Saturday, August 1, 2009

and then there are the snakes

When we moved to the family farm in 1976 I was well aware of my fear of snakes.
I was taught as a child to stand still and yell for an adult, who would grab a hoe and quickly made short work of the snake.
I use to dream about snakes and in many of the dreams they were enormous snakes who would come after me by bouncing on their tales.
I decided I needed to address this fear and figure out how I and the snakes could live together on the farm.
My method for this was to kill first and identify later. Not the best outcome for the snake, but one that let me take the time to figure out who they were. I needed to know who were the good guys and who were the bad guys.
I quickly learned the Copperheads or pilot snake, as my neighbors called them, was the bad guy for my area.
I heard we have rattle snakes but have only seen two here and one was over by the zoo. I have never seen one on the farm.
The good guys were the King snake, Milk snake, Corn snake, Rat snake, the common black snake and the Eastern Black Racer. These all eat mice and rats and will take out the bad guys. We had a King snake which moved through our yard every spring. We use to look forward to his trip and would go out to make sure he made it through. We would tell our bug eyed customers to just step back and leave him alone.
I stopped seeing him several years ago.
On the small side there are the common garden snakes and the Ring neck snakes. These are both small snakes and you have to look quick to see them. Again, I have not seen any of these for awhile.
We have our usual black snakes up around the house in the spring and around the kiln. They will take up a territory and you have to convince them to move. Mark will pick them up, no thanks; I am not picking up any of them.
I use a hoe and pick them up and walk quickly to the woods where I toss.
Don’t laugh I know they come back.
Another snake here is the Hognose snake. When threatened, hognose snakes hiss loudly and spread their necks like cobras do, resulting in the nicknames “puff adder” or “spreading adder.” They rarely bite during these displays, but they may strike repeatedly. If the antagonist continues, the hognose snake will feign death by opening its mouth, rolling over on its back, and writhing around. If turned over onto its belly, it will immediately roll again onto its back.
I knew I was doing my job teaching my children about snakes when Anna and Joel caught one in a mason jar and brought it to me to identify.
I did and we released it later.
I’ll save that story for another time.
We have had several snakes find their way inside the house.
The first was on the kitchen counter and small enough that I thought he was the cord to the radio and when I walked over to “plug” it in he moved. And so did I! I still swear I levitated out of the kitchen.
He was removed unharmed.
Another was just hanging out on the kitchen floor. A long about 3-4 foot black snake. I glanced that way and thought, “why has Mark left a black plastic pipe on the floor?”
Then it moved…….
He was removed unharmed as well.
We were getting pretty good at this snake removal thing.
The one which did not make it out alive was the one which dropped onto Mark’s keyboard in the old office. That one had a nasty disposition and needed to have an attitude adjustment.
And there are others- but not today.
For more on NC snakes check out this great site.


Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...

I will probably NEVER visit NC in my life now, thanks to you.....

Jay said...

Remind me to tell you sometime about Waymon Cole and the rattlesnakes. Or maybe I'll post it on my Web site.

During college I was down to the farm with my friend Steve, fishing in the johnboat. I heard a rustling noise in the grass on the dam and paddled over to see what it was. I parted the tall grass and saw a King snake wrapped around a copperhead, choking it to death. "Hey Steve!" I said. "Look! A King snake is . . . ." Then I heard a sort of gurgling, choking sound and looked around to see Steve hanging onto the back of the boat with his toes, as far away from the bank as he could get without going into the water. He continued making gurgling and choking sounds, accompanied by frantic hand movements, and I got the idea that he was afraid of snakes and wanted to move away from the dam. Funny how snakes affect some people.

Remind me to tell you Pop Slack's snake story some time.

Shortstuff said...

O.K. I read it anyway...just because you have so many funny snake stories. Not exactly funny ha ha, more funny because I'm still alive and I'm not sure how. That kind of thing. Of course you know I used to lie in bed in Charlottesville and agonize about your childrens' safety at the farm because you would tell me those darned snake stories and I wanted to protect them. How weird is that. You left out the story about how you walked out of the house and a black snake slithered in and it occurred to you almost instantaneously that you were both on the wrong side of the door.

Shortstuff said...

Oh, Gary...there's probabaly one in your yard right now. I've seen them in Maine, so I know they get north of the Mason/Dixon line. Just come on down to Mere's anyway. She can be your "avoid the snake" tour guide.

June Perry said...

I've heard that if you have the large black snakes around you won't have the poisonous ones. I know that when I lived on the west coast, the King snakes were very welcome because they killed the rattlers.

Cathy said...

If you live in the country, you will see snakes. They will come. My brother-in-law Gene, puts moth balls under the cabin, and in twenty years, he's only seen one in the cabin. We've seen plenty when were on the ATV'S riding around.

Judy Shreve said...

An old-time county remedy for keeping snakes away was to spread cotton dust around the base of your house. Well the EPA got rid of cotton dust (DDT) in the early 70's. I don't think even that really worked and there's been nothing to replace it.

In Florida -- snakes are in the neighborhoods -- don't have to live in the country. Snakes would be in our my studio, garage, house, pool & even the mailbox -- and that's year round.

I still don't love them -- I respect them & don't kill the non-poisonous ones cause they are beneficial -- but geez I really don't love them.

Linda Starr said...

Snakes are everywhere and they do a good job of controlling rodents, if not for them, hawks and owls, and cats we'd be overrun - they're even in New York Gary, you just haven't seen one yet, I bet Spike has.

Malcolm Davis told a Virginia black snake story at a workshop I took which had one woman get up and leave the room she feared snakes so, that was an eye opener to me that just a story would freak her out.

We had the copperheads, timber rattlers and rat snakes in Arkansas when we lived there and that was an education for sure, but never in the house, no wonder you are jumpy at snakes, childhood fears have a way of staying around and also resurfacing - mountain cliff driving for me (if someone else is driving). I almost had a heart attack here when I just about stepped on what I thought was a rattlesnake only to discover it was a Gopher Snake - thank goodness.

Country life sure is grand.

cookingwithgas said...

It's like living in a science project and the next post might just be about Spiders!
If it's not one thing it's another.
It's the price you pay to live in paradise!