Jun 11, 2005

The serpent was subtil

Yes, I know I misspelled "subtle," it's a reference to Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" video, which was referencing the KJV of the bible.

Yesterday was...interesting. I had left work to go to the local supermarket for some lunch, and coming back the ladies across the parking lot screamed at me when I drove up to come help them. We work in sort of a pentaplex, two buildings on our side, three on the other, and they're all sitting on big mounds of dirt, which leaves a lot of the concrete slab showing. So when I turned I immediately saw two older women behaving like scared monkeys and a 3' long black line up against the base of their building. I ambled over, and they're freaking out because there's a snake there.

Okay, let's take this from the top:

  • We live in Louisiana, a state not known for it's dryness nor vast expanses of concrete.
  • We work very near a small man-made lake and a lot of trees and underbrush.
  • We live in Louisiana.

So what conclusion can we draw from this? That there's going to be wildlife abounding, and since we're encroaching on their grounds, they're going to interact with us. And yes, I indeed know and respect people's views on snakes, and still respct my syster even though she kills every single slithering thing she sees, including garden hoses and rope, because her dog has been bit twice by poisonous snakes, but living half an hour from her keeps me from launching a rescue effort over there every time she sees a snake. So anyway...

Being in possession of my senses, naturally the first thing I notice is that it's business end is pointed away from me, the secnd thing I notice is it's colour (dark muddy green with red flecks,) the third thing is the little round head. Conclusion? Harmless, what farmers and livestockmen around here call a "chicken snake" or a "rat snake." I'm not even sure of it's real name, sad to say. Numerous as fleas, and about as dangerous as a hop toad. Granted they look tough, because they can obtain quite a length (I've seen them up around the 5' mark) but their bite is about as bad as that of a chameleon lizard.

So, the conversation went just a little like this:

Them: "Will you kill it?"
Me: "Uhm...No. It's harmless." (And all life is sacred, even yours, you lame bitch.)
Them: "Is Chris there?" (meaning the boss) "He killed the last one!" (Inaccurate--he shot point blank and missed the last one a year ago, and the secretary had to kill it with a shovel.)
Me: "No, Chris is gone. It's not poisonous, don't worry." (And even if he was here I wouldn't bother him with something as silly as this.)
Them: "What is it? Shouldn't you kill it?"
Me: "It's a chicken snake--see the round head and the little red bits in it's scales? It's not poison. Poisonous snakes have triangular heads. Chicken snakes eat rats and frogs. If you kill it you'll be infested with rats." (I know, turning teacher to those two was about like trying to teach a pig to ride a bike, but I had to try.)
Them: "Do you have a shovel? Chris had a gun..." (Yeah, I carry a shovel on my bike.)
Me: "I don't carry a handgun on my motorcycle. Anyway, it's a CHICKEN SNAKE." (At this point I was starting to get a little nasty, because they were really pissing me off with their insistence I kill it.) "Unless you're a rat you're pretty
safe." (I was rather proud of that line!)
Them: "That guy in the white car *pointing* wouldn't do it." (They meant the other Chris, the nurse. He said he had no time to mess with stupid old women when I asked him later. Yeah!)
Me: "Let me put my food inside, I'll come get it. Leave it alone until then."

I went in, took off my jacket and helmet, went back out, grabbed a little twig and held it's head down so it wouldn't get nervous and bite me, and the poor thing panicked (naturally) when I touched it, so it drew all that length up into a little wad and started rustling it's little pointy tail in the dirt, trying to make a noise like a ground rattler to scare me off. I snagged it behind the jaws and scooped it up. The women, who I guess had been watching, certain it was going to leap up and bite my face off, went insane when I lifted it, then screamed and ran inside. I walked it down to the fence and tossed it into the tall grass, and that was that.

When I went back up the parking lot the harpies came back out and shouted "Did you kill it?"

I was proud of myself for not using profanity. I couldn't keep from sneering at them, though, when I said "No, I tossed it over the fence. It's not gonna bother you anymore."

I guess years of watching my father take care of snakes in the yard finally sank in. We always had snakes in the yard, living so close to the bayou and several fields, and I've seen him handle everything from a five inch long baby garter snake up to a monster of a cotton-mouth moccasin that got up in the yard when I was very very little. He always did it with a certain familiarity, and never made a production out of it. And whenever either of us was there he'd take the opportunity to teach us; to show us how snakes were put together, how they felt, how they looked, and moved, and more importantly what to look for on a snake to be sure what you were facing. Again, I guess it all finally sunk in.

Anyway, I did what I had to do, to keep a harmless snake alive and keep the idiots next door from harming themselves or it. I think it's what my father would have wanted me to do.


Old Grey Mare said...

Mr. Irrerelephant what a wonderful thing you have done. You attempted to educate the public on not only the good points of nature. Why kill something that could only help the enviorament? But also on the safe way to rid the "monster" (not really) from the cement that would have surly roasted him/her in the Louisiana heat & humidity. I for one am proud of you. *S*

renegade said...

I like blue birds a damn sight more than the snake that ate three of Mom's earlier this week and I love my dogs, especially the silly blonde one that keeps poking snakes with her nose so slithering things in my yard better be faster than me or them. They're 2-0 this year so far.
I do admire your restraint in not straining a bit of fluff from the human gene pool, but I'm still firmly in Indy's corner when it comes to snakes.