Snake Charming with a Big Shovel

No Telling


It’s entirely too early on a Sunday morning for this kind of excitement. I’ll need to huddle in my office and shake this off with a few more cups of coffee.

The weenie-dog doesn’t understand Weekend Time. Neither does The Perfect Grandson, but only one of them has to go outside on a leash in public at odd hours. I have a love/hate relationship with Bobo. His real name is Boner, and that explains a lot. Thankfully The Perfect Grandson is still practicing the language and has made hollering at the dog a little more acceptable. He’s Bobo now (pronounced Baaahhh-bow) and thank God for that.

Regardless, Bobo had to go outside before my second cup of Sunday coffee. I wear a lot of hats, but Em wears the one that says, “take the damn dog out.” Not my job. Besides, she looks cute all the time and I need a little spackling before I go out in the street.

I’m a Southern woman of a certain age. That carries a lot of lipstick-baggage.

So out they go and BAM, they’re back inside. Em’s hyperventilating and doing an odd tiptoe dance, Bahbow strains at his leash and throws his little black body repeatedly against the front door. Em finds enough breath to tell me there’s a baby SNAKE by the MAILBOX. She thought it was a big WORM, but then it STUCK it’s SNAKEY tongue OUT.

It was the closest thing to rap music that’s ever happened here at my house, what with the breathless emphasis and the hopping around and the thump, thump, thump of the weenie-dog slinging himself rhythmically at the door.

How silly, I thought, we live in a walled subdivision with an iron-clad set of Homeowner’s Association Rules and Regs. Snakes aren’t in the bylaws.

I snatched up The Perfect Grandson and we – all four of us – went out to the mailbox. Sure enough, there was a little brown snake half in the grass, half on the driveway. Both halves together were probably all of six inches long. It stood it’s ground and we kept our distance.

I know there are some snake-huggers out there who might take offense at what comes next, but babies and weenie-dogs and possibly-poisonous reptiles don’t mix. The snake had to go. Em high-stepped back inside dragging a frothing Bobo on a leash while I held The Perfect Grandson high and eyeballed the snake to make sure it made no fast moves houseward. The worst kind of snake is the one you can’t find. I have experience.

“SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!” said the boy, pointing down.

“You got it, buddy. That,” I said, “is a snake.”

Em came flying out of the front door, having traded Bobo for a really big garden shovel. I won’t give the gory details play-by-play, but you can assume Em’s mama-bear instincts kicked in and settled the standoff. Several times. Don’t worry, I whisked The Perfect Grandson away before he could witness the carnage.

The issue now is snake identification. Since it was a baby, there’s always the possibility of more. We need to know what we’re up against. According to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, it was either a deadly-venomous copperhead, or something harmless like a king snake. This isn’t an easy ID because, 1) the snake was young and those look different from the adults, and 2) it’s not easy to ID a snake that’s in approximately seven pieces.

Em got a little shovel-happy. I don’t blame her. If it’s any consolation, snake-huggers, she shouted something like oh God, I’m killing someone else’s baby just before the shovel hit concrete. On some level, she’s remorseful.

The distinction, though, between poisonous-killer and harmless snail-eater is an important one. We’ve got more research ahead of us. I’ll need another cup of coffee and an hour of sensibility before I can say for sure.

Think I’ll put on a little lipstick and look over those bylaws again.

39 thoughts on “Snake Charming with a Big Shovel

  1. Oh, Monda! That was sooo funny to read (and scary for you I bet!). Wow…up here in Canada (Port Stanley, Ontario to be exact), the only snakes we have to deal with are of the non-venomous Garter snake variety.

    In fact, we have one living underneath our front steps. I catch him (her? seems right to call it a “he”) out sunning himself in our garden every few days…he's kinda cute and my son, Jack, who's two and a half, thinks it's neat that he lives here.

    Monda, I found your blog a couple weeks back and love it…it's bookmarked and I come here often…thanks!

  2. You have a way with writing that makes even such a gory story fun to read. We had sightings of snakes at our dog park and it made me avoid a certain area up until now that the nights have gotten colder and I assume the snakes aren't on the prowl in the early mornings. My friend had a huge rattler under her bird feeder right outside her home. She did not mind, but co-habits the land peacefully for many years. I did suggest she get some anti-poison something, as it could be a long way down from her mountain to the hospital. Not sure if I should hope your snake was worth the kill or not, but I do wish you all safe comings and goings. om

  3. Wow, that is way too exciting for a sunday morning. I rmember one time I was sitting on the couch and my little brother came in wielding a snake saying “look what I found!” He was so proud, it was like when a cat brings a bird or mouse on your doorstep and beams with pride.

