New Floors and Our Slimiest Visitor

After a 16-hour day finishing the flooring in our studio we had our first non-family visitor: a young, foot-and-a-half long rat snake. At first I was taken aback because the first thing I found, the morning after calling it quits at 2am, was a big gift of love left by our little dog, Buddy.

Apparently he wasn’t nearly as impressed as I was at my ability to lay flooring for 16 hours straight without taking more than a food break—like a doggy walk… Sure he had access to the backyard. The back door was open all day, and pretty much the last three weeks since it’s gotten a little cooler, and he’s pooped back there plenty of times when walks didn’t commence according to his schedule. He knows how to get out to take care of business—the same way the snake got in! At least I think so; I don’t want to imagine any other way.

So my first thought upon seeing a skinny tapered tube in the middle of our hours-old pristine flooring was that Buddy pooped. Again. (And that getting a dog was a HUGE mistake). But then it seemed a little too skinny, and too long. And then it seemed to move just barely imperceptibly, and a tiny tongue slithered out and back in. OMG, it’s a snake.

What do I do? I don’t want to kill it. How do I get it out of here? But first I backed up the stairs a couple of steps and took some really bad photos with my phone. Then I ran the rest of the way up the stairs and grabbed my real camera, which had a fast 50mm lens mounted. Not a telephoto, but I was guaranteed the fastest shutter speed possible, and no shake, with the f/1.4 lens opening. So I got a few shots and checked that in at least one shot the head was sharp enough to ID the snake later on. I also gauged that the head was not diamond shaped, and that the snake was most likely not poisonous.

I backed up the stairs again and ran out the door to the shed to find something to deal with a snake. Nothing looked very good. A shovel or rake was likely to hurt the snake. I had no long grabby tongs like my pop has everywhere. An ax was out of the question (my new floors!) So I selected a 4-foot long 1/2”-square stick left over from an old garden. It was pointy on one end and flat on the other. I went back downstairs, slowly approached the snake, and waved the stick in front of it. It retreated about an inch and took a slightly defensive posture. I waved the stick slowly towards the snake and it moved in the opposite direction a few inches and stopped. We did that dance once again before I wondered just what the heck I aimed to accomplish with this. Am I going to chase him up the stairs and out the back door? But at least he didn’t go zooming off into a corner to hide, in-waiting, to slither up to one of the ladies of the house. So I went into the utility room and looked around. The only thing I could think to do, quickly anyway, was dump the dirty clothes out of the laundry basket and head back in with a big plastic basket made up of huge 1” x 3” holes everywhere but on the bottom.

But I set it on its side in front of the snake and waved the wand near its tail, and the snake headed for the basket! It even slithered over the huge rim, and over all the gaps to the bottom, which I promptly turned upright, and ran up the stairs and out into the backyard. Just as I got about 10 feet past the door, the snake slithered through one of holes, landed on the edge of the patio, slid into a crack alongside it and disappeared in about five seconds. I’m not even sure if he went inside the patio or off into the yard past the patio, my adrenalin was pumping too much. But the snake seemed safe, and I survived my first unexpected encounter with a snake indoors, and my first (OK, second) challenge of day one at Blackbird Pye's studio.

October 05, 2014 by Chuck Baldwin

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