Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Snake Charmer

My sister and I have always been snake lovers. Well actually we're just all around critter lovers. From the cute and cuddly to the big and slimy, we both are crazy about "all creatures great and small".

When we were young we would often catch little blue belly lizards, frogs, toads and water snakes. Our poor dad is one of those people who cannot stand the sight of a snake. It just really gives him the heebie-jeebies, and here he was blessed with two little girls who thought bringing a slithering reptile in a coffee can into the house was more fun than Barbies any day. I can only imagine how many times he must've jumped out of his skin coming across one our precious pets.

Mom, on the other hand was more like us. In fact she had a couple toads who lived under our house that she was quite fond of. One day some neighbor boys were playing in the yard and took one of these toads. Well, Mom caught wind of it and she was pissed! She was especially upset to think of what these boys might do to her toad. She immediately got on the phone and called the boys' mother. As Mom told it, the poor woman on the other end of the phone got an earful from her, as Mom demanded, "Your boys took my toad and I want them to bring it back right now!" We lived in a very small town, so the crazy toad lady episode was probably the scuttlebutt for some time afterwards.

Well, I can be a bit anal about the reptiles in my yard too, and it's good to know I come by it honestly. I do not let the kids play with my little frogs that live in the flower beds unless they are just going to handle them gently and put them back. I am also on the alert when I see one of the cats messing with something, and have saved quite a few snakes from a torturous death. I always get a thrill from holding a snake and feeling it slither through my hands--yes, I have the crazy toad lady's genes.

A few weeks ago the kids came running into the house all excited to tell me there was a rattlesnake in the yard. I figured that it probably wasn't, and that I would be saving a garter snake from the cat again. However, when I reached the front steps and saw Mike poised with his shovel, I had a feeling the kids knew what they were talking about.

As I got closer I could see the little guy trying to hide under the wooden border that separates the lawn from the driveway. He was obviously a rattler, though he wasn't rattling at the moment and I couldn't help being completely fascinated by him, and crouched down to observe him a bit closer. He was the coolest snake ever, and to think I was lucky enough to have him right in my front yard! I was apparently the only one who felt this way because about this time Mike lifted his shovel up and said, "Now everybody step back." This caught me off guard. What? He can't be serious. He wants to kill it? I tell him, "You can't kill it!" And now he was the one caught off guard. As he processed this bit of information, I could see the realization hit him that he should've just killed the dang thing and shown me the beheaded body.

I tell him he needs to find a bucket, get the snake into it and take it out to the forest and set it free. He is beyond thrilled to hear this bit of news, but reluctantly heads to the garage to find an empty garbage can. Isn't it amazing what a guy will do for a woman? He is able to get the bucket and a long stick and he very carefully starts jabbing at my sweet little snaky friend. My little friend is not happy about this and starts rattling like crazy. I've never seen a rattler this close up. Wow, it's so cool!

It only takes Mike about 3 tries to get him in the bucket. He has a look of relief on his face and is ready to take my little serpent for a walk. I tell him, "Wait! I have to get a picture of him!" and I rush to the house to get my camera. I'm pretty sure I saw Mike's eyes roll back into his head at this point. After a couple photos and a few more admiring glances I let Mike take him across the street and out in the woods where he can be safe from shovel-wielding maniacs.

I think this is a great lesson for the kids. They got to see what a rattle snake looks and sounds like and they also learned that just because you're afraid of something that you don't need to kill it. I tell the kids that they need to be careful around animals that can harm them, but if it's possible to save the animal, you should. After all, these creatures have a place in nature too.

Mike also learned a lesson that day. I think it goes something like this: Act first and tell the crazy lady later, or be prepared to spend your afternoon pretending to be Steve Irwin.

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