Red Touches What?

 “We women talk too much, nevertheless we only say half of what we know”

Nancy Witcher Astor

     My mother-in-law called me from outside and showed me the coral snake she had captured in a net. Her cats were playing with it when she found it and now she was standing outside my house wanting to know if it was a coral snake or just looked like one. I tried to remember the catchy poem that you are supposed to recite to determine whether it is poisonous or not. I can never remember it….


The coral snake in our yard!

“Red on black you better jump back…yellow on red and you’ll have a big head….red touching yellow and you will be a dead fellow”…who knows? Just trying to remember it made us laugh. I finally went to the internet and through photos we concluded that it was indeed a coral snake. Also, according to, we learned that the original poem was attributed to a man named “Fat Jack Loticus who developed the rhyme in 1862. Listed below is the original along with different regional variations of it listed on that web site:

Red touches yellow, kills a fellow. Red touches black, friend of Jack

Red touch yellow, kills a fellow. Red touch black, venom lack.

Red touch yellow, death says hello. Black touch red, keep your head.

Yellow touch red, you be dead. Red touch black, eat Cracker Jack.

Red and yellow mingle, bite feel a tingle. Red and black hug, sing a song, you lug.

Red and yellow cohabitate, soon you will suffocate. Red and black together, in for sunny weather.

Red leans on yellow, legs turn to jell-o. Red leans on black, keep a strong back.

Yellow brushes red, snake gets fed. Red brushes black, snake gets no snack.

Snake of black and yellow and red, soon a stupid rhyme is said.

      Are you kidding me? No wonder I get confused. There are too many things to have to remember to try to keep it straight. Three colors create way too many options. Yellow can rhyme with “happy fellow” or “dead fellow”. Black can rhyme with “jump back” or “venom lack”. Red can rhyme with “now you’re dead” or “live to wed”. If I were to depend on the poem I could be a dead man!

When there is important information to pass along you had better make it simple or write it down. Especially if you are a wife and are sending your husband shopping or going over your honey do list. We just aren’t good at carrying a lot of information in our heads especially if we are not listening to you as you pass along our instructions.

My wife told me recently that she would like some nice bread while I was at the grocery store. I bought her three different kinds of loaves of bread to cover my bases. If she would have requested anything more complicated than that like cheeses and salad dressing and certain fruits and vegetables I would have had to get help.

Keep it simple or write it down. It is not that we husbands are stupid or uncaring…we care a lot. We just get confused easily.  We know we are at the grocery store and we remember that you told us to get something for you…and then we get confused. Was it red touching black or black touching yellow? I can’t remember…wait I know it was red touching yellow…that sounds a lot like salsa and chips. Done. Salsa and chips are now  in the shopping cart and I am heading for the check out line…but maybe it was red touching black…did she want licorice?  It could get confusing because those can be red or black. Dang. I begin to babble and my mind implodes. Keep my husband instructions simple or write it down.

HighFive Your Life Principle : Keep instructions simple and precise when speaking to children and husbands.

Tell a Story

2 thoughts on “Red Touches What?”

  1. That explains why my dad always wears a shirt with a pocket. In that pocket is a pen and a small notebook. He never runs an errand without them!

  2. That is so funny, we have gone over that silly poem dozens of times and no one ever got it right. Last time, I just told my neighbor, just kill it and then you don’t have to wonder!! ha ha

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