Poll of a Billion Monkeys

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Humours of Idleness - The Living Serpent

Humours of Idleness - The Living Serpent

Coincidentally, and synchronistically, I came in from cutting the grass last night and my wife and daughters came home from getting the groceries about the same time when something very interesting occurred related to an event from a few days back. I sat down in the den while my youngest daughter went upstairs. A few minutes later my wife said, "She's screaming!" I don't hear very well but after a few moments concentration even I could hear it, she was screaming so loud and in such a frenzy.

My youngest daughter tends to be overly dramatic about many things but from her wailing you would have thought she were being butchered. So I bounded up the stairs and as I passed I noticed a rather long black cord lying on one of the steps about three quarters up the stairs to the next floor, but I passed by in such a hurry (I was really booking it and concentrating on my daughter) that I only glimpsed the thing. When I got to the end of the upstairs hallway and to my daughter's room I could still hear her screaming uncontrollably and she had the door locked so I couldn't gain access. This worried me as I thought she might have pulled something over on herself and was severely injured. I thought momentarily about kicking the door in but I yelled at her asking if she could open the door and could she move? She answered yes but said she wouldn't. I asked why and she said hysterically, "Because there's a snake on the stairs and I heard it hissing."

I went back to the stairs to investigate and sure enough there was about a two and a half to three foot long rat (black) snake sitting on the stairway about half way up by now. That was the black cord like object I had bounded by on my way up the stairs to check on my daughter.

I laughed when I saw it and wanted to just pick it up. Unfortunately it was spread directly along the bottom length of one step, pressed flat against the rise so that I couldn't approach it from above or behind to simply pick it up and take it outside. It was obviously terrified as by now my oldest daughter and wife were crowding around as close as they dared and all but my oldest daughter were screaming and yelling at both me and the snake. (My wife seems to share the same unreasoned horror of snakes that my youngest daughter does.)

Now rat snakes are very beneficial, like king snakes, and so I like snakes like that. King snakes, rat snakes, black snakes, coachwhips, I like them all and they are all beneficial.

I imagine what had happened was that when I left the basement door open while cutting the grass I must have flushed the snake out and it came up the steps through the underground floor and into the hallway and foyer on the ground floor. Then it was gonna make its way to the top floor via the upstairs steps. Rat snakes have overlapping, angled belly scales which make them very good climbers. But they will also fight and take a striking coil when threatened. I'm not afraid of snakes at all and handle them often at the Science Center or around here but I had already once tried to take it behind the head and it coiled and hissed and made a half-hearted lunge, just to warn me it would fight if cornered. Coupling that with it's attempt to hug the wall to prevent access by me, I knew approach was not gonna be easy. Although far from venomous I had no desire to be bitten on a Friday night and so I withdrew to the bottom of the steps to see what it would do.

In the meantime I thought to grab my digital camera and take the two photos you will see below. I also opened the basement door because I figured that all it really wanted to do by now was escape the way it had entered. Soon it tried climbing down the wall beside the stairway but the paint on the wall made the wall too smooth to hold onto. It did an excellent job at the attempt as you can see from the picture of it hanging but eventually it fell to the hardwood floor. At that point my oldest daughter and wife practically ran over each other trying to flee the area. My wife is black and as she says, "Sistas don't play with no snakes!" Watching them flee made me laugh again.

But the snake made her way down the hall and out the basement door, then down those steps and I imagine back into the south field. Watching it I realized that this snake looked almost exactly like the one I had run over a few days earlier (only that one was much smaller) on my mower and after examining those remains more carefully I realized it was probably a rat snake as well. The snake that had gotten into the house was probably either an older sibling or the mother of the clutch that had produced the small snake I had killed by accident.
And now you know the rest of the story.

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