Standing on the deck, breathing the fresh air, and admiring my purple petunias, my eyes caught some movement on the driveway. Is that…? I gasped. A snake! A long, slithery, black snake was sunning itself on my driveway like he owned the place.
The official word is that black snakes are considered our friends because they are non-poisonous and kill pests. I now know that it’s illegal to kill a black snake in our state, but I didn’t know it then. If it slithered, I considered it no friend of mine and felt duty-bound to kill it as my forebears did. That’s a lesson I learned early.
When I was five years old, I skipped home for lunch from my best friend Johnny’s house two doors down. Coming upon the little azalea bushes in the front yard, I saw a skinny, ropy thing wrapped around one. Wow! I stood and watched it for a minute before going in the house. “Guess what, Mama?” I asked, the screen door banging behind me. “I saw a snake outside. A real live snake!”
Mom dropped the peanut butter knife and asked where I saw it. “Stay here,” she said, yanking on her shoes. “Do not, I repeat, do not come outside.” She rushed out the screen door and grabbed a shovel from the utility room before disappearing around the front of the house. A few minutes later, she came back in, shaken but triumphant. “I hate snakes!” she said, taking a few deep breaths. “If you ever see a snake again, sweetie, run away from it. Tell me or your daddy. The only good snake is a dead snake.”
After that excitement, other than a few random sightings that made it into the family folklore, snakes became a distant memory of my childhood. Until my husband and I bought a house in a subdivision with the word “forest” in its name. We now live in the woods, sort of. And you know what else lives in the woods.
So there I was, staring at a real live snake on my driveway. I sprang into action like my mother would have done. I ran to our utility room and grabbed a hoe, thinking that long pants and steel-toed boots would suit me better than the cute turquoise skort and fashionably high flip-flops I was sporting. I mean, what if the snake went after my toes? If nothing else, I could stomp it to death with the heels.
Brandishing the hoe like a sword, I rounded the corner to the driveway. Where did it go? There! In the grass, well concealed along the edge of the driveway. It was facing away from me, which allowed me to creep up behind it without it sensing me. I didn’t want to spook it.
Take careful aim, I thought. You only get one shot.
I slowly lifted the hoe up in the air and then brought it down as hard as I could. Bang! The hoe clipped the tip of the concrete and off the snake went, flying through the grass like he had wings.
I didn’t know snakes could do that!
I took off after it, flip-flopping at top speed over the stepping stones. I ran down the path until I saw the thing zip into some tall grass and disappear. Poof! It was gone. Long gone. I stomped my foot with a resounding thud and groaned. How could I let him get away? It was going to be very hard to get to sleep that night, knowing he was still out there somewhere.
Taking deep breaths and staring at the spot where he disappeared, I finally grunted and headed back up the path, dragging the hoe behind me. He may have escaped but I guarantee that snake lost more than a few scales over its encounter with me.
I haven’t told my mother the story of the one that got away. She’d just worry about us. Did I mention she hates snakes? It’s no wonder that most people do. After all, just look at all the trouble that first snake started in the Garden of Eden, and we’re still paying for it. But that one will get what’s coming to him. You can count on it.
PS Living in the sort-of woods has taught me a few things about snakes. I’m less inclined to go after them now, and certainly not in high-heeled sandals.
PSS Also, since this is a blog about beauty, I'll concede that there's a certain beauty to snakes, but I'm not writing about it.
Do you have a backyard wildlife story? Tell me about it in the comments.
I'm honored that you've taken time out of your day to stop by my blog, Glimsen. If you like what you see, sign up to receive my blog posts and updates by email, and you'll receive a free gift of beauty in your inbox. You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. I look forward to connecting with you.
Photo courtesy of StockSnap | Aaron Burden