I killed a snake in our backyard last week. I had been trimming the bloomed-out azaleas with an electric hedge trimmer. When the pile of dead branches and spent blooms started piling up, I went to find the metal rake so I could move them to our ‘sinkhole’ up near the fence. Sidebar: the builder oh-so-many-years-ago decided that instead of disposing of the trash properly as he built the house, his crew could simply toss everything up into the backyard. Some 28-odd years later, there sits a hungry sinkhole that we feed several times a year with grass, leaves, branches, and whatever my young son and his friends decide is worthy of burying in our backyard abyss.
Anyway, as I carried the rake back to my work site, I saw him: a large black and yellow snake curled up at the base of the railroad ties. I dropped the rake and made a quick retreat to the steps of the deck. Apparently the vibration of the rake caused the snake to stir, and he began slithering his way back behind the railroad tie wall where my trimming had disturbed his home. I suddenly realized that if he made it all the way in I would never see him again. At first, that thought comforted me. Then it occurred to me that I would still know he was out there. Some ten feet or so away from the trampoline – and the kids. I grabbed a huge pair of ‘yard scissors’ (manual hedge trimmers?) and snagged him around his mid-section. Long story short, after a twisty, turney, tug-of-war I won and cut the snake in half. He was laid to rest in a Tupperware dish with a rock on top of the lid (just in case a sawed-in-half snake could resurrect itself and escape) until my husband could get home to see my trophy of bravery.
What I didn’t know at the time was that my backyard companion was in fact a King Snake: non-venomous, not prone to strike (constrictor family), and easily tamed (please don’t tell my boys that last part). He was in fact the neighborly kind of snake that eats rodents of every kind and is impervious to the bite of other native Georgia snakes which are venomous like the rattler, water moccasin, and a few others. Bummer. He was a good size, too. Somewhere around 23″ long and as big around as my two thumbs put together. I went to bed that night wondering if sometime in the next few days or weeks we would be overrun by rodents who had been given the green light to invade our now unsecured backyard. No sugarplums for me – I had visions of Willard dancing through my head.
As I was relaying this story to my Mom the next day on the phone, she said almost as an afterthought, “Too bad you didn’t know what he was from the start; you might have changed your mind.” I’ve been chewing on that for several days now. How many times in my life have I encountered something that appeared to be a threat and reacted (panicked), only later to realize if I had only taken the time to get all the facts, I might have changed my mind? In my defense, I have a history with snakes. I’ve killed three in our yard in the last seven years and have been bitten by one. Still, it has given me pause to recall at least a handful of decisions that given the opportunity and more information, I would have indeed ‘changed my mind’.
It might be stretching things a bit to say I miss ole’ Mr. Black and Yellow, but knowing what I know now, I might just have let him slither back behind those railroad ties and live happily (and well fed) ever after.