David Lauderdale

Life turns up golden for Lowcountry rattlesnakes, lizard, chicken

It may not be easy to be green, but it's been a good week for dusky reptiles and a reddish brown hen here in the Lowcountry.

Smartie the Bluffton chicken got a reprieve in municipal court, where it pecked away at the great legal question: Are chickens livestock?

Smartie is a diaper-wearing hen who has free range inside a modern home.

It wasn't that long ago in Bluffton when the only question about Smartie would have been: White meat or dark?

The only indoor amenity Smartie would have known would have been the black iron frying pan.

Mothers in my day threatened their children with, "I'm going to wring your neck." That's what they saw their own mothers doing to chickens -- with their bare hands, while the lard started sputtering in the skillet. Somehow, the threat of "I'm going to put you in a diaper" rings hollow.

When I was a child, my relatives in the country had neatly raked dirt yards, with chickens jerking around. We'd step in their droppings with our bare feet, which wasn't the most pleasant thing in the world. But if we had suggested that the chickens needed diapers, a great-aunt would have rushed over to feel our foreheads, called the preacher, and shipped us to the asylum.

But here in the advanced age of McNuggets, there's something finger-licking good about Smartie winning in court. If mankind is too dumb to know what livestock is, I'm going to pull for the chicken.

More surprising than Smartie's escape is that 23 rattlesnakes were discovered last week on Hilton Head Island and in Bluffton, and they lived to tell the story. Two of them were fat Eastern diamondbacks, maybe seven feet long.

This is progress. The last time I reported on a rattlesnake sighting on Hilton Head, a visitor from North Carolina had clubbed it to death with the handle of a crab net.

In pictures of the Lowcountry from the 1920s and '30s, everyone seems to be wearing snake boots laced up to their Adam's apple. I'm sure at one time there were more rattlesnakes than people on Hilton Head. Not anymore.

But as my snake-collecting friends say, snakes are a good sign. They are part of a natural mosaic, and if they're healthy, so are a lot of other things we tend to like better than snakes. The rattlers were professionally removed to a large place in rural Jasper County, where they were welcomed.

Also last week, a humorous chase took place around the yard of a Beaufort law firm. A fast-acting courier and file clerk humanely captured a large lizard. The savannah monitor -- whose natural habitat is the grasslands of Central Africa -- was taken to the county animal shelter to await its owner or foster care.

It's not easy being a snake, lizard or chicken. But their fate paints a better picture of mankind than we often see.

Related content

  1. Judge tosses case against 'Smartie' the chicken
  2. Rare rattlesnakes found under Hilton Head deck
  3. Exotic lizard captured in Beaufort back yard