One Step Forward, Two Snakes Back

We’ve encountered what I believe to be the same black rat snake each summer for the past several, and each year, he’s a bit bigger than the summer before. And I’m about to decide this place is not big enough for both the six feet of him and the six feet of me. I caught him yesterday with an egg in his mouth, coiled up in the nesting box. It would have been a Kodak moment: Light gray snake lips frame a circle around a brown egg in the dark shadows of the coop, bright eyes punctuating the top of a grotesque clown-face that was both menacing and humorous.

He did not want to leave, and prompting him with my hiking stick only sent him deeper into the coop. I grabbed his back end, not worried about the front, because it was full of supper. His body, even at a point maybe 18″ from the tip of his tail, was too stout for my fingers to reach all the way around it. I think this was the biggest snake I’ve ever had my hands on. He shows a conspicuous pattern that doesn’t always show up with black rat snakes.

He refused to come out from under the henhouse, but eventually left through the chain link. Meanwhile, back at the ranch…I found one of last year’s plastic Easter Eggs and filled it with sand, then taped it closed. It will stay in the roosting box until, with any luck, SuperSnake will attempt to swallow it. What I’m hoping is that I can catch him in the act, move him successfully into a large trash can (with lid) and transport him to a place where chicken eggs will no longer be a part of his daily menu. I will resist harming him but can’t take any more losses. These free-range eggs are far from free.

Injury to insult, with the winds of yesterday afternoon’s brief and not very rain-productive storm, my three large 5 foot tomato cages bit the dust. Which breaks my heart because the Mortgage Lifters were finally beginning to bear fruit, and the Goose Beans on the same cages were the ones I was leaving for next year’s seeds. I set them back up this morning, less a few dozen green tomatoes on the ground, and will put a long piece of rebar through them at ground level, with a cinderblock on each end for an anchor. We have not had this kind of blow-down before, but we also don’t get 40 mph winds from the south on a regular basis.

The creek is so low that it’s getting hard to fill the chicken’s water bowls from it. Our nearest neighbors to the west don’t have water. Their source is a surface fed spring. Our deeper ground water is in somewhat better shape, we hope, but a well drying up in Floyd County is not without precedence. We need the wet edges of a tropical depression or three to replenish the ground water, because the spring rains are about used up.

Published by fred

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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3 Comments

  1. Oooh… I hope you will reconsider the plastic easter egg as snake bait – if the snake does happen to swallow it, that would lead to a pretty inhumane death.

  2. That sounds like an awesome snake, and for once that overused adjective is appropriate!
    Best wishes for some rain.

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