Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Snake I Saved and the Snake I Didn't

So, today I'm working on the last bit of an essay I sent off last week, the dreaded WORKS CITED page where I have to pull out all the books and articles I consulted in the course of writing the thing and make sure I've gotten them all properly credited, and in the right format, when I hear a commotion outside. It's the crows, who have been objecting since we got back from Milwaukee about the new regime (the one in which I don't toss them lots of peanuts, since I've heard the shells are clogging up drains).*

I look out the window, and see that the crows aren't just making noise; they've got something they're pestering, which looks very like a snake. I go tearing downstairs, and find they do indeed have one of the little black grass snakes who live on the path near the stream trapped on the asphalt with a curb preventing its escape.** I chase them away, but am now faced with the problem of getting the snake to safety. I don't have anything with me suitable for protecting my hand if I try to grab it, and I'm slow enough that I'm pretty sure it'll get me before I could nudge it or pick it up, especially given my wonky finger, which will be bad for me. It's small enough that I doubt a bite would do any damage, but what if I can't get it to let go afterwards? If I leave to go inside to get a leather glove or even my hat, the crows will quickly come back and finish it off or carry it away, which will be bad for the snake.

So I try to calm down the snake, which is actually panting it's so worked up (something I didn't know snakes could do). No luck. To it I'm like an even bigger crow that's going to swoop down on it the moment it turns its back to flee. Eventually I manage to distract it with a bit of plastic and grab its tail, then carry it (very unhappy about being grabbed, picked up, carried, and being upside down) over to drop it on the grass alongside the path by the little stream/drainage ditch. Once again it's all hissy bits, too wary to look away, then in a flash it's gone. A job well done.

And yet. Later in the day, after Janice is home from work I hear the crows fussing again and, looking down, think maybe they might have something again, though my eyes are too bad to tell for sure. Just to be on the safe side, I go down, and sure enough it's another snake, just like the first one (black, with a yellow stripe along its length) but somewhat smaller. Only this one wasn't as lucky, or I didn't get there in time. Its head is limp and unresponsive, although its tail and most of its body coil and move and are responsive when stroked. After several attempts, I can think of no way to help it and so, after briefly taking it in to show it to the cats (all of whom were fascinated, and sniffed it carefully, but weren't allowed to paw it) I put it out back under the mimosa -- if there's still life in it, that should be a safe spoke for it to recover; if not, it's a peaceful spot to pass away.

But I have to ask: what's with the sudden war between the Snakes and the Crows? Have the snakes been after crow eggs? -- the crows certainly extract vengeance on those who mess with their own. Or is it simply a good time of year to catch snakes as they come out to sun themselves on the margins of the path? In the words of Rodney King, can't we all just get along?

--John R.

*I'm experimenting with shelled peanuts, or luring them off-site for their treats, but it's a work in progress.

**just as a neighbor's cats once trapped a mole, which I also managed to rescue -- but that's another story.

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