Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Letter from Rural Snakeport - 1996, 2004

(listen to me read it)

I'll come right out and say it. I have snakes. I’ve just been ignoring the clues for years. The occasional garter snake flattened in the middle of the driveway, a report of a sighting near the pond. But still, I’ve not spent too much time worrying about snakes – until this summer.

One afternoon my friend Dave and I were in our cool basement room watching the movie The Commitments – the one about a soul band in Dublin. Now, this is Dave, who after one visit to my family's farm is known to my parents as "that guy who’s afraid of the horses." His reactions are often extreme. An extreme could easily describe what happened when he reached to turn on the table lamp and discovered a small snake draped along its base.

Dave’s sharp yelp of terror commanded my full attention. Chaos and paranoia quickly ensued. The movie was paused. It was our mutual decision that we should call my husband Scott. He grew up in the south and knows how to handle these things.

When Scott finally stomped down the basement stairs to rescue us, he had already paused in the garage to fashion a snare out of clothesline and a broom handle.

"You made me come home for this?" he said, indicating the two-footer on the end table. "I thought you meant it was a BIG snake." He shook his head. "You people."

Since it’s not possible to worry about snakes all the time, my herpetological defenses are down this week. I am checking my newly planted basil at the back of the house when I see Mr. Snake between the mint and lemon balm. This is a bigger, black and yellow snake. I stand on the picnic table to observe it. My dog Steve sniffs around but keeps his distance. I have no desire to harm this snake. I just want it to carry on with its life elsewhere.

The next day I check for snakes from my snake observation platform several times. We appear to be snake-free until WHOA! There are two snakes in my herb garden. One is slithering through the crack between the house and the garage. The other is peacefully lounging along the foundation wall.

I go to the barn for the snake snare. Steve and I march around to the back of the house. It is obvious that Steve is the only one who is genuinely happy to be involved in this drama. Reaching down with a loop of clothesline, I easily snare the first snake and we take the long walk around the pond.

The second snake and I startle each other. This snake is faster, more frightened, and possibly bigger. After several minutes of playing chase, I lose it. I look at my watch and see that I have a meeting in town. I can't spend all day chasing snakes no matter how much fun I'm having.

So here I in rural Snakeport, Maine. Except for getting some serious weather stripping for my screen doors, there's not much I can do. Obviously snakes don't like surprises. Neither do I. They like to recline in the cool of my basement and listen to a big Irish guy with a great voice sing "Mustang Sally." That works for me. There's no good reason why we can't live in reasonable proximity to one another. Especially since, one: I have no choice and two: I have the reassurance that no snakes in Maine are big enough to swallow my children.

Heidi Shott
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