The slither of spring

Posted on May 01 2015 in Outdoors

garter snakeSMALLA few days ago, I was sitting at my desk busy working away when I heard a knock at the back door. It was my wife, asking me if I would take time to come and look at something. Naturally, I asked, “What’s up?”

She replied, “I’ve got a problem … a snake … a mean snake.”

Over the years, my wife has gone from uncontrollably hysterical around the legless critters to now being almost nonchalant.

Her first real introduction to snakes was many years ago when our girls were quite small. We had recently moved to the “real” countryside and were working in our garden. I glanced up and saw two large black snakes moving across the lawn. Picking up the hoe, I walked over and pinned the head of the largest, then reached down and picked it up.

The snake coiled tightly around my arm, and I motioned for everyone to come on over and meet the snake. One at a time, I had our daughters, and then my wife, come up and touch the snake to see it wasn’t slimy or sticky.

Once everyone had gotten over their initial scare of the snake, I walked over to one of the large maple trees and placed the snake on the ground. Our girls and my wife were amazed as they watched the snake effortlessly crawl straight up the side of the tree trunk.

After some family discussion, it was decided the snakes needed names. I told the girls they were most likely a pair raising little snakes. They named the snakes “George” and Georgette.”

George and Georgette stayed around for several years. The maple tree they both climbed that day split open years later during a storm.

After the storm, I noticed a huge limb with a sawdust and dead leaf-filled hollow had spilled out a huge number of dried snake egg casings from years of repeated litters.

Fast forward to today, and I have actually seen my wife “shoo away” a garter snake while working in the garden and never slow or interrupt the flow of our conversation.

“Did you try to shoo it away?”

“I tried. I saw another garter snake earlier today … it was a little one and it shooed away, but this one is all coiled up, sticking out its tongue and snapping at me.”

I couldn’t help but say, “Well, that’s rude … sticking out its tongue and all.”

Laughing, I headed to the side yard to check out the mean snake.

About halfway through the yard she stopped and said, “There he is!”

Sure enough, there was a large garter snake coiled up by one of the decorative bushes, half hidden in the leaves.

As I approached, it flicked its tongue a couple times and lunged at me. I had just encountered a garter snake with an attitude. It wasn’t going anywhere!

Picking up my wife’s short hand rake, I waved it at the snake.

“That rake’s not long enough,” she said.

“That’s OK … I’m just assessing the snake’s attitude,” I replied.

After another disrespectful tongue display and another strike, I opted for the long handled rake.

I turned the rake over and gently slid the tines under the snake and lifted it up. I was pleased to find the rake worked well for a modified snake handling staff. With the critter safely draped over one of the tines, I walked to the edge of the river bank and gently dropped it into a nice pile of leaves well outside the boundaries of the yard.

We didn’t name this one.

Jack Spaulding is a state outdoors writer and a consumer of RushShelby Energy living along the Flatrock River in Moscow. Readers with questions or comments can write to him in care of Electric Consumer, P.O. Box 24517, Indianapolis, IN 46224; or email