Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Facing your fears

I wrote about a little adventure I had with a bullsnake the other day and received several comments from squeamish serpent-haters. Let me say for the record that I’m with you. I feel your fear. I hate snakes, too, and they scare the bejeezus out of me (whatever bejeezus is - I really have no idea). But with each snake encounter, my screams get a little less loud, my jumps a little less high, and my nerves a little less rattled, or rattler-ed as it were.

The more you face your fears, the less fearful you will be, right? So come with me for a few close encounters of the serpent kind. By the time you get to the end of this post, I guarantee one of the following:
1) you will be less fearful of snakes
2) you will be more fearful of snakes

See the diamondback rattlesnake? He is dead - got run over by a truck. See the boot? Size 8. Mine. No, I did not jump right out of it when I saw the snake. I just wanted to give y’all a sense of scale, so I hopped around on one foot to take this picture.

This is a bullsnake I met behind the barn last summer. I was able to leave my boots on this time, seeing as how the poop pile was there to give you a sense of scale.

This is Smooch, oblivious to the snake next to the poop pile.

This is the same bullsnake close up. Check out that forked tongue! 

Here’s another bullsnake. I found this guy all snarled up in the netting that I used to keep the rabbits out of the garden last summer. He couldn’t wriggle himself free, and he was hissing and showing his teeth and carrying on something awful. I couldn’t just leave him there. It was my fault that he was stuck.

I devised a plan to unsnarl him. I had a valve turn-off thingy in the garage. I would trap his head with the tool in one hand and use a blade in the other hand to cut away the netting. I thought of all the good snake karma I would add to my account if I could free him. I also thought about all that bad snake karma if I left him to suffer. But before I did anything, I took pictures. If I did get bit, at least I’d be able to show the ER docs what got me.

I cowgirled up and started to cut away the netting. He stopped hissing. My hands were shaking. I tried to channel Cesar Millan. Sure, he's a dog whisperer, not a snake whisperer, but I'm a believer in the whole energy thing. If I was calm and assertive, the snake would be calm and submissive. Yeah, right.

After hacking away the netting for what seemed like an eternity, the snake was free. He slithered into the grass and coiled up, opened his jaws, and hissed louder than ever. The ungrateful serpent....I saved his life and he still wanted to bite me! But I was pretty proud of myself. Cha-ching cha-ching. And up went my good snake karma account.


  1. Since moving out to our mini-farm, I have yet to encounter a snake (and the great possum adventure happened when we were living in a housing development). I have heard, however, that there are rattlers here. Yikes.

  2. That was a very big, brave girl! I don't know if I would have been so inventive and bold. I'm not panicy about snakes and I actually killed a rattler one time, but I am extremely cautious when in the snakes' neighborhood.

  3. You needed Harry Potter to speak in Parseltongue (I think I'm remembering that right!) to the snake!

    In any case, your karma account is overflowing for your daring rescue.

  4. Well Linda, you're a better person than I am. I don't know if I would have helped that ungrateful bull snake or just left him there to figure it out himself. I won't even get close enough to kill them.My snake karma is non-existent Me + snake = Long Gone

  5. Yup, I thought about Harry Potter too. Are you distantly related? And how the heck do you corral snakes and take great pictures at the same time? You've got me buffaloed on that one.


  6. Harry Potter, hmm? I guess I'll have to finally break down and read one of those books. If he talks to snakes, maybe I'll learn something.

    Janet, I only take pictures of dead rattlesnakes and slow-moving bull snakes. Plus there's something about being behind the camera lens that makes me feel brave and invisible.

  7. Yup, we had one of those bull snakes in our circle drive island and we called him Mr. Slinky. He was about the same size as your close encounter. We don't even live in the country or on a ranch. We live in the heart of Oklahoma City. Go figure. While we weren't fond of having him around, he probably kept the mice population down until one of my dogs chomped him in two pieces. We had one of Mr. Slinky's offspring (Slinky, Jr) in the backyard until he too met the same fate as Mr. Slinky. Haven't seen a snake since.......

  8. My goodness, that ungrateful snake!! You did channel some snake whispering skills that day.
    I felt okay looking at your snake pictures because the snakes weren't moving. It's their slithery movement that gets me. Even though we have no poisonous or biting snakes around here.
    However, I am more terrified of spiders. I am sure you have a plethora of those in NM, too? I can barely stand to look at pics of them. And hold a fake plastic one? Even that gives me the heebie jeebies!

  9. One thing I don't miss about the West are the snakes. You're a better woman than I am for saving that bull snake. I'm with Arlene - long gone. Once Silk and I encountered a baby rattler out on the trail. Silk stopped dead in her tracks. I kept urging her forward, but she wasn't going to budge. I didn't see the snake until my horse started backing up really fast. Such a smart horse!

  10. Victoria, I've been working on increasing the speed of Lyle's back-ups...perhaps you've hit upon a new training technique. Not! I do worry about snake encounters on the trail and definitely try to stay on worn paths during snake mating season, when they're really on the move.

    Pony Girl, you should be thanking your lucky stars I was camera-less the day the tarantula walked across the road in front of me. I kid you not, that thing was so big he could have straddled a grapefruit, with the hairiest, creepiest, longest, blackest legs I had ever seen. Smooch and I stopped dead in our tracks and I practically passed out. Other than that, I haven't seen many spiders. Perhaps the tarantula ate all of them?

  11. Wow, you are one tough cowgirl!
    You most assuredly chose the correct location as you journey through the rest of your life.

    I think all the neighboring snakes will spread the word about what a friendly B & B the 7MSN is and they will start to visit in droves!

  12. Egad....this is horrifying...and way bigger than my snake experience I was telling you about. Yours had huge fangs and would've required an ER trip had you been bitten...scaaaaary!! :-)
    Way to face your fears!

  13. You did indeed reap heaps of "snake carma". However, the Bull Snake is our friend. He kills by constricting, and since he isn't big enough to constrict you, he confines himself to rats, mice and gophers. I'd been carefully telling the workmen NOT to kill any snakes they encountered while building stone walls around the place. My husband was secretly telling them to go ahead and chop off their heads with their shovels. After much snake carnage, we have a gopher explosion. That's BAD snake carma.