It had been a perfectly ordinary day, nothing memorable about it. When I went into the kitchen to fix dinner I had no reason to think it would not remain ordinary. Then I turned on the light and saw what I took to be an outsized worm trying to hide under the trash can.
It wasn’t a worm. It was a snake. INdoors.
I am no fan of snakes, but I have no quarrel with them, so long as they are OUTside. I grew up in England, where there are effectively no snakes. No poisonous spiders, no poison oak or ivy, either. But especially, no snakes. And certainly not INdoors! To say I was horrified would be blatant understatement.
I freaked, but I acted. Fortunately, the snake wanted as little to do with me as I did with it. I beat it up with a frying pan and swept it out the back door. Then I ate dinner. Sort of. After consultation with friends more familiar with snakes than I am (or than I want to be), we concluded it had been a juvenile rat snake. Not poisonous. Nothing to worry about – if you like that kind of thing. (From the photos it looked most like a mandarin rat snake, but they’re not supposed to be in the US.)
This was my fourth encounter with a snake since moving to the US in 1975. The first was the closest. I was walking a golf course with a foursome of fellow-techies, and the grass was so lovely I was doing it in bare feet. Until I put a foot down and something moved. It moved with speed but when tracked down turned out to be a water moccasin. Definitely poisonous. After that I rode.
Then there was the time, after my first divorce, when I was living in an apartment and walked outside to find a group of people gathered round a rather large snake. One of my neighbors killed the snake, and I don’t remember what kind it was.
Perhaps the oddest encounter was on my second honeymoon. We were driving west on I40, towing a 1960′s Avion travel trailer with a Ford van, and had spent our first night on the road in a campground just over the NC-Tennessee border. The night had been chilly, and we were driving with the windows shut. Good thing, as we were not that far down the road when I glanced sideways and thought I was halucinating. A snake was right outside the window! Apparently it had spent the night comfortably curled on top of our nice warm engine, and was now finding things too warm. It had managed to climb part way out through the vents by the windshield (it was a LONG snake) and its front part was now coiled round the support for the wing mirror. My new husband coped with that crisis with a long-handled something or other, managing to yank the snake off the van and into the grass without getting bitten.
But those first three times the snakes were outdoors. Finding one indoors makes moving back to somewhere without snakes seem very attractive. And it wasn’t just the snake. Oh, no. We’re finally enjoying cooler weather, and as the seasons turn the cockroaches look for new quarters. The very same evening I had found the snake, a large brown cockroach ran over my foot! And the day before, some misguided animal or bird had breached the netting over my chimney and expired in the inaccessible gap between the liner and the chimney.
I nearly titled this piece “Under Siege”, except that the besiegers made it in. An English [wo]man’s home is supposed to be [her] castle, and my defenses had been breached. I took steps to renew them: Critter Control came out and fixed a new cap over my chimney. Clegg’s Termite came out and redid the chemical barrier round my house that they lay down every quarter, and added a snake defense that smells like mothballs. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.