5.30.2013

it's not what you know...

Warning for my sister: this post is about snake killing and contains some images at the bottom. [she can't handle anything snake related, so if there are others of you out there like her, consider this your warning too]. 

You know that old saying right: It's not what you know, it's who you know. 

Yesterday afternoon this played out in my life a bit. You see, it was a warm and breezy afternoon. Blythe and I were taking advantage of the sun on our toes and sat outside on the sidewalk throwing rocks and leaves for awhile. And then Blythe got this bright idea to go in the back yard and swing. 

Of course I obliged her and we headed to the backyard. Everyday this week we've done this in the afternoon: She swings and I pick up the sticks and branches that the storm blew off the night before. We've been having a lot of rain and thunderstorms and wind, and this has allowed me to keep up with what has been left behind. 

So there we were, Blythe swinging and squealing and waving at cars as they drive by, and me walking around picking up sticks and limbs and occasionally stopping to give her another heave-hoe. I was walking over to the side of the house where we get a lot of sticks from our neighbor's Chinese Elm tree [I only know what type it is because I was raised by my father, and he has said that if he ever becomes president (Lord help us all, right ;)) one of the first things he would do is require all Chinese Elms to be cut down. That's apparently how much of a nuisance they are: my tree-planting father wants them all cut down! But I digress]. I bent down to pick up a stick and in my peripheral saw a little slither action. 

Now I'm not like my sister when it comes to snakes: do I like them crawling on me? No. Do I want them to startle me? Of course not. But do I mind small, harmless ones like a garter snake? I don't. So I was just going to pick up this little garter snake, maybe even throw it in a jar and let Blythe watch it or bring it to our little buddy Wyatt or something. 

And that's when I realized my mistake. What I thought was a garter snake was really the little, tiny tail of another five or six foot of a rather girthy black snake. I didn't hike my skirts and run away screaming, mainly because I wasn't wearing a skirt, but I was sufficiently no longer enjoying my warm and breezy afternoon.  I actually stepped around and watched where it was headed. My fear was that it was going to slither into the crawl space beneath our house, which has been my one peace of mind with all the tornadic weather we've been having, since we don't have a basement. I thought, "If that thing goes down there and a storm blows through, I'm really not going to want to jump down there in the dark, even in the worse case scenario." So I watched the path it was taking from about two feet away. It didn't, and I don't think it could have, enter our crawl space. 

And then I took action. I grabbed a shovel and with all the bravado I could muster…  I gave Blythe another push, then promptly walked over to our backyard neighbors where I saw two of my former students, one of which I just knew was a snake-killing machine: after all he once survived when his truck broke down on a scary gravel road by using his library book to build a small fire to make it through the frigid night [yeah, don't worry, I didn't buy it either ;)]. It's not what you know, it's who you know, right?!

He grabbed a board out of the back end of his truck. His girlfriend informed me while we tromped back to my yard, "He doesn't like snakes at all." This could be interesting. 

"Uhh, this is a pretty big snake," I warned him.

"Oh great." 

We gave poor, oblivious, yet contently happy and swinging Blythe another push as we walked by. We couldn't find the snake. My saving grace started poking the bushes, but not in the manly way I thought he would. It was more poke and LEAP back, poke and LEAP back. And then we heard the rustle that proved he had found our amphibious friend. 

WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! He had it pinned. I trotted off to get a shovel, while his girlfriend went to entertain my abandoned daughter. 

"Hurry up with that shovel, would ya…." he said as I came around the corner. The snake was mad but not dead. I passed the shovel to him while simultaneously taking control of the board that was pinning our nemesis. In a swift chopping motion, the shovel came down. The snake promptly began to curl itself around the the shovel, nearing the handle. 

"Ughh I hate snakes," the tough boy muttered as he continued to stab at the wilting creature. 

Snakes ability to be dead, with their head separated from their body, yet still slithering may possibly be what ranks them so high on most people's "least favorite" lists. 

I exchanged the board for the shovel, and we congratulated one another on our kill. 

"That is probably some endangered one and your dad is going to arrest me now." I ensured him I would take the fall if it came down to jail time. The things I do for my students, I tell ya. 

We rounded the corner of the house to retrieve our respective ladies. I was about two paces ahead of him when I heard, "WHAT the HECK!?!" I whipped around to see him pointing his board at the tree I had just traipsed passed. And I will admit I let out a little girlish whelp when I realized he was not pointing at the tree but at another, even larger, black snake, its body writhing among the tree bark. 

I immediately pictured snakes just dangling from the tree tops, about to fall on my head or into my daughter's swing. My eyes darted from branch to branch, and then back to the largeness of the fiend gliding down my tree. 

"What is going on?" I thought this kid was going to swoop in and rescue my yard from all scaly souls, yet the more he talked, the less sure I was of his shovel wielding abilities. "I'm not messing with that one." It raised its head off the tree as if he heard his enemy forfeiting the battle. 

"Brent will be home any minute. He hates snakes but he can probably handle this one. It's okay." As I am reassuring him that he won't need to mess with it, the thing promptly turns, its body forming a giant U, and heads back up the tree. My tree. In my yard. Where my daughter plays.  "Uh-uh. Oh no. You're gonna have to kill it now. It can't go back up that tree." 

"Are you being serious?"

"Yeah. Seriously. Kill it now." 

"What am I supposed to do?!" 

I make the motion of a giant baseball swing and tell him he better hurry. "Just kind of flick it off and then attack!" 

He turns the shovel so its broad side is lined up with the snake. Now, I've never actually seen this kid play baseball but I've always heard he is a decent player. After I watched him take a swing at that snake, I have no doubt about his skills on the diamond. I think it was dead before it hit the ground, but for good measure he started hacking at it. 

Brent rolled up about this time and grabbed an ax. Both snakes were dead but squirming [again…just gross], so Brent made certain we could sign over their death certificates and totally severed both their heads. 

We thank my students, my saviors, again and they quickly jaunted back over to the snake free-ness of the yard from which they came. 

I sent my dad a picture, and he quickly responded:

"Black rat snake. Harmless."

"Well they are now." I hastily typed back, still envisioning hundreds more roped around my branches. "Tell me this: why were there TWO!? Did they make babies in my yard?!" 

"No. They mate in the fall. Out due to high water and warm weather." 

I guess everyone is supposed to know this. 

I'm just glad I knew the big kid in the baseball hat that was outside at the right time.
And I'm glad I knew my dad who has so much critter knowledge he can [almost] appease my fears in case I run into another one. 

It's not what you know, it's who you know.

My phone buzzed one more time.

"Next time scoop it into a bucket and I'll come get it and relocate him." 

I think I'd rather be arrested. 



I didn't even get the whole snake in the frame!




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1 comment:

momiss said...

Very proud of you! I once thought the dogs would treat a black snake like they treated baby rabbits (sob), but no. The snake was clever enough not to move. AT ALL. And they just danced around it. I finally told them if they got bit not to come crying to me. They eventually tired of nothing happening and the snake, I assume is still in the backyard, where I hope he has a fine diet of mice. :)