childhood, Naturalist

Snake Hubbub

It was a quiet afternoon here at the writer’s house. It was sunny, but not too warm, it was Friday, and relaxation was happening. Well, I was relaxing, at least. I was torn from my contemplation of the story I was writing by an excited voice.

The girls are as big as I am now. In fact, I think I own three pairs of blue jeans, but two of them have mysteriously migrated upstairs into the daughter-closet. But I digress. In spite of their adult-sized bodies, the voices still sound like my sweet lil’ babies from time to time. So imagine this, if you will. I’m sitting quietly in the office, and I hear this voice in the distance, slowly getting louder and louder.

“Mamamamamamamamamamamamamma….”

There are tones of voices that we learn to pay attention to, as parents. Even when they were tiny newborns, I knew the difference between ‘wah, wah’ which translated to “I want picked up and cuddled, please” and the “WAAAAIIILLL!!” which meant “I’m dying of starvation and need fed but change my poopy butt first!” Later when my last baby was almost in his double digits, I was surprised to discover that momsense doesn’t go away. I was at a Living History event with my Dad, in garb, and a family was walking around with a newborn in arms. The baby was fussing. And it wasn’t a poopy diaper fuss, or anything low-key. This was the baby fuss of Great Distress. I went all achy, and I hadn’t nursed in years at that point. Wait, this isn’t the story I started out telling.

Ah, that’s right. That happy excited sound of a little girl saying my name over and over while she ran to me . I know the sound, and even before she got where I could see her, I knew she had something to show me. I’ve heard that very same tone and word when she had a package from the mail she’d been waiting for. So I look up from my screen to see…

A snake. 

I’m not afraid of snakes. I rather like them, actually. I grew up where there are no snakes, and even when I was someplace with snakes, they were garter snakes and good in the garden. We encouraged them to take up residence in the greenhouse at the Farm. The kids were introduced to snakes early, taught that they were beneficial, and that they should not be killed or harmed. We also taught them not to handle them unnecessarily.

But the Junior Mad Scientist had seen the snake while she was mowing, and having had a recent experience handling a python (to my amusement, it was reported that the Ginja Ninja squealed ‘It’s so squishy!” when she got to hold that snake), she had stopped the mower, grabbed the snake, and come to see me with it in high excitement.

I jumped up and we all started talking at once as the Ginja Ninja, the JMS, and I converged in the doorway of my office.

“It’s a snake!”

“Snek!”

“YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT KIND OF SNAKE IT IS!” 

After a moment of confusion during which I quickly confiscated the tiny snake, holding it gently but FIRMLY behind it’s head to keep it from being able to try and bite, we moved outside as a group, snake, camera, and all. We then stood on the porch admiring the lil’ guy, taking photos, and talking at length about how you should never ever just pick up a snake you haven’t been introduced to.

Once the tiny ‘snek’ had been released back into the grass, I went and identified him. Turns out he is a Ring-necked Snake, completely harmless, and not, as the girls initially assumed, a baby. The Ring-Necks are no more than a foot long. I have to agree with this author of this blog about the species, he is a charmer. Even though his head (and mouth) were tiny and couldn’t have hurt us, he didn’t try to bite (we were all handling him gently, but I think anytime a tiny thing is being manipulated by a Very Big Person there’s a chance of panic). The girls are hopefully wiser about picking up strange snakes, and I have some cute photos.

The incident with the tiny snake reminded me of something else, and I asked the girls who would be willing to pose so I could photograph a snake skin. The Ginja Ninja, whose love for scaly things only goes so far, noped out of there, and the Junior Mad Scientist eagerly volunteered.

Northern Ring-Necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus edwardsii)

We’d discovered the snake skin in the garage some time this spring, and had left it in place. Probably so I could take photos, although I don’t remember the conversation precisely. The First Reader isn’t quite sure what to make of my interest in snakes. He grew up with venomous species, and has a healthy respect that we Northern Girls are completely lacking (although I do try!).

The Junior Mad Scientist with the snake skin – she’s 5’4″ for scale.

The big skin is more than likely from a Black Rat Snake. I’m pretty sure the girls wouldn’t pick him up if they spotted him. Although the Junior Mad Scientist, one of the first days she was using the riding mower, did stop it dead in the middle of the side yard and holler until we all came running, in a tone of ‘I’m not hurt but I’m worried.’ It turned out there had been a snake, and she was very concerned that if she passed over him, the mower blades would chop him up. It turned out that while she was waiting on us, the snake in question had slithered away to safety.

“Look,” she said, “you can see where the eyes were.” 

3 thoughts on “Snake Hubbub

  1. There are only four kinds of venomous snakes in this country. Teach your girls to recognize copperheads, rattlers, water moccasins and coral snakes; everything else is safe.

  2. Per Wikipedia the Ring Neck Snakes actually are venomous but their venom isn’t used defensively, but rather as a feeding strategy. Again, per WP they are rarely aggressive to larger predators but I still, wouldn’t like to be bitten by one 🙂

Leave a Reply