Eastern Coral Snake

"Red touch yellow, kills a fellow," TBN columnist Tom Germond recalled when he thought he saw a coral snake at a local park. Unfortunately, the uncooperative snake failed to pose for a picture.

Tom Germond Sig New

I don't have proof that a highly venomous reptile momentarily delayed my departure from a local park.

Suffice it to say I failed miserably to take a picture of the varmint before it crawled into the underbrush.

The good news is, I haven't had any nightmares about my sighting of a coral snake a couple of weeks ago. Probably because I'm too busy dreaming that I forgot to go to a class and was afraid that I wouldn't graduate from college.

Sorry. Got sidetracked. Back on the trail again. The 2- to 3-foot snake was lying motionless a few yards in front of me, seemingly attempting to cross the asphalt trail until I approached it.

OK. Since nobody was with me, it was an unconfirmed sighting of a coral snake.

But I'm almost positive that it wasn't a king snake, which has similar colors and is often mistaken for being a coral snake.

Having learned about the great outdoors as a Boy Scout, I remembered that coral snakes have red bands touching yellow. That was the suit this snake was wearing.

The saying is, "red touch yellow, kills a fellow." Sage advice but I still wanted to get a picture while Kills A Fellow lay motionless.

So, while keeping my eyes off Kills A Fellow, I grabbed my camera bag and tried to remove my 35mm Canon from it. What a time for the zipper to get snagged.

Kills A Fellow must have been wondering what kind of hack it had encountered that warm evening while it was out and about.

Seconds later, Kills A Fellow decided the show was over and crawled into the low-lying underbrush. About the time I finally got ready to shoot a picture, all that I could see was the end of the critter's tail.

Once again, I had nothing to show for my photographic endeavor on another park outing.

I've seen a variety of critters in my travels, but never have encountered a poisonous snake. Sightings of coral snakes, so I've read, are rare.

Inquiring readers might ask, why didn't you just take a picture of Kills A Fellow with your phone?

I was so infatuated with getting the darn camera out of the bag, such a thought didn't cross my mind. Yup, I’m sticking to that explanation.

So there I stood, cursing under my breath, while I bet Kills A Fellow was snickering as it slithered away to its hidden home.

Not the first time my photographic skills, or lack thereof, failed me at a crucial moment.

Back in the mid-'90s, while on a sailing trip to the Abacos, my shipmates alerted me to the sight of some dolphins riding the ship's bow. I scrambled to get my camera and took several pictures.

But I had nothing to show for my efforts; I didn't have film my camera. A fact that my shipmates have reminded me for decades.

I’ve taken about 10,000 pictures in my life, with a variety of cameras, and plenty of which I like. One of my favorites was a shot of an osprey eating a largemouth bass on the roof of my neighbor's condo. Though that's not an everyday occurrence, it pales in comparison to what could have been a photo of a coral snake in the wild.

At least I'm left with a memory of finally seeing a venomous snake.

Sorry, I won't disclose where I saw Kills A Fellow. Don't want to scare off any families or attract snake stalkers to the park. After all, it's the snake's home, too. And all kinds of critters, maybe even some rattlers.

As dad always said, "if you leave them alone, they will leave you alone."

Not exactly true. Wish snakes would stay the hell out of my dreams.

Tom Germond is the former executive editor of Tampa Bay Newspapers. He can be reached at tgermond@tampabay.rr.com.