Snuggly snakes and cowboy camping

Some comedian recently struck a note with folks my age when he commented, “I really thought as a kid that quicksand would be a bigger problem in the world than it is.”

It seems like back in my day, every other superhero or western TV series eventually got around to having a protagonist trapped in quicksand and barely escaping.


Another trope that has really stuck with me – probably even more than the quicksand thing – is the idea that if you go cowboy camping (that is, if you sleep in the open without a tent) then snakes will snuggle up with you in your sleeping bag to stay warm.  I’m sure this idea came from The Rifleman S6E19 And the Devil Make Five (Literally the only episode of that show that I ever remember seeing).

But to me, sleeping on the ground seems like a phylogenetically common thing for humans as a species to do.  We’ve probably been sleeping on the ground outside for many, many years before cowboys even existed – but you only hear of this fear of snuggly snakes since that Rifleman episode in the early 1960’s.

Another way of thinking about this risk – about 30,000 Boy Scouts earn the Wilderness Survival merit badge each year, in which the Scout is required to “Improvise a natural shelter,” which basically means cowboy camping under a lean-to.  And to my knowledge, no Scout has ever had a snake snuggle up to him in the night.

My gut feeling is that this idea of snuggly snakes is totally myth – you can very probably go Cowboy camping without fear of a snakey awakening.

Is that snake poisonous or not?

In the spring the weather begins warming up, trees begin greening, and hikers get the itch to be outside!  But humans are not the only things that start getting out in the woods in the spring. Snakes begin waking up and stirring around and there are always a lot of snake encounters this time of year.  Hikers […]

Speckled kingsnakes take over southwest Mississippi

It seems like there are not many people who are really fond of our slithery neighbors in the woods and waterways.  Maybe it is a holdover from the serpent that helped make fools of Adam and Eve, or maybe it is just the alien-ness of the scales and cold blood – but unless you are […]

This tick can make you allergic to red meat!

I read some headlines several months ago about a tick, the bite of which can make people permanently allergic to red meat!  It sounded so implausible that I figured it must be B.S. but it turns out it’s true. Since I first read about the rare and bizarre alpha-gal allergy that can be caused by […]

Categories: Camping, Survival