frog had disappeared. I shined along the limb, reaching the
trunk of the willow. There, firmly imbedded in the tree by one of
Sally Jane’s “company silverware” forks was a very dead frog.
We eased up to it. Hawgin’ grabbed the fork and pulled. The fork
was stuck to the tree harder than a lawyer sticks to a person- al
injury claim. He pulled some more and it continued to display the
kind of sticking power generally reserved for the lug nuts on the
Moosemobile when I have a flat tire. Finally, having cut the frog
loose, leaving the flatwear in the tree. Later that night having
greatly improved the commercial value of a number of willow trees by
adding silver to them via the StealthFrog Blaster, we had a fair
number of frogs in the boat.
Still, it was not enough. We continued to drift along.
We floated under a willow tree looking for a frog Hawgin’s swore
he saw swimming there. A snakedropped
into the boat.
This has happened to us in the past while fishing. General
procedure is to take a paddle and 1] beat the snake to death or 2]
pin it to the boat, catch it behind the head and release it into the
river ... at least that’s the plan. Somehow when a moccasin drops
in the boat, the second option seems incredibly stupid. The first
option is a good idea for Hawgin’ to choose, but he is of the
opinion I should take matters into my hands and deal with the snake.
By the time we decide who is to deal with the snake, it has
vanished, we’re on the bank and the boat is halfway to the Gulf of
Mexico. However, on those previous occasions we did not have a
firearm aboard. Since Hawgin’ is a responsible hunter and gun
owner and always safety conscious, I knew what I had to do.
“Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” I screamed.
Hawgin’ turned around. He saw the snake in the boat moving
toward him. He looked up at me. He looked back at the snake, now
considerably closer. The shotgun swung around. “DON’TSHOOT!” I
screamed as I rolled out the back of the boat to avoid being impaled
by Sally Jane’s wedding present from her parents.
I was under water when something big hit the water a few feet
away. I surfaced and peered over the gunwale to see what was going
Hawgin’ had jumped out of the boat as well, leaving it to the
snake for the moment. As soon as he was able to stand, the creek was
only a few feet deep, he aimed into the boat and pulled the trigger.
The blast shot a knife out which pinned the snake to the boat,
killing it instantly.
It also knocked a hole in the boat which promptly began to sink.
Frogs floated rapidly filling boat. I grabbed the boat intending
to save the frogs from being alligator chow. Hawgin reloaded. He
aimed the shotgun and fired again. A fork now pinned the snake to
With two holes in the side, the boat began to sink twice as fast.
“Think he’s dead or should I shoot again?” Hawgin’ asked.
The snake was very, very dead. In fact, you could not find a snake
more dead than that one.
It was also Hawgin’s boat.
“Better shoot it again,” I said. “Can’t be too safe.”
Compiled and Edited by Ben Baker
NOTE: Snake handling for religious purposes
is now against the law in most southern states and this time honored
tradition is but fond and distant memory.