There are not many days we need air conditioning down here in this “colder valley” where the sun is relatively kind and shadow or dark rules most hours of most days.

However, today is one of those AC-coveting kind of days. We drag around here as if drugged, though we did manage to get out for a loop walk about 8:30 this morning.

By that time, Waldo, our brown water snake (30 inches), was luxuriating on the warm stone of the barn foundation, with Waldo Junior down as usual in the grass. On the return leg, both Waldos were gone and a small (24 inch) black snake draped over the very same rock. Ann encountered the Black Snake King of the valley a few days back over by the creek crossing. It “stood up” to confront the dog, its front half (a good 30 inches) erect like a cobra.

I have a picture somewhere of Abby hunkered down about a foot from Waldo the Elder. We had to ask that she not reach out and touch him–just like her momma (and grampa): a herpetophile.

Now: we’re ready for the outer skirts of a tame but moist hurricane up this way. The branch beside the house is bone dry, Goose Creek is falling fast. We still here water music from the front porch, but it is faint, as if far away or from a frail voice. The snakes are happy, but we’re grumpy and at least today, ready for fall.

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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. we have central AC for the first time at our new home… and, boy! it couldn’t have come at a better time! most days i probably wouldn’t even bother having it on, but this past week has been the most humid and hot one i can remember in a LOONG time.

    i’m kind of a snake person myself, much to my husband’s chagrin. when i was young, i kept a baby garden snake that i had found and used to sleep with it wrapped around my finger. i named him ‘sneaky snake’. don’t think i’d go quite that far now……

  2. Sorry to say, I am totally spoiled with our heatpump working in summer mode…Though, I am about to go see about wetting down my shirt riding the John Deer while it’s drier out.

    The biggest surprise of my life came back when my wife and I were fairly young and non-parents. We were in a pet shop in Houston where they dealt in exotics and they had some young Rainbow Boas someone had raised. She took one look at it and fell in love. Now this woman had not until that time ever exhibited any interest in snakes…We had that snake for a lot of years. It was almost 6′ long when it died.

  3. And then on the other hand, I’m a person who’s terrified of a snake. Even though I live in the middle of the woods and see one often, I’m still scare to death of them. I do my best to stay far away from them. But keeping my dogs away from them is very hard.

    As for the AC, I do feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t have it at this time of year. Today, me and my dogs are hold up inside, with the AC on. But I do use it more consertatively than I use to, to save energy.

    I’m with you, I’m ready for fall!