  4. what is it with snakes today? My friend just killed a 43 inch copperhead that was in her garage! Egads! The snake huggers can go ahead and hug their snakes but when there's children and pets concerned, the snake has got to go! Preferably to its eternal reward.

  5. I remember playing in the yard as a small child with my even younger siblings, when we spotted a snake. Like your snake, it was small and therefore difficult to identify. I can remember backing slowly away and then turning and running into the house to get my father. A normally sedate man, my father flew out of the house. I don't even remember him fetching the shovel – it just seemed to materialize in his hands. He made short work of the snake. Unlike Em, he was utterly unconcerned about the snake losing its life thanks to him – his children had been in danger, the snake had to go. Here's hoping it was a harmless variety – even though Em will have a harder time coming to terms with having killed another mother's baby.

  6. Thanks right back at you, Tamara. There's yet another reason for me to move to Canada.

    Anonymous, you're a better friend than I could ever be. Anyone who willingly gives a rattlesnake free reign in their yard would have to do their visiting at my house instead. Yikes!

    Oklahoma Granny, you don't live terribly far from me so I think you should know that the website says ALL the baby snakes are coming out of their eggs right about now. Wear steel-toed boots, gal.

    Little brothers. Why do they do this, Bruce? If the Perfect Grandson ever come in swinging a snake I'll have an aneurysm.

    5thsister, good God. That's all I need to hear. I haven't even looked in the garage yet. I'd need a sizable shovel for a snake like that. Or we'd pack up and move away.

    S.E., e need a man like that around the house. Killing our own spiders is one thing, but the snakes are another thing altogether.

    Mudane, baby. I'm calling you next time to help us out. If the snake's any bigger we call someone with a concealed carry license.

  7. Living in Arkansas, you can never be sure. I've killed several “baby” snakes over the years because you really can't tell what kind they are. When they have brown markings, it's very possible they are copperheads.

    Very funny story. Glad it was your yard and not mine! lol

  8. Wow! In my area, the only snakes we find are harmless grass snakes, at lease harmless to us. 😉 I love the wiener dog's original name. A couple of years ago we got a couple of goats, a male and a female. My youngest named them. The female was named Kate and the first choice for the male was Horny. Luckily I didn't need to explain further and he changed his selection to Cutie. Whew!

  9. That's what I'm talking about, Janie. You just can't take a chance.

    Thanks, Steven!

    Robin, you folks in Canada always have it good.

    2Teach, let me say right now that I had nothing whatever to do with naming that dog. His full name is Boner Scallywag Frankenstein Hussein Fason, I think. Maybe I left one or two out. Regardless, that dog is a disgrace on so many levels. I'd rather have your goats.

  10. Hi Monda. Love your blog. I've been reading for a few weeks now, and it's so entertaining!! 🙂
    I can't inagine coming face to face with (even a baby) snake at our house, sure, living in Australia, we have seen some over the years, but always in “the bush”, never in suburbia. I am totally terrified by the way, I came face to face with a snake in the national park when I was about 12 or so and we think it was poisonous (but I didn't stick around long enough to find out). Anyway, thus started my phobia.
    aaarrgh!!

  11. Great story! Reminds me of my mother. She found a 5 foot brown diamond marked snake on our patio…2 of us kids were at school, the younger 2 at home. She called my dad to confer, then put 5 bullets through it. (We lived where that was ok.) She wanted to preserve the head to figure out if it was a copperhead or a hog nosed snake–real look-alikes. It turned out to be the non-poisonous one, and she felt very bad about killing it.

  12. i am not at all fond of snakes. Rattle snakes are probable the most common poison snake in Arizona. I only came within spitting distance of one only. That was enough for me..nick

  13. I've come across a couple walks in the evenings with my wonder mutt, but they usually skitter off down the storm drains as I'm realizing they were there.
    However, I think if I ever found one in my yard, I'd be right there like Em, hacking the thing to slimy bits. Especially if I couldn't tell what it was like you described.
    I too don't know what it is with brothers – maybe mom dropped em on the head when we weren't looking.

  14. I stand corrected. Left out the “Hogwaller.”

    Fiona, I'll bet you have some fairly scary snakes out in the bush. I'd run, too.

    Erin, the best time to feel bad about killing a snake is after it's dead. Five bullets – nice work, Mom!

