ESCANABA - The snow snakes slither just below the crust of the snow.
Feasting on snow fleas and maple sap icicles, they wiggle their way through the north woods.
Their plush purple fur helps to keep them warm and flannel-like and flowing in the cold underworld. These snakes sneak beneath snow banks, dart through hard packed snow drifts, creep across river ice. They work their way up close to humans ready to do snow snake pranks.
Karen Wils photos
One of the cedar snow serpents.
They will steal a mitten, tip over your favorite snow shovel leaning against your back porch and frighten you when they pop their heads out of the snow with their hideous hissing laughter.
NOTE: snow snakes usually appear in late winter after months of snow and freezing weather. When a bad case of cabin fever sets in and a little bit of March madness, that's when people start seeing snow snakes.
But not all snow snakes are fictitious creatures. Many years ago, Native Americans in several tribes of the north had actual snow snake competitions. Wooden snakes were carved out of branches. The old ice on a lake or the crusted March snow made for perfect runways or slide-ways for the snow snakes.
Whoever could toss their snow serpent the farthest would win the contest.
In more recent years, the Boy Scouts have had snow snake gliding games at their winter jamborees. Some very fine snakes two or three feet long have been made by these young men and tossed to victory.
My family got into the fun after my children were born. Pieces of cedar kindling were whittled into snakes. The gentle rolling hill of hardwoods surrounding camp made for a great skid way for tossing a snow snake. When the snow gets a hard crust of ice on it, the snow snakes slides over craters, mounds, dips and deer tracks nearly all the way to the river.
The best thing about snow snakes is getting out into the fresh air. Even though the calendar says it's spring time, the U.P. is slow to show it.
After a real winter, like we've had this year, most all of us have gone a little stir crazy. The March hares might be acting a bit crazy because it's their mating season and the April fools will soon be showing up. So don't be afraid to have a spring fling.
Wash your inner coat, burn the snowman, and toss the snow snake. I don't know if these things will make spring come any sooner but we'll have some fun while we wait.
Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.