Speaking of wild, there he is again, just ahead—Brother Water Moccasin. But this one is much bigger than his cousin—the one I saw on White Rock Creek a few weeks ago. And he's not happy. He swims with a bit of thrash, head well up out of the water, one glittering eye fixed dead on us. He's spring-loaded for action.

He pulls himself up on a low branch watching us warily. I know what that branch is for. It's like Donny Hutchinson's paddle. Brother Water Moccasin can take that long bicep of a body, use the branch for leverage and fling himself right across the water at me if he wants. And by the way, how did Brother Spencer get so far back behind me all of a sudden?

I don't speak snake. Can't stop now. It's all body language from here on out. I paddle very softly and sweetly. My body language is saying, "Greetings and peace, Brother Water Moccasin. We wish you good hunting."

Sara Kerens
Bret Bolton (left) and Donny Hutchinson were the daring bushwhack paddlers who inspired this story.
Sara Kerens
Bret Bolton (left) and Donny Hutchinson were the daring bushwhack paddlers who inspired this story.

The snake drops his head slightly. I think he has just said, "Greetings and peace, Brother Loud Slow Creature Who Walks with Dogs. I grant you safe passage on your journey back to the land of cages."

Now we're past him. And now it's easier, somehow, to go back to my land of cages. Now that I know this wild place is mine, too.

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