Rocky, Wally and the Doorman

Rocky the Water Snake

We need a certain degree of predictability in our lives, and perhaps nowhere else in country living than to know where to expect snakes in our path.

Rocky here is, without fail, on the rocks at the back corner of the barn. And upon our coming across the creek, the dog makes her loop around the west side of the barn scouting for a groundhog unawares, then she checks out Rocky. Leaning forward over her front legs, craning her neck, she examines the brown watersnake anew, as if she had just discovered him for the first time.

Rocky is totally unimpressed. (I think this might actually be Waldo, relocated since his part of the barn foundation is grown up in tall weeds behind the chicken wire.) The post from August 2004 at the link is remarkably similar to this one, now that I go back and read. Different dog, might be the same snake, for sure the same species and location.

Meanwhile, Wally–a smaller water snake now molting (his eyes are covered in cloudy scales making him effectively blind and helpless temporarily) is stationed on the barn foundation stones, just outside the chicken pen. He is a regular feature of the barn wall, hence the name.

And Doorman is the six foot black rat snake that regularly suns himself across the top of the sliding barn doors. We thought we had relocated him a few months back when Ann found a large snake in the hen house, but apparently it was his smaller brother.

And so we have our three regular, predictable in-position snakes. Knowing to expect them when and where takes a good bit of the ALARM! from coming across them. If only all snakes were as cooperative.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Is it common for the snake to be out and exposed when that close to molting? When Blackbeard (the king snake that resides in our house) is ready to molt he retires to his cave, and doesn’t come out until he is ready to shake his old skin off.

  2. I thought it odd too. Today after writing this post, I found Wally in his accustomed place, but his eyes are clear now, with remnants of old skin still sticking to his head like a wig. Rocky, OTOH, may be Roxie, as she had a darker, larger partner I took for a male. I’m not sure the pictures I got will show much, but we don’t usually see the darker snake exposed on the same rocks as “Rocky.”

  3. So cool, having snake neighhbors, so familiar that they have names. The only snakes I have ever seen have been total surprises; a thrill, but I would prefer having familiar ones to observe for more than a few seconds.