Meeting Mr. and Mrs. Snake

Mr. Snake giving Raymond and me a talking-to for messing with his environment.

Mr. Snake giving Raymond and me a talking-to for messing with his environment.

How do you feel about snakes? I have never been overly fond of them, I have to admit, though I know perfectly well that they are God’s creatures just like you and I, and that they do good things like eat bugs. I try not to be frightened of them, but when they suddenly slither into my field of vision – which admittedly is not very often, given that I spend most of my time in a large city – I can’t help but jump and run.

The tall grass was taking over the perennial garden at the side of the house. It had to go – snake or no snake.

The tall grass was taking over the perennial garden at the side of the house. It had to go – snake or no snake.

So when precisely that happened one recent morning at the Manse, as I was pulling tall grass out of the garden at the side of the house – well, I jumped and ran. And yelped, so that Raymond knew about the snake too. It was just a harmless garter snake, but a good-sized one – maybe 16 inches long. Yikes!

But it was a nice sunny morning in Queensborough and I was feeling rather good about the world in general, so I decided to try to be open-minded about Mr. Snake.

I tentatively approached the garden again, as did Raymond, and we watched him (the snake, that is, not Raymond) slither around. It seemed pretty obvious that he was checking out my grass-pulling handiwork; basically, I was destroying his happy little natural habitat, his hiding place. Several times he stopped slithering and put his head up and looked straight at us, as if to say,”Why are you messing things up here?”

(At least, I assume that’s what he was saying. My Parseltongue is a little rusty.)

And then he slithered (the video above shows him in action) behind a plant that is next to the cement front porch and … disappeared. I had a bad feeling that that meant his home was a hole inside or under that cement wall. And though by then I was coming around to rather liking Mr. Snake, I have to tell you I really hoped (and still do) that this inside-the-wall home did not allow him access to the Manse’s basement. Good lord, that’s the old partially dirt-floored basement that I spent a rainy day cleaning up recently, and the experience was scary enough as it was. If I had run into any snakes I would probably have had a heart attack on the spot, and would not be relating this yarn to you today.

Anyway, since Mr. Snake had wandered off, I recommenced my grass-pulling. I felt bad about doing that to his habitat, but hey, it’s my garden and I don’t want it all overgrown. And all was well for a while, progress being made – and then the snake was back, slithering around some more, checking things out again.

And then we understood why. Because suddenly there wasn’t just one snake. There were two.

The second one slithered around a bit too, but not as much and not as quickly as the first one. And it was considerably fatter, as you can see in the video clip below. There could be no mistaking it: this was Mrs. Snake. And Mrs. Snake is in a family way. And that explains Mr. Snake’s agitation about us messing with what they doubtless consider their home.

Which is all kind of sweet and charming, in a snakey sort of way. I wish Mr. and Mrs. Snake well with the new brood and all.

But I sincerely hope that my ridding the side garden of grass – because I did eventually get the job done – will entice them to pull up stakes and head out. I’m happy to know of the existence of Mr. and Mrs. Snake and all the soon-to-arrive little Snakes; but I have to say I’d rather they not make the Manse their headquarters.

6 thoughts on “Meeting Mr. and Mrs. Snake

  1. Wait until you see a garter snake climb a brick wall – using the mortar troughs as their jagged roadways! And remember, they eat lots of snails, slugs and insects, so they’re keeping the dark corners under you porch clear of creepy-crawley’s!

  2. We still have an the old cistern in our basement.. lol I am always having Jos check it with a flashlight. It is the black snakes you have to worry about! But you are fine, I think?

    • I hope so! I gather black snakes are considerably bigger, and I do not know that I would want to run into one. But you’ve reminded me of some snake lore from my youth, so stay tuned for another snake-themed post!

  3. God’s creatures? I suppose, but you could also say that about mosquitoes.
    Like you Katherine, I grew up in the country, where I often found myself unintentionally in the presence of snakes. That, however, didn’t keep me from being a life-long ophidiophobe. Maybe my 88-year-old mother is to blame. She has always had a deathly fear of snakes, so you can imagine the commotion that erupted when someone freed one on the floor of her snack bar. Needless to say, I wasn’t the person enlisted to rounded up the critter.
    What is it about snakes that causes such primal panic in so many people? In our part of the world they aren’t even dangerous, with the possible exception of the massasauga rattler, the only venomous rattlesnake found in the eastern half of Canada. Wouldn’t you know it, they’re native to the Georgian Bay area – in particular Beausoleil Island, where massasaugas have been known to bite the occasional camper and knot-tying Boy Scout. (Careful! That’s not a rope!)
    Back in 1989, I discovered to my horror that snake was a popular item in restaurants in Guilin, China, while colleague Bryan Demchinsky and I were backpacking through parts of the Middle Kingdom. And I don’t mean simply that snake was on the menu. Just inside the entranceway of Guilin restaurants there was often a lid-less basket crawling with long snakes. Diners, I believe, would approach the basket to pick out a victim to be cooked for them the way people in restaurants here choose a lobster from a tank. I say “believe” because all the time I was in such establishments I was scanning the floor to make sure no snake had escaped.
    “This would be the ideal way to overcome your phobia,” Bryan said. “Eat one.”
    I guess he was just trying to be helpful, but I didn’t bite – so to speak.
    In a restaurant in Guangzhou, the English translation of one dish read: “snake head ball with green vegetable.”
    “Hmmm,” Bryan said, stroking his chin. “I wonder what the green vegetable is.”

    Speaking of irrational fears, I like Jerry Seinfeld’s take

    • Jim, what great stories in this comment! First, thank you so much for teaching me the word “ophidiophobe,” which I put to good use (I hope) in my followup post. Second, I love the Seinfeld clip. But third and most important, much as I’m coming around to our little snake family at the Manse, your China snake stories left me absolutely petrified. I do not think I could have even walked into one of those restaurants featuring live snakes – how brave of you to have done it! (Mind you, I expect you were pretty hungry, or you wouldn’t have.) I may have bad dreams about this…

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