    Nick, I've got an aunt out in AZ who was bitten by a rattlesnake she THOUGHT was water sprinkler she'd left on. Same sound, apparently.

    It would only take one snake skittering down a storm drain for me to put the dog on the treadmill instead. You're a brave one, Paperback.

    Check those Homeowner Association bylaws, Amuse Me!

  15. Man, I needed a laugh today, and you provided that. Thanks. 🙂

    Also, hop on over to my blog. You have an Honest Scrap Award waiting for you!

  16. Funny, my last blog entry was about an unsuspected bear coming into my campsite. When these animals sneak up on us I think our inner cave person comes out, “KILL!” Although, I couldn't have killed a black bear, if I would've had a shovel I may have whacked him good!

    Bears, Snakes, Tigers–Oh My!

    April Mae

  17. Sometime soon I'll need to write up my python-under-the-fridge story. No dramatic shovel-ending, but I did get the opportunity to panic in the most un-manly fashion possible.

  18. Blacksnakes are thick where my family is from. Mom tells the story of one day my granddad walking into the farmhouse with a six-foot blacksnake he's found. He was holding it by the head and the snake was coiled all the way up his arm. Needless to say, grandma shooed him out of the house right quick! Granddad kept it as a pet of sorts; named it Sinbad and put it in the barn to eat mice.

    Sinbad met a bad end when the family had to go out of town for a few days and granddad asked his brother to look after the farm. His brother–not being aware of Sinbad–encountered him in the barn and did away with him.

    Now, my great-grandparents lived on the same farmland. They lived in the big house on top of the hill, and my mom's family lived in the small house at the bottom of the hill. Great-grandma was deathly afraid of snakes. There's a story that one day she came outside and saw a big blacksnake hanging in one of the tree branches that overhung the porch roof. She ran inside and came out with a shotgun and tried to shoot the snake down. However, the safety was on, and she couldn't figure out how to disengage it. That was probably for the best; I'm sure she would have blown out a few windows in the deed.

  19. My worst encounter with the local wildlife is when that possum crawled under my grampa's porch and died in the basement window crevice. Weeks later, we noticed the stink and had to scrape liquid possum into a garbage bag through the window. The end. But it's a good thing Em got it, cuz snakes seriously weird me out and I could not exist over here in blog-land knowing there was one galavanting around over there with free reign of the neighborhood.

  20. Nathanael, no way am I calling you “Bobo.”

    Ste – thanks for the award! I'm on my way to pick it up right now!

    April Mae (I love that name) I'm concerned my Inner Cave Person may be somewhat tired. This could all change, though, if the snake is larger next time.

    MP, I need to read the python-under-the-fridge story. We all do. Don't you dare make us wait.

    The coiling-around-the-arm thing just made me put my feet up in the chair, Olivander. I like great-grandma's quick thinking. She sounds like the kind of woman I aspire to be, shotgun and all.

    Oh, Julia. Possums are some kind of nasty. They hiss at you and have terrible horror-film smiles. And they smell AWFUL, dead or alive. Ick. Don't worry, we're seriously snake-vigilant over here right now.

  21. Hahaha,

    the reason my nick name is BoBo is because my last name is Bodon, and in the military they have to shorten everything, even though thats not actually short… i guess its just easier for people to say

  22. My weenie dog doesn't get Weekend Time, either. Since the hubs started getting up at 5 for work, the dog now thinks that's when we're all supposed to rise and shine. Hubby only allows himself enough time for a shower, so guess who gets to wear the take-out-the-dog hat at our house? I guess since our weenie dog sleeps about 20 hours a day, he doesn't mind early mornings or late nights… 😉 Maybe it was a king snake.

  23. Why do those weenie-dogs sleep so much? Our Bobo is like a very small snoring rug all day – only moments of snake-induced fiestiness. Except on Trash Day. The trash truck really sets him off.

  24. Yarrggh! I have only seen snakes on the Discovery Channel, so I don't know enough to be afraid of them. But put a rodent on my driveway, and I'm a murderess for sure. An unremorseful one at that.

    Thanks for the story. It woke me up more effectively than coffee.

  25. Reading your post just brings out the southerner in me.
    I grew up listening to snake stories. One in particular stands out in my mind. My grand-parents slept on a hand stuffed mattress. Apparently a black snake got into the stuffing and when my very pregnant grandmother got into bed, she felt the wiggle and leaped out, screaming and jumping around. My grand father had to find the thing and dispose of it immediately.
    Your story took me right back to their kitchen table and the tales they would weave for us kids.
    Thanks!
    Pam

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