We Haunted Our Old Farmhouse — Like We’d Never Moved Away
by Alice Morris

I was seven months pregnant when we moved from the hills and hollers of West Virginia —  had to pack in a hurry, the buyers pushing to take possession before the closing.

But first, I would pay that home a proper farewell, wipe every shelf, sweep every room, remember how we’d gutted and rehabbed that old dwelling — turned it into a fine home for ourselves, and then our newborn.

But copperheads lived on our land —  showed up everywhere —

in woodpiles, on stumps, beneath rocks and hoods of cars, coiled in hubcaps and corners of sheds, on pathways sunning — willing to strike —  rather than move out of the way.

Too many copperheads for me, until on a vacation, not expecting to, we purchased a rundown property in a beach town.

Four hundred miles over twisting hills and mountains I managed to drive the packed Jeep– followed behind my husband, he, at the wheel of the U-Haul — our son riding high in the cab at his side.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, the great snake handler — but only at first. Notice the heavy gloves. This is an average-sized black snake. Any black snakes bigger than this that hung out around the house, and some were twice this size,  we relocated to heavily wooded areas. But we weren’t about to start relocating copperheads. (West Virginia, 1978)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Moving from West Virginia three decades ago still evokes strong memories and images for me. At first, when we purchased the overgrown homestead, we thought only black snakes lived on the property, and we needed these snakes to keep the mice population down. Then the copperheads! Then a friend, living a few hills over was bitten by a copperhead– midday, as she crossed her well-trimmed lawn, and our nearest hospital was over an hour away. After that and many, many snake dreams I was finally open to moving away.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alice Morris, a Minnesota native earned her BS in English Education from Towson State University and her MS in Counseling from Johns Hopkins. She comes to writing with a background in art, which has been published in a West Virginia textbook and The New York Art Review. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in The Broadkill Review (three issues), a chapbook — The White Space: Selected Poems — two themed poetry collections, two anthologies, The Avocet, The Weekly Avocet, and by Silver Birch Press in its “Starting to Ride,”  “My Imaginary Skill,” and “Beach and Pool Memories” Series. Morris is an active member of The Coastal Writers, and the Rehoboth Beach Writer’s Guild.