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Snakes alive, I missed my big break

Snakes alive, I missed my big break

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Unfortunately, I missed my opportunity to be a world famous podcast expert on regional snake handling.

What I thought was my big break started with an email. Here is an edited transcript, changed only so as not to identify the sender and one of the subjects therein:

“Hey Scott!

“I am a podcaster who recently completed a stint for a media outlet, the subject of which was coronavirus. Now, I am producing another show about an ex-preacher turned songwriter, seeker and painter with a newly developed interest in the music of snake-handling churches.

“I am producing the second episode now, which has him in a church in your community. What I would love is for you or someone from your newspaper who might like to speak on the area — answer some general questions about the community. …

“I think it's going to be great, and I'd love to talk to you for a few minutes! It would only take about 20 minutes or so, just a breezy phone call, which I can capture (the audio) on my end. It's fun!

“Thank you so much.


“Podcast Guy.”

The Podcast Guy said my contribution to the show would not specifically be about snake handling, but I planned to steer him in that direction because how else could I become a world famous podcast expert on regional snake handling? I’m sure it pays more than small-town editor/columnist, and the hours have to be better.

The problem was, I did not know a lot about snake handling. The churches I’ve attended for short stints over the years — Baptist, Methodist, Latter-day Saints, Episcopalian — have all been relatively snake-free.

The only religious experience I’ve had outside what I would consider the mainstream was many years ago as young reporter, when I attended a service to take a picture of a congregation sending a generator to Haiti.

I planned to go in, take a picture of the folks laying hands on the generator and leave, but I got there at the beginning of the service and they planned to take the picture at the end.

It was fortuitous for me because I heard some of the best music ever played in church. People danced, people spoke in tongues, one woman passed out, overcome by the spirit, and the preacher kept preaching around her until she woke and took a seat back in the pews.

It was the finest time I ever had in church, beating kickball and Kool-Aid at vacation Bible school by a country mile.

When the preacher said, “Let’s all go back and give Brother Scott a hug and take this picture” I almost felt I could give up my rough and rowdy ways.


So, years later, here was my chance to step out of the mainstream once more and become the world famous podcast expert on regional snake handling I never knew I wanted to be.

As I studied up on it, memorizing various techniques and strategies for handling serpents, the types of snakes that best test a person’s faith, and how quick to seek medical attention after a bite, I realized that not only did I know nothing about snake handling, I knew of no churches in close proximity that engaged in the practice. And I’ve been here a while.

I began to think Podcast Guy had gotten his communities mixed up because of similar names. A little geographical research proved that to be true.

Here is the slightly edited version of my reply: “Hey, Podcast Guy — We get this every now and then. We are a community in North Carolina, not the same named community in West Virginia. The demographics are a bit different. We have less snake handlers per capita. Good luck with the project.”

He graciously admitted as such and thanked me for my time.

So, my short-lived dream of becoming a world famous podcast expert on regional snake handling ended abruptly.

It’s back to small-town newspapering.

Scott Hollifield is editor of The McDowell News and a humor columnist. Email him at

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