I have been an avid gardener for 34 years. Woodlands have given their life for me in order to plant thousands of daffodil and tulip bulbs. I’ve stared down more poison ivy than I can count, and emerged victorious every time. But today, sadly, I fear my love of all things botanical might have come to a slithering halt.
Despite having a sprinkler system, it’s still necessary to hand water the container-grown hibiscus plants that ring my patio area. So, out I went yesterday morning. I bent down to pick up a black hose when it suddenly uncoiled and shot away from me at Galactica speed. I had been about 10″ from putting my hand on a very black, extremely shiny 5′ long snake. OMG! Predictably, Booger charged after it into a huge oleander bush. I screamed bloody murder until I was hoarse and bolted back in the house, leaping like a giraffe, all thoughts of watering that section of the patio on hiatus until Judgement Day.
Why did I then dial The Spousal Unit expecting sympathy and commiseration? Typical guy response, “Well, if it was that size and black, with a narrower tail, it was probably just a black racer. Don’t worry; they’re non-venomous and harmless. Actually, they’re GOOD snakes. They eat rodents.” Men, there are soooo many things you can say to make a woman happy, but the following ARE NOT among them.
“Don’t worry, that snake or spider is harmless; it eats bad things.”
“You’re not AS big as Rosie O’Donnell.”
“YOU have a college degree?”
“Are those things real?”
“My sister’s big like you.”
“Is that a chin whisker?”
“You look more and more like your mother every day.”
“Is that the same pair of jeans that fit so well last week?”
“Were you born with that hair color?”
“I think I like my Mom’s meatloaf better.”
What the hell is this all of a sudden? Did I get transported to the freakin jungles of Malaysia? Spiders, geckos being hand delivered inside the house courtesy of my adoring kitty Bette Davis Eyes, and now…snakes? When I think back to all those years of casual, carefree gardening in flip-flops or barefoot, never giving a thought to serpentine possibilities, I shudder. I feel sick; maybe I’m going to faint. It could be time to take up knitting again. Indoors is safe from snakes right? But then again, there was that time in Texas…
I was sixteen years old and we had just moved into a custom-built house on a ranch in the country. I’d finished up some homework on my bed and popped into the kitchen to grab a snack. Re-entering my room, I spotted a large rattlesnake curled up between the bed I’d just vacated and the bureau. He was pissed off and shaking those rattlers in warning. I knew better than to scream; I was too close to him and didn’t want to risk a strike. Trying to make myself simultaneously swift and invisible, I dashed back to the kitchen to get my stepdad. It took forever to convince him this wasn’t a joke; the consequences of crying wolf 50 times too often I suppose. I was the practical joker in the family and loved pulling pranks on the Rents. Needless to say, by the time we returned to my room, my stepdad equipped with all manner of snake disposing gear, the bloody thing was nowhere to be found. He left no stone unturned, but no dice. He was now seriously annoyed with me, sure this was another trick on my part. He returned to the kitchen, telling my mom I’d snookered him yet again.
You cannot even imagine the thoughts going through my head as I forced myself to suck it up and creep back into that bedroom; heebie jeebies were just the jumping off place for my terror. My goosebumps had goosebumps. After half an hour of eyeball peeling and hyperventilating, I was able to convince myself that my wannabe buddy must have slithered down the hall into another room. Good, let it be someone else’s problem. As I rose to close my door, I glimpsed a slight movement. The rattler was starting to emerge from a partially open drawer. I grabbed a tennis racket leaning against the wall and used it to shove the drawer closed.
My parents didn’t even cast a glance at me as I came sliding back into the kitchen, socked feet whooshing over the highly polished tile floor, flailing my arms like a Kristi Yamaguchi wannabe. Overcome with terror, eyes bulging, and unable to form words, I was using both arms to point to my bedroom, mouthing ‘snake‘ the entire time. Fortunately for yours truly, my Grandpa was visiting. He was much more tolerant of my silliness than my parents and grabbed a rifle to head to my room to have a look. The three of them had been playing canasta and drinking beer, and were feeling no pain. My very tipsy Mom was running after Grandpa, imploring him not to shoot that thing off in her new house, and my stepdad was bringing up the rear, armed with a snakecatcher noose and hedge trimmers, just in case.
The four of us must have been a sight. I managed to recover my voice as soon as I realized my Grandpa was about to pull open my very private lingerie drawer, where Rattler Boy had last been spotted. My drunken Mama was chair surfing on top of my Dad’s recliner in the adjacent living room, trying to balance herself while keeping a death grip on her lit cigarette, whilst issuing ultimatums about not shooting that shit-assed snake in her new house. My stepdad had his Budweiser in one hand, snake noose in another, with the hedge trimmers tucked up under his arm. My little Boston Terrier, Snoopy, had just entered the room to see what all the commotion was about and choose that exact moment to let loose the most profound fart, rendering us all dazed and semi-conscious.
Unfortunately, just at that moment, my Mom’s eyes met mine, and despite the inherent danger of the moment, we both broke out in hysterics at the sight of the quite tipsy Dad and Grandpa with their weapons of destruction, and the contents of my underwear drawer strewn all over the floor for the entire world to see. Rattler Boy was still in that same drawer; Dad managed to get the noose around its neck, and dispatched him to Heaven with a few strategic snips of the hedge trimmers. At which point, my Grandpa took the opportunity to jump up on my bed and demonstrate how he’d been awakened in his own bed one dark night only to find a rattler curled up between his feet. “I took my double-ought #6 and pointed that SOB about where I thought that sorry lizard was and pulled the trigger, praying I wouldn’t miss and blow off a foot.” Both feet were still firmly attached to his legs that night, so the assumption is that he prevailed.
Just a bunch of country folk, getting down on the farm!
Featured image courtesy of sodahead.com