Thursday, April 2, 2009

Pobre Serpiente

So I'm now supposed to start liking my worst enemy because a python thinks Dina is its mother? Sorry, it'll take a little more convincing. Gaby asked if I had had an encounter with a snake that makes me fearful, and I had to admit I've managed to avoid them nicely all my life except for one time, and Mike thinks it will do me good mentally to talk about that "encounter."

I guess there is no explanation for a phobia. It's just there. I did have a few times as a child when I was forced to look at one. A cat once came running out of the woods behind me with a snake when I was pretty young, probably just as proud as could be, but I thought it was chasing me, and that's probably the beginning. And my brother used to throw worms on me. That too.

People tease me about it, but it's a real thing. I pass a woody or grassy or swampy area, and I think about what's living in there. If I were driving into a tornado, and there was a choice of diving into a ditch (where who knows what may be lurking), I would just get blown away in my car. We once were looking at houses in Thomaston when a huge snake shot out from under the deck. Mike told the real estate lady, "No use opening the door to this house." And another time in North Ga, a real estate person was showing us a house she had once lived in with a beautiful yard and a stream with rushing water, but she made the mistake of saying, "My boys would sit out here and shoot snakes as they came over the dam." Another lost sale.

I lived all my life in Thomaston without any encounters somehow. I realize that people protect me from knowing about things, so there may have been some sightings by others in those 20 years, but they never got back to me. Then we moved to Meridian, MS. The house was on a beautiful wooded lot set back from the street a ways, pretty little pool in the back yard, and a lot of woods behind us that Mike enjoyed working in - I think. I'm not sure when he decided to get me a gun called a Snake Charmer, but that terrified me - both the gun and the thought that he thought I needed one. He was the one who usually cleaned the pool filters, and according to him, he NEVER saw a snake, but I'm not sure I believe him. Although when he was out of town and I cleaned them, I found only frogs, which were bad enough. Maybe the gun came after some workers found what they called a "ground rattler" underneath a juniper in the back yard.

We didn't like the juniper. It was huge and took up a lot of space and was just ugly, but as soon as we got moved in, I started planting a flower bed nearby. I used the juniper to hold my sacks of soil and mulch and sometimes sat there to rest. There was a little dachsund next door who was always sniffing around under there, but I had to idea what lived there. A day or so later after the flower bed was done, some guys came to dig up the juniper. I was luckily outside the fence when I heard them start screaming - really screaming! So I guess I'm not the only one who's scared of them! They killed it thoroughly and with a lot of fanfare and threw it on the trash pile Mike had started behind the fence. But after that I was very cautious and watched where I went. Mike says he killed one in a neighbor's yard with "my" gun much later (also maybe true and maybe MY yard), but other than that, they either stayed clear or any sightings were hidden from me.

Until my house snake. It was an early fall day. Mike was out of town, and I had spent a fun morning with my heirloom sewing friends. I came in the back door and immediately noticed something on the dining room carpet. The carpet was very light, and there was what looked like a brown shoestring lying there. My first thought was that the cats were playing with something and left it there, but I couldn't remember either of us having a brown shoestring that they could have gotten. I walked toward it to pick it up, but by some stroke of luck, I looked closer and saw a - well one of THOSE. Granted it was small but it was not a huge worm, it wasn't yarn, and it had a head that was definitely snakelike. This is not helping me much to talk about this.

It wasn't moving or anything, just lying there, and all I could do was just stand there and stare at it. We had just moved there and didn't know any of our neighbors - no one was home during the day next door anyway. I stood there and cried for maybe 10 minutes. Not sure what good I thought that would do, but I guess I felt like if there was one there, there might be more, and what else could I do but cry. Then I realized the tears didn't wash it away, and it was still there, so I summoned up all my courage and got the broom. Not my Snake Charmer (although I don't think Mike would have been surprised to come home and see a hole in the dining room carpet) but the broom. I gritted my teeth and went over and tried to sweep it, thinking I would get it to the door - a long way away. The thing moved. If it had moved fast, I probably would have died right there, but it just kind of crawled a little - straight for a card table draped in drop clothes that held paint and stuff for the room we were painting. So now I had a snake hidden under a table in a bunch of cloths. I lifted up one corner and looked, and - pobre serpiente - I actually did feel sorry for it. It was just a baby and was curled up trying to look invisible. But then I realized what it would grow up to be and started sweeping - seriously, this time. I did manage to get it to the back door and out onto the patio. There was a butcher knife on the grill nearby, and I just picked it up and hacked it into 2 pieces. Not sure where that courage came from, and I nearly threw up while I was doing it.

Just about then, up ran the cats - just in time to "help." I imagine one of them might have chased it into the house in the first place, or maybe I brought it in in a potted plant. Who knows? I then swept it into a jar and took it to an exterminator's office down the road to see if someone would come out and check the house and to see if anyone could identify it. They promised to send someone but didn't know what kind of snake it was - just a brown one.

A little bit later, 2 young guys from the exterminating company came by, and I followed them around while they looked under every bed and in every closet. I'm not sure who was more skittish - me or them. They jumped about 2 feet when they opened the hall closet and saw a lizard cat toy. They checked the fireplace and cabinets and behind the washer and dryer before they left, but that night I took all the sheets off the bed and sat there in the middle of it with the lights on. I guess I slept but not too well. And then for months (well, even now), I wouldn't stick my hands in drawers or cabinets or boxes in closets and was always convinced I heard something in the attic.

So that's it. Maybe I do feel better, but I kind of feel sick talking about it. I have read about people seeing snakes in their cabinets, under their dishwasher, on their porches, and I've wondered how people get over something like that. If it had been big and evil and such, I would probably have had to move or go stay in a hotel for awhile. But I kind of got back to normal after a while.

But that's not all for Meridian reptiles. The next fall, Emily was staying with us awhile, and we had been raking leaves and cleaning the flower beds. She had the skimmer and was getting leaves out of the pool when I heard her exclaim. I turned around, and she tried to pretend nothing had happened, but then I saw her face. I said, "It's a snake, right?" And she said, "Daddy said I was never supposed to tell you if I saw one." Again it was a baby, and she nonchalantly scooped him up in the skimmer and took him to the front (out of my sight). She said later that she had a shovel, and was taking her time wiping him out (and kind of feeling sorry for him) when he got into a striking position. She didn't waste any time with the shovel after that. Thank goodness she was there!

Since then, things have been good for me until the email came yesterday with the "baby" python. I'm always conscious of what might be in flowerbeds though and never work without a couple of cats with me or the dog - not that they would be much help, but they might distract something while I ran. I wish I had some way to get better about this and not be so afraid. Maybe letting one crawl all over me at a zoo is the answer - but probably not!! And if any packages come from Guatemala, someone else is doing to open them.


  1. OH my. I couldn't read this post in its entirety because it creeped me out so much!!! I HATE, no not hate, LOATHE snakes! I don't think I wouldn't have been able to even remember where the broom was, had I been you. EWWWW! I totally feel your pain!

  2. I'm glad you couldn't finish it, Lydia; you're a soul mate. I'm going to change the subject soon!

  3. Now I'm feeling awful! Sorry about this inconvinient, I really doesn't know you really dont like this creatures.
    From the bottom of my heart I told you: I'm really really sorry.

    :( Gaby :(