The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Growing Up On Tuggles Creek - Snakes Alive

By YKW © 1983

Issue: September, 1983

This little story and perhaps others to follow, is concerned only with the people who lived on both banks of Tuggle’s Creek and some of the events that happened in their lives.

Near the headwaters, Tuggle’s Creek flowed gently down through rolling hills, farm lands and meadows. It flows by Concord Church where on Baptizing Day, it was dammed up by a few hardy volunteers and used by both the Missionary Baptist and the Primitive Baptist Churches as a baptizing pool.

The whole creek is perhaps no more than ten to twelve miles long. As it approaches its destination, the hills on each bank become steeper and steeper to form a deep gorge, scarcely inhabitable. The first settlers moved farther back from its banks to find a more level place to build.

It’s said that Tuggle’s Creek took its name from Harry Tuggle, who may have been the first school teacher in the whole area. I wish I knew more about him, but unfortunately, the only thing that I remember is that he lived in a small log cabin about where the Jonah Puckett place was later built.

There must be some connection between this Harry Tuggle and the one or ones for whom Tuggle’s Gap (Route 8 and the Blue Ridge Parkway) was named. Perhaps some reader can come forward with this information.

Snakes were always fascinating to me and during my boyhood, there were always plenty of them to be found. Some farmers kept a blacksnake as a sort of pet in their corn cribs but mostly to keep the rats away. Most of the snakes on the mountain were of the non-poisonous variety. The really poisonous snakes like the copperhead and the rattlesnakes were found around the brink of the mountain or down on the mountains. One variety called “The Blowing Viper” or “The Spreading Adder” appeared once in awhile but usually gave plenty of warning of its presence.

There was a story going round that if a snake were put in a fire, its legs would come out. Once Loy Harris and I decided to test out this theory. Water snakes or Water Moccasins were abundant along the creek banks sunning themselves, stretched out on the alder bushes waiting perhaps for an unwary fish to swim by. So we took a big bag and caught a dozen or more snakes in it. The snakes scattered in all directions much faster than anything with legs could have but we certainly disproved the theory about the snakes legs.

In late August or early September, “Dog Days,” most snakes shed their old skin and grow a new one. During this process which may take several days, the snake is temporarily blinded by the old skin slipping over his eyes. During this period, he will strike at any sound but is not considered dangerous because he cannot see well enough to hit anything.

Once Cain Hylton and I were getting a crop of oat shocks out of a field on a wagon. I picked up the cap bundles on a shock and there lay a huge blind garter snake, almost as big around as my arm. I very carefully replaced the cap and picked up the whole shock and threw it up on the wagon where Cain was packing the load. The old garter snake rolled right out at his feet. Cain yelled, “My Gawd, look at that snake!” Then he jumped about 25 or 30 feet down the steep hill. I had to dispose of the snake before I could persuade him to remount the wagon.

There are lots of tall tales about snakes but the one that tops them all in my opinion, is the story of the hoop snake. It is said that the hoop snake takes its tail in its mouth, forms a circle and rolls downhill. It is also supposed to have a very deadly horn on its tail. Some people would swear that as the snake rolls by a tree and sticks its horn in the tree, the tree will immediately wither and die.