One summer a few years ago, I was happily mowing my lawn in the bright July sun, when I chanced upon a baby snake. Ewww! I am not fond of snakes or bugs or spiders, either. As a matter of survival, any creature not invited into my house can expect rather rough treatment from me. At the same time, I try NOT to kill things outside the house if I can reasonably avoid it, for these reasons:
They’re all God’s creatures, after all, and I still get squeamish if I kill a thing without reason.
If the Hindu belief in reincarnation is valid, then that could be Great Uncle Freddie, for all I know, or a former president. That last idea might just earn his destruction anyway.
And, of course, most snakes are harmless creatures who eat varmints—mice, rats, moles, gophers (?). Not sure of that last, but they do perform services gratis in varmint removal.
So, I was happy to watch the little, squirmy thing slither off on his snaky little journey—away from my house and toward the woods. But, no! Instead of hastening to remove himself from my presence—which any self-respecting snake would have done, since I had a lawnmower and he had only a forked tongue—the damned thing reared up on his back haunches. Now, I don’t know if snakes have rear haunches, but he did rear back on the rear end of his snakiness, so that’s just an approximation on my part. He surprised me. I was, I must say, appalled, both at his hubris and his proximity to my leg.
As he began to act like a cobra, rearing back and feinting toward me, as if to attack, I panicked. Who wouldn’t? He was not performing like a nice, docile garter snake, as expected. It would seem that he was not desirous of either my company or my forbearance. Indeed, he was the most pugnacious little snake I’d seen since I left Florida! I hesitated. Despite his arrogance, I still did not want to merely run him over with the lawnmower in cold blood. But, I was afraid to leave him there. I had mowing to do, and he was thwarting that endeavor. Now, the smart thing would have been to get a shovel or a hoe and do him in, as humans have done for eons.
The trouble was that the shovel and hoe and all my other sharp instruments of death were locked in my storage shed way on the other side of the yard. I was afraid that if I left the snake to retrieve a helpful tool, it might hide somewhere and I would then be terrified of ever venturing out into the yard again. What if it came after me in the dark? Worse, what if it came after my little dog, Café? So, with the dilemma—and the snake—confronting me, I was both sweating and shivering with fear. Living alone, I had learned not to depend on some big, strong man to ‘rescue’ me, yet I was rethinking that as time ticked away.
While I was pondering what and how to get this pest away from my house and out of my yard, the snake in question must have been doing his own pondering. In past encounters, I had noted a reluctance on the part of most creatures, even snakes, to argue over right-of-way with humans. Given a cooling-off period, most animals will go on their merry way (usually, when my back was turned). But this snaky lummox was not the retiring kind. He had
snaked staked out his claim to my property and he would not be evicted except by force. Logic was beyond him, while shovels and hoes were beyond me!
On another day, I might not have hesitated to send him to a long, narrow grave, but that day was for some reason not the day. Musing about my options, I noticed a quick movement on his part, as he once again reared back on his presumed haunches, getting as tall as a baby snake can pretend at, and then I heard his baby rattle. I realized then that snaky was a small copperhead rattler and not a little garter snake. Petrified now, I knew that even baby rattlesnakes had deadly venom in their mouths, and I could not turn my back on this thing. If I retreated, he might strike. If I stood there longer, he might strike. No matter what, he was irritated enough now that anything could set him off.
So, watching him closely, I backed up very slowly, reaching the gutter where a recent road crew had torn up and discarded large chunks of asphalt and rock, in preparation for repaving the road. These chunks were about the size of a volleyball but oblong and heavy, and I began to chuck these chunks in the general direction of the snake. Like an idiot, I was still trying NOT to kill the thing, relying instead on my belief that rocks and chunks of road would discourage the snake from continuing his rattley threats. I was still expecting him to go away. Not so!
I tossed several loose rocks and increasingly larger chunks of asphalt his way, and yet he kept crawling toward me. By now, I was both terrified AND angry. How dare this stupid snake threaten me in my own yard? And why was he not afraid? So, I began to lob larger chunks at him and continued even after wounding him. I felt sick in the pit of my stomach, but I knew that I would have to finish him there and then or he would get me. That’s when I killed a snake by tossing a road at him! And, that’s when an ordinary summer’s day became a story out of Edgar Allan Poe.
©2015 Linda L Labin, PhD