I have a fear of snakes. Not a phobia of snakes. Just given the choice of petting a kitten or petting a snake I’m going to pick the kitten…every time! While I don’t have a hatred of snakes I also don’t want to live with them. We have nearly ninety acres of woodlands, streams, hills and valleys. They need to stay out there where they belong. Just after we moved in to Hemlock Hills, we found snakeskins…loooooong snakeskins as in five feet plus and they weren’t out in the woodlands, streams, hills and valleys. We found them under the house, in the attic and behind the paneling cladding our bead board walls. The next spring, we would find out where those snakeskins came from.

It was a late March day when I first made the acquaintance of one of my black rat snakes. Laying in the sun, he was not nearly as scared of me as I was of him…or her. How does one tell? How many steps do you run when you first see a snake lying next to your foot? My escape was more of a combination hop and lunge followed by three rapid steps before my mind said, “Shut it down, it was a black snake and nothing poisonous.” It was a huge reptile, as was its mate. They were a matching pair of near six footers I saw together several days later. Both had recently shed their skin and their black skin seemed to glisten in bright sunshine.

Late one afternoon I saw my three puppies sitting outside the back door leading onto our combination back porch wash room which was adjacent to our kitchen. As I continued past them I told them, “You can sit there and wait but your Mommy (Linda Gail) is not here.” There was no reaction except for wagging tails and their attention seemed to focus on the back door which rarely closed on its own and was always slightly ajar. My attention was also drawn to the door when I noticed six inches of rat snake tail peeking out from underneath. Oh pooh! I ran around and went in the front, jogged to the kitchen and found the rat snake occupying the kitchen, back porch and steps leading to it…ALL AT THE SAME TIME! I stepped toward Snakey hoping it would retreat. It did, right under the dryer. Crap! Okay if I rock the dryer maybe I can entice it to move…but it might move right up my britches leg. If I crawl on top of the dryer maybe I can shake it enough to make Snakey move…that is just where Linda found me. “What are you doing?” She was not happy or impressed with my answer. We decided to open the porch door and close the kitchen door and wait it out. It must have worked.

Every time I watch NCIS reruns and the Mike Franks’ character is featured I remember my favorite of many favorite Mike Franks’ quotes,

“But the memories we make.
We fill the spaces we live in with them.
That’s why I’ve always tried to make sure that wherever I live,
the longer I live there
the spaces become filled with memories –
of naked women.”

My space is filled with memories, but of only one naked woman. I was and am truly blessed. I smiled at the vision of my bride sprinting nude from our old fashioned bathroom. Sprinting and yelling, “Snake, Snake, Snake!” I imagined the snake, a five-foot plus black rat snake, yelling in my head, “Naked Woman, Naked Woman, Naked Woman,” as it tried to climb the wall behind her. We had returned late to our old non-air conditioned home. The late July heat and humidity were still evident when Linda Gail decided to bathe. Believing the bright overhead incandescent light bulb simply added to the heat, she had entered the bathroom in the dark and after beginning to run her water, stripped, reached down and plugged in the small lamp that sat next to the lavatory. As the light dimly flooded the small bathroom, she found herself staring face to “forked tongue” with a snake that was coiled below the short electrical cord. Typically male, my attention was drawn to the vision of a fit, well put together woman with fabulous…EYES, running naked through the house and not on the snake that was trying to escape in the other direction. There is always a price to go with the vision I was enjoying, the snake had to be removed but first I had to find it. “Here Snakey, Snakey, Snakey!”

I know a lot of people will ask, “Why did you not kill it?” Someone sold me on the fact that black rat snakes were predators willing to eat everything from mice, rats and birds to other snakes, including the poisonous ones and if hungry enough their own species. I would agree that this was sound advice. Until they met unfortunate ends we had no snake or rat problem. They were dispatched to “snake heaven” by an over eager, snake despising home renovator who believed all serpents were minions of the devil. Exit my snakes, enter mice, rats and copperheads. I really don’t have problems with copperheads when they are where they are supposed to be and my yard is not where they are supposed to be. I have two Blue Heeler puppies who think they have been placed on this earth to rid it of all serpents. Not a problem until they get bit by a copperhead and they have been, a couple of times, and have never learned a lesson. Because of this fact, I have found myself rescuing our legless non-poisonous little friends by putting them over the fence with the strong admonishment, “Now don’t come back!” Why don’t they ever listen?

Don Miller has written three books which may be purchased at
“Inspirational true stories” in WINNING WAS NEVER THE ONLY THING can be downloaded for $1.99.
“STUPID MAN TRICKS” explained in FLOPPY PARTS for $.99.
“Southern Stories of the Fifties and Sixties…” in PATHWAYS for $3.99.
All may be purchased in paperback.

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