The Snake

Daily temperatures nearing 90 awakened more than Dogwoods and Irises.

Snakes and other cold-blooded critters crawled from their dark holes and welcomed the warmth.

Who could blame them? It was too pretty out to remain in.

Eager to be outside and soaking up some rays herself, Mom invited me to enjoy a cup of coffee with her on her patio. I eagerly accepted.

At some point, Mom opened the door to enter the house.  What happened next depends on who tells it.

She says: she opened the door and there was a snake lying on the patio at the door sill.

I say: she opened the door and the snake came out of the house.

Of course, her reaction to my perception caused me to recant quickly and agree with her.

The snake was small and long – about 20 inches.  It was a juvenile Gray Rat Snake.

“Oh a snake!” she said. And as she moved away from it, I moved in to catch it.

“Is is poisonous?” she asked.

Unfamiliar with snakes in this state, I assured her it wasn’t, but knowing young snakes don’t always resemble the adult they will one day be, I looked carefully at the shape of the head, the pupils of the eyes and the shape of the body.

It was plain to see that this snake was not poisonous.

But, it was feisty. It coiled like a cobra and struck repeatedly at my hand, my foot and at the broom I used to coax it from behind the patio furniture.

Fallen, dry leaves had settled between the wall of the house and the piece of furniture behind which it hid.  The snake coiled, reared up, flattened its head, puffed it’s jaws wide and struck swiftly and repeatedly with toothy mouth open.

A faint buzzing was heard and I leaned closer to see – this was not a Rattlesnake but it was vibrating its tail. As the tail rattle and shook amongst the leaves, it rattled and buzzed like that of a Rattlesnake.

Amazing!

What a fierce little creature.

I have picked up much larger snakes without much concern and, at first, that was my plan with this one.

I knew not to pick it up. It would have bitten me. And, I didn’t want to be bitten.

Sure, it was a small snake and its teeth wouldn’t have done much damage (though it would have hurt…little teeth like needles…) – but I didn’t know where those teeth had been and I didn’t want to deal with possible infection and aggravation.

Mom’s concern was that it might get away, and might reappear…in her house or on her patio.  Snakes were her phobia and if Dad was living she assured me he would kill it immediately.

I assured her this was a harmless snake even though it looked menacing.  It was a beneficial snake – a good snake because it ate pests like mice and rats.

And, I should have stopped there…but didn’t.  I said, “And, if it gets in your house, don’t worry…it will eat mice it finds in there.”

“IN MY HOUSE? GET IN MY HOUSE? Can it get in my house?  Eat mice IN MY HOUSE?!?!” was her response.

She assured me she had no mice and, I, therefore, assured her there would be no snake in her house (sometimes we say what we must) – no mice = no snake – and set about searching for something I could catch the snake in.

There was nothing large enough.  So, I sent her into the house for a small trashcan.

And, while she looked inside for a small trashcan (there is one in every room of her house), the snake took the opportunity to slip along the wall toward the yard.  I blocked its progress repeatedly but it was determined.

As she stepped out the door with a ROUND trashcan in hand, the tail of the snake slipped into the Liriope that edged the patio and was gone.

She breathed a sigh of relief when I told her, then asked where I thought it would go…and if it would go under the house.

I reminded her that she didn’t have any mice – she said so herself. No mice = no snake.  She was content with that.

Apparently its mother lives nearby – my brother found a large snake skin (they can grow to be 3 to 7 ft long) under her house last Autumn and the pattern on the skin matches that of an adult Rat Snake. And as we know, snakes don’t lay just one egg.

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