Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Scare in the Suburbs (March 17, 2009)
Today I took the hammock out of the garage after its winter hibernation. I lay on it and marveled at how the leaves on the trees above had literally doubled since yesterday. The sun shone down and I sighed contentedly. Spring makes me happy.
A short time later I was talking to my husband on the phone when, in the course of two minutes, a cluster of events changed the flavor of my day. Our toddler began screaming so I ended the call and put my cell phone in my pocket. The baby was fine but needed a diaper change. It was a very dirty diaper so I decided to take it to the trashcan outside before calling my husband back. I’d taken about six steps out the door when I stopped and looked back. I saw IT immediately. The snake was about 16 inches long, it was perfectly still, and it was looking right at me. This seemed like a good moment to call the hubby back. “A SNAKE!!!!! What do I do??!!! It’s not coiled, but what if it strikes?!! What do rattlesnakes look like?” is how Part Two of our chat began. I am not good with snakes, even the kind behind a solid pane of glass at the zoo. I’ve only seen two other snakes up close before, ever. I’m a novice.
The hubby didn’t share my attitude about the invader. In fact, his exact response to my breathless panic was “Wow. Cool. I’ve never seen a snake near our house.” Easy for him to be intrigued—he’s 17 miles away from the killer snake. Was it a rattler? He said they are brownish and have a diamond pattern on their bodies. This snake was brownish and had stripes. But what if they were actually diamonds? I was not eager to get closer to examine the pattern. What if the stripes were the precursor to diamonds? Many animals change as they grow, I reasoned. The hubby recommended I toss a rock near it to scare it off. No good. The snake would probably come right at me, since the house and the garage limited the snake’s escape routes to two directions. Hubby suggested turning the hose on it to scare it away. No thanks. I don’t want it going away and finding another hiding place so that it can scare me all over again. I said I’d call him back once I figured out my strategy. The good news: the kids were in the house with the screen doors shut, so if the snake did escape from my view, it couldn’t get to the kids. The bad news: the snake pretty much lay in my path to the front door. I envisioned running for it, leaping across the sidewalk near the snake, then envisioned its jaws lunging for my legs. Clearly, Plan B was the way to go.
Plan B involved getting to the back door. This would have been easy-peasy a few months ago, because the only thing separating our yard from our neighbors was an old, termite-tunneled four-foot fence that I could have climbed or even pushed down. But last year hubby put up sturdy new six-foot fences. My escape would hinge upon my ability to scale that fence. At my disposal were one large trash can with lid (on one side of the fence) and one large composter with lid (on the other side of the fence). I climbed the trash can, then the fence, touched down on the composter and made it to the safety of my back yard. Time to check on the kids. They were fine. Next I grabbed my camera and climbed our fort ladder. It’s built up against the back of the garage, giving me the perfect path to the roof. I crept across the roof and peered over the edge. The snake had not moved so I zoomed the camera’s lens in on it, then snapped a photo of my escape route.
Back in the house, my pounding heart gradually slowed. I felt safe. Ish. But I pondered why I was always the one having to battle wild beasts in the name of my family’s safety. There were the rats in the composter. Then last year I discovered black widow spiders and their egg sacks. I killed at least 10 spiders in about 5 months and burnt the egg sacks. Since hubby was at work, for the safety of my kids I had to get rid of these spiders. My skin crawled but I felt brave and proud.
But snakes? This was too much. I got onto the internet, determined to know whether the trespasser was a rattler. I learned that some rattlers have diamond patterns but some have stripes. This could be a baby rattler! Shivers raced up my spine as I realized how close to danger I’d come. I’d already downloaded the photo of our snake, and I clicked the mouse to get a look at his striping again. Yep, it looked a lot like some of those rattlers. Except…wait…in the shadows, nearly hidden by leaves…what was that? Were they…legs? Yes, upon closer examination I realized ruefully that the snake had two front and two hind legs, tucked parallel with its body, barely visible. I phoned my husband back one last time, reporting the snake’s legs. Hubby laughed, and I did too. It seems my dramatic fence-scaling escape was all because of a very long lizard. I’ve seen plenty of lizards before and I’m not scared of them, but I’ve never seen one that was 16” long, hiding its legs, masquerading as a snake. From nose to hind legs it was about 6” long, with a tail that was at least 10”. I felt a little let down, but mostly relieved. So although today’s adventure was a false alarm, I say it’s never wrong to take the safe route when it comes to snakes. Climb trash cans, composters and garages if you need to.
It’s an hour later now and I’m still a little keyed-up from all this. Maybe a rest in the hammock is in order. Of course, I’ve had enough encounters with wild animals outside today. So for now, the hammock is in my living room, with the doors locked, just in case!