Friday, 23 November 2007

Snake elegy

I killed another snake in the yard a few days ago. I know, naturalists don't kill snakes, blah, blah blah. This naturalist does, if said snake is a deadly mapepire (fer de lance) that comes into the yard, snuggles up at the foot of an innocent little marigold plant, and lies there contemplating mayhem.

On a rational level, I approve of snakes. Some of them are truly beautiful, and I even met one - a huge albino python draped around a guy on South Beach, Florida - which exuded such bonhomie that I wanted to pat it and scratch behind its ears. Apart from their aesthetic appeal, snakes eat rats and mice, and that alone should win my eternal affection and protection. I think the little mapepire I killed is even protected by law - not that my countrymen observe these laws any more than they do the ones about killing people.

When it comes to snakes, something overrides the rational, learned response. The universal aversion to these creatures seems to indicate a deeper, primal, self-protective instinct. I've read that monkeys react the same way we do, exhibiting extreme fear and hysteria at the sight of anything snake-like.

Regrettably, snakes will continue to be murdered around this yard. When I used to hike in the forest I accorded my slithering friends the utmost respect, giving them right of way on trails, photographing them draped in trees, acknowledging their right to life. In our yard, I acknowledge only my own right to life. So be warned, you defiant, venomous serpents. If you crawl into this yard, then pray that I don't see you first.


PJ said...

Wow, seeing a snake in my garden would freak me out.

Strangely, when I was a kid I used to imagine myself having a pet snake, but now I've seen Snakes on a Plane and Anaconda I can't see that happening anytime soon.

I have the same policy when it comes to spiders. They're free to roam wherever they like, but if they invade my personal space they risk my wrath.

wordtryst said...

pj, unfortunately that's an all too common occurence around here...

As for those movies, they are the worst! I had to break out the encyclopedia to convince my son that real anacondas do not behave like the ones in the movie, and don't grow that large either! And I won't look at Snakes on a Plane; I find flying stressful enough without obsessing about what's crawling around under the seats.

I leave our spiders alone, though. Except the big hairy ones. Those venture indoors, they die.

KeVin K. said...

I was once almost killed by a hog-nosed snake. Perfectly harmless creature about two feet long with the ability to flatten its body out. I was driving 50mph along NC-210 -- a two-lane road wandering through the wilds of Pender County -- when the stupid beast came oozing up through the gap between my dashboard and the windshield. Much merriment ensued.

Used to kill cotton mouths (water moccasins) all the time growing up in Florida. They will attack anything they see as a threat and they don't back down. The only thing you can do with a cotton mouth is kill it. Rattlers, not so often. They always tell you where they are and give you plenty of time to go somewhere else. Killed a cotton mouth in my mother-in-law's yard two summers ago. As I understand it, a mapepire is similar to the cotton mouth in temperament and habit -- if one ever swam to my corner of North Carolina, I'd probably kill it. Actually, I'd kill any poisonous snake I found here in the suburbs -- too many children who don't know enough to respect them running around.

But non-poisonous snakes? Love 'em.
About ten years ago we lived in a neighborhood of older wood homes. We had a sixty-year-old craftsman style wood house with a rat problem. Traps. poison -- I'd clean out one colony and a new one would move in a month later. One day my neighbor started screaming "snake!" -- he was a lifetime urban dweller and thought the 6-foot bull snake he'd accidentally cornered between his garage and the fence was some deadly viper. He was trying to kill it with a shovel, but since he was clubbing at the poor reptile with the flat of the blade -- and hitting the ground more often than the snake trying to find a way out of the confined space -- he wasn't having much luck. "I'll get it!" I said, leaping into the fray. He told people about my fearless bare-handed wrestling with the serpent for days. Somehow he was under the impression I'd broken the animal's neck and thrown its carcass in my compost bin. What I did not tell him -- because I knew if I told anyone it would get back to my wife -- is that the bull snake is the best rat catcher God ever created. I turned that beauty loose into the enclosed crawl space under our house. Though we would for occasionally hear something slide and bump in the walls, for the rest of our years in that house we never had another rodent.

wordtryst said...

Kevin! **insert hyena-like shrieks of mirth** Inside the car, for goodness sakes! That must have been really entertaining.

Those cottonmouths do sound a lot like the mapepire. My brother once stoned a large one and it didn't even try to escape - just kept striking at the stones until its mouth was bloody, then it turned and bit itself. Horrible!

You caught a 6 foot snake with your bare hands? And released it under your house? Your poor wife... **shakes head sadly** If she'd found out I don't think your rationale would have kept her from flattening you with a shovel...

KeVin K. said...

The hardest thing was carrying the stupid beast. Oh, and I did some research, the fact that I was calling it a bull snake proves my mother's family is from out west. That's what she called them and why I used the name. According to NC the snake identifier what I had was a rat snake. And it could only have been five feet long.