a great water adder
...Thoreau's Journal: 05-Aug-1853
A man mowing in the Great Meadows killed a great water adder the other day, said to be four feet long and as big as a man’s wrist. It ran at him. They find them sometimes when they go to open their hay. I tried to see it this morning, but some boys had chopped it up and buried it. They said that they found a great many young ones in it. That probably accounts for it being so large round. The clintonia berries keep a long time without wrinkling in a tumbler of water. The mower on the river meadows, when [he] comes to open his hay these days, encounters some overgrown water adder full of young and bold in defense of its progeny, and tells a tale when he comes home at night which causes a shudder to run through the village,—how it came at him, and he ran, and it pursued and overtook him, and he transfixed it with a pitchfork and laid it on a cock of hay, but it revived and it came at him again. This is the story he tells in the shop at evening. The big snake is a sort of fabulous animal. It is always as big as a man’s arm and of indefinite length. Nobody knows exactly how deadly its bite, but nobody is known to have been bitten and recovered. Irishmen introduced into these meadows for the first time, on seeing a snake, a creature which they have seen only in pictures before, lay down their scythes and run as if it were the evil one himself, and cannot be induced to return to their work. They sigh for Ireland, where they say there is no venomous thing that can hurt you.