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Killing, Part V

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June 18, 2011 by wcobserver

Other snakes, well, maybe I’d kill a copperhead. And I would kill a black snake if it became a pest, like several I’ve dispatched from the chicken house. My dad’s mother found a big one once in her chest of drawers and, not wanting to spoil her nightclothes folded there, she lifted it out with a hoe before taking it outside of her Cane Hill home to chop off its head. She hated them for what they could do in her hen house. I thought of all that when I came home one late summer day and went to my little office off the bedroom. My youngest cat, who typically accompanied me to the office and then vultured on my computer monitor to supervise my work, stopped at the office doorway and refused to come farther. She was acting strangely, her eyes fixed on the shelves in the corner of the tiny office. I examined the shelves, thinking there had been a small furry offering left for me somewhere nearby. Nothing. Still staring. More searching. Nothing. The cat, no doubt annoyed with the stupidity of her owner, elevated her warning, issuing a low growl from her delicate throat.

At her urging, I turned myself fully to the shelves, using a broom to sweep under them. I examined each and every shelf. Finally, following the direction of her intent stare, I looked at the top shelf near the ceiling. There, carefully camouflaged between the manila envelopes and file baskets, was the rather large head of a very healthy black snake.

My normal activity in those days had been to leave the house open all day, both the kitchen door on the east side and the solar porch door on the southwest, thus airing out the premises and providing unfettered access for the cats and dogs—and apparently snakes. The top shelf location, cleverly selected for optimal cold weather snake condo housing, added barriers to removal. I didn’t want to get bit because even a non-venomous snake can impart diseases like staph. And I didn’t want to risk a sudden aggressive move on the snake’s part precipitating a ridiculous female-type shrieking and freaking out reaction on my part.

I put on my leather work gloves and got the hoe. I used the hoe to try to drag it down from the shelf. Everything else came down — a rainstorm of envelopes, packing materials, a box of old Christmas cards — but not the snake. Its body leveraged between the wall and the back of the shelf, the snake had no intention of leaving its newly purchased real estate. Strong words about its unacceptable intentions and widely known rules of property ownership, me being the one paying the mortgage and so forth, made little impression on the snake. Even stronger words muttered to myself about getting serious helped bolster my courage to the point that I dragged over my desk chair and stood on it to reach up and grab the intruder by the neck. Immediately there were coils of its long body wrapping forward to choke off this violation of personal space. My second hand went mid-body to thwart that move. Then I had it, although it took another few breathless moments of pulling to get its length entirely free from the shelving. We made a quick journey out through the solar porch and across the yard to the back fence before I threw it into the grass with a stern warning about further in-house visits. I estimated the length at about six feet. Until colder weather, I began closing the solar porch door.    (To be continued)

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