Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Pine Ridge Church Snakes

Pine Ridge church
The last blog on Bull Creek neighbors' reports of clusters of copperheads gathering around their houses reminded me of a past news story.  In 1965 through 1967 there were several newspaper stories about venomous snakes congregating around Pine Ridge Church during gospel services with music.  The church is only five miles from our Bull Mills place.

In Tales of Bull Creek, the late John Mitchell describes visiting relatives on Highway H around July 20th, 1965.  He encountered a man carrying a large box. When asked the man what was in it, he replied, "Copperheads.  We are having a revival at the Pine Ridge Church and when the hymn singing starts the snakes come from everywhere.  We've killed over a hundred so far."  Curious about this, he went over to the church where he describes the scene:
"There an amazing sight awaited us.  While part of the congregation were singing to the accompaniment of guitars in the church house, others, men and boys, were outside with flashlights and rifles shooting snakes.  The church yard and surrounding brush land were alive with crawling copperheads." *
John went to the Springfield News-Leader the next morning and told Frank Farmer the story.  They went back to the church the next evening and when the music started, the snakes returned and the shooting started anew.  Frank Farmer's Pine Ridge story** in the News-Leader was picked up by national newspapers, the 60's version of "going viral" before Youtube.

This event led to the Pine Ridge Snake Hunt which was held annually for  about 10 years, benefiting charity in Chadwick, Missouri which was called the Copperhead Capitol.  There were prizes for the most snakes killed and the largest and second largest venomous snake.  It ended in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Pine Ridge Church still is going strong and this picture of a later "snake hunt" is off their blog.  The handwritten caption says "the start of the Pine Ridge copperhead snake hunt."  As a sign of the times, Pine Ridge Church is currently preparing to replace the outhouses with indoor toilets.  Copperheads didn't stop the trips to "the necessary" but increased bear sightings have.

Based on the Pine Ridge Church story I was going to stop singing and playing the guitar on our deck on Bull Creek, but Barb feels that my singing will actually repel snakes.

*    Chapter from Tales of Bull Creek
**  Newspaper Stories of the time.
Editor's note:  Pine Ridge Church is just down the road from our "Pine Ridge Dan" Crane's cabin.
addendum August 2017.  More history at Ozarks Alive.

No comments:

Post a Comment