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Snake in the kitchen.

My wife doesn't scream very often. When she does scream you kind of get the idea that something may be amiss. Like maybe a snake in the kitchen. Which there was.

Of course, I didn't know that until after risking a rupture and whacking my best knee leaping from my desk to rush out and see what might be amiss.

"Look," she gasped, pointing to the window.

No question about it, hanging from the curtain rod above the kitchen window was this snake, its head swinging back and forth and its beady eyes checking out the strange surroundings.

My wife had already backed over the cat and hit her funnybone on the microwave. In hurrying to protect her, my hip joint caught a corner of the table, which provided me with a little time for meditation.

I must admit, I have never met a snake I liked. Even the garter variety is enough to have me dropping the hoe and heading for the house. And in my youth I outraced many a blue racer. Those two varieties constituting all I know about identifying snakes, what we were entertaining here could very well be a viper, asp, copperhead, even an adolescent anaconda, the kind that hug you until your eyes pop. I had read that a friendly snake has round eyes and a poisonous snake's eyes are slits. But I was not especially eager to check that close.

"Can you see if its eyes are round or slitty?" I whispered.

"Not from here," she said aloud. And just the way she said it I knew the temperament of the snake would have to be determined by another method.

"I read about a woman sitting at the dinner table in India who felt a cobra wind around her leg and she told a servant to place a bowl of milk on the floor and the snake left her leg and went for the milk."

"What if this one isn't a cobra?" asked my wife, who knows even less about snakes than I do. "Besides, I gave the last of the milk to the cat."

I was about to suggest that the snake might go for a cat full of milk, when I spotted the broom standing in the corner. The only problem, the corner happened to be the one by the window from which the snake was now glaring at me. To reach the broom would require me to scuttle across the floor and strike my healthy knee on the drawer handle beneath the oven door of the range. Which I did.

With the broom in hand I held the whisk part up to the snake, hoping he might climb aboard. Where we would have gone from there I hadn't worked out. Probably turned it over to my wife and run to open the door. The situation, however, never came up, as the snake only hissed at the broom and turned to see what else I might have to offer

Noting by now that its eyeballs were round and trusting in my recollection that round eyeballs meant nonpoisonous, I found the courage to move the broom around and raise the ruffle on the curtain. It was a mistake. What I had in mind was maybe a snake of, say, a foot to a foot and a half in length. This one was coiled around and around the curtain rod and then around and around its coils. When I dropped and broom, the handle landed directly on the big toe of my left foot. It still hurst on rainy days.

Content with doing all the damage it could do for the moment, slowly the snake unwound and leisurely began to crawl across the wall toward the back of the sink. When all but a foot or so of its five feet, by conservative estimate, had disappeated, I grabbed hold of the last six inches to pull it out. For what reason I have no explanation. Luckily, it kept on disappearing.

So now, the sink having no back to it, somewