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Sipping With Salamanders

Sipping With Salamanders

On one of our annual family trips to the grandparent’s home in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we made a stop one day that my brother still remembers vividly. It was a very hot, humid July day. No air-conditioned auto for us, no cool comfort in our car. We went by the old standard, 4-55 rule on those long drives from New Jersey to Georgia. That meant having all four windoows cranked all the way down, while driving at 55-miles-per-hour. The old station wagon, which would struggle to get up some of the steeper roads in the mountains, was starting to steam over again. Dad had to stop the car on the more imposing incline we were traveling that day, and let it cool down. After enough time had passed so the radiator cap could be removed without incident, he had to replenish the water that had boiled out. Luckily, we had stopped adjacent to a small pull-off spot with a nearby mountain spring. A pipe had been inserted in the spring by some well-intentioned individual so that thirsty travelers could be refreshed. All that was necessary to get a cooling drink of deliciously clear water was to climb up some slippery rocks to the pipe-end. From that vantage point, one could drink their fill of the icy flow. At that time there were many places in the mountains in North and South Carolina and in Georgia where water came rushing down the mountain-side in pure , unadulterated form. It wasn’t necessary to worry about dangerous contaminants or chemical spills desecrating those springs, except maybe a bit of run-off from a hidden moonshine still. So, on that day, we all decided to partake of the refreshing, piped watery libation while Dad waited for the car to cool down. As usual we took turns in order of family status, with Dad at the head of the line, and Phil, as the youngest, in the last position. Phil finally got to the pipe-end and put his mouth close to the pipe to get a drink. He got perhaps one sip and then screamed in terror. Jumping and slipping and sliding back down the moss-covered rocks, he shrieked his way back to the safety of the back seat of the car, decidedly slamming the door behind him. Upon inspection it was immediately apparent what had caused his panic-stricken retreat. A salamander, with snake-like identity, had decided just at that same time to also get a drink from the pipe. He slithered onto the pipe right at face level with my brother. To four-year-old Phil, that creature must have looked like a monster. Mom picked up the baseball cap which Phil had lost on his hasty trip off the hill-side. In it, she collected some water for Phil to drink while he remained safely ensconced in the car. He sure wasn’t in any mood to try approaching the pipe spout again! The picture shown, courtesy of srelherp.uga.edu, is of a Blue Ridge Two-line Salamander

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