This is a quick little retelling of a blog from some years ago that you might enjoy with your morning coffee.
I was married, my kids were little. We lived in a big fancy house on the edge of the Santa Monica Conservancy. It wasn’t unusual to see bobcats, many coyote, an occasional lion, lots of scorpions, and this one particular year, gobs of rattlesnakes.
I don’t know what had happened in the environment to make things just right for the critters, but they were everywhere, which terrified me. I was from New York and not particularly fond of snakes, especially the kind that could kill me and my little kids. I’d seen “True Grit.” I knew.
My first one on one snake encounter was one warm afternoon. I drove up to my house and I had my kids, Gilda and Sam strapped into their seats. I don’t know how I spotted the small rattlesnake getting some sun in our driveway, but I did. I panicked of course.
I heaved my enormous cell phone out from underneath my seat (it was the nineties) and called the fire department.
“I have a RATTLESNAKE in my driveway and it’s HUGE! Can you come and get it?”
“No, Ma’am, we don’t have time to do that, you’ll have to do it yourself.”
“Me? Myself? But the snake has my kids and I trapped in the car!” This was an exaggeration but I was looking for some assistance.
The fireman was no help. My husband wasn’t around. My eccentric neighbor Phil was, and he loved rattlesnakes. He was constantly catching them, and playing with them. I warned the children to stay in the car and keep the doors locked. I looked at them before I opened the door to get to fetch my neighbor. Their eyes were big. I thought of Cujo. I looked at the snake in the driveway, he wasn’t paying any attention to me. Or he was pretending not to be. Then I wondered, what if he has a brother snaking around? I needed Phil. But first I needed to secure the snake.
There was a smallish flower pot at the edge of the driveway, so grabbed it. I resisted the very strong urge to throw the pot at the snake and instead placed it over him, capturing him in a terra cotta dungeon. The kids cheered in the car. I gave them the thumbs up as I ran to the neighbors, but Phil wasn’t home.
I heard my kids yelling in the car, running back, I saw them pointing at the pot. The little snake had slithered through the drain hole in the bottom of the pot, and was now sitting on top, enjoying the sun.
Mr. Snake was paying attention to me now. He stared at me, and I stared back. My neighbor Phil drove up.
“Phil, snake! Snake!
“You got one?!” He yelled in excitement in his clipped British accent. He grabbed a bucket from his car, his “snake bucket” and ran it over. He had a stick in the bucket, a snake stick.
“Here, get him into the bucket, I must use the facilities.”
“Phil!” But he was off to the toilet.
The snake was still pretty docile. I conjured up all of my animal calming skills, I don’t know if it calmed the snake down but it worked on me. I stopped shaking enough to slide the stick under the snake, which is when he slithered off the pot, coiled himself up, and shook his rattle at me. Baby rattle snakes are scary looking, just like their mamas. The head is shaped like a diamond, and even if you couldn’t hear the rattle, something down deep warns that a creature with a diamond shaped head is made to cause some trouble.
I slipped the stick under the snake and lifted him up, holding the stick as far away as I could. He wiggled and writhed.
“Good job,” Phil said, grabbing the stick and popping the snake into the open bucket. The snake tried to slither up the sides, but it was too slick.
He put the bucket in the passenger seat of his car and climbed in.
“He’s a beauty. I’ll just pop him down the hill.”
I had seen Phil take many rattlesnakes “down the hill,” which was, just literally down the hill. I had read that if you release a snake within one mile of his home he will return. I had mentioned that to Phil, but he seemed to like to take the snakes on a car ride. Maybe for entertainment purposes for both the snake and himself. One thing I knew; that little guy would be back up the hill by dinnertime.
But that’s another snake story for another day.