What We Fear

“Want to see a snake?” asked my neighbor.

“Sure!” I answered and hurried over to where she stood.

My expectation was to see a live snake, but what I saw instead was a small snake that was gasping it’s last.  Blood dotted the driveway pavement.  It’s neck, just behind its head, was crushed.

My neighbor picked up the spade and stabbed the snake in the neck. Then, when it opened its mouth, she stabbed its lower lip and held it fast against the pavement.

“It’s a bad snake, yes?” she said, more than asked.

I shook my head, “Not bad…good. Eats mice and rats.”

“Eats mice? Rats?” she quizzed.

I nodded, “yes….”

“Not good snake for yard,” she said. “No, not good for snake to be in yard.”

I looked at the little snake and agreed, “no, not good for snake to be in yard.”

Poor baby snake.

Earlier I had been working in my front yard…not 8 feet from where the snake lay dying.

I wondered if the snake had been in my yard, hiding amongst the fallen leaves and had slipped into her yard to escape.

I was sad, so sad…for the snake and what it had suffered and for my neighbor and others like her who fear what they don’t understand and who strike out in response to that fear.

My neighbor and others like her…. Better include me in that. I’m as guilty as anyone else.

What about you?

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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.

Monkeys and Snakes Any Way You Want

Last Sunday the Year of the Snake slithered onto the Chinese calendar and a week long celebration ensued.

Yahoo offers an article on the Chinese New Year. I took the liberty of pulling from it that which I found most interesting and informative – and underlining a few key points.

As undeserved as the snake’s reputation might be, its last two years did not go so well: 2001 was the year of the Sept. 11 attacks and 1989 was when Chinese forces crushed pro-democracy protests around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

Some wonder if this one also could hold bad tidings. “In Chinese mythology, snakes were often associated with monsters, or with incarnations of monsters, so some political turbulence can be expected,” said Taiwanese astrologer Tsai Shang-chi.

“Last year, our business was a lot better, because everybody loves the dragon, whatever his or her animal sign,” said Lin Peixiang, who owns the Beixiang Souvenir Factory in the city of Wenzhou. “This year, business is a lot worse, because only those born in the year of the snake love the animal. The snake sign is a symbol of fear. People get scared when they see or hear the snake.”

Hong Kong feng shui master Raymond Lo is trying to put a positive spin on the year. He points out that according to astrological tables, this year’s variety is the relatively mild “morning dew” type of common water snake, less venomous than recent predecessors.

Still, Lo said, people should probably take precautions against the snake’s traditionally destructive power, perhaps by wearing monkey pendants around their necks. That goes double for anyone born in a year of the snake, he said, like incoming Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Xi’s 1953 birth coincided with the final convulsions of the Korean War.

The monkey is the only animal that really knows how to handle the snake,” Lo said.


Happy Chinese New Year to my friends who celebrate it.

To my U.S. friends – Happy Daisy Gatson Bates Weekend (to those in Arkansas) and Happy President’s Day Weekend.

And, if you celebrate none of the above, here’s one you probably celebrate every day and didn’t even realize…My Way Day. February 17 is My Way Day – so go ahead and have it your way, whatever it is, and be sure to keep a monkey with you at all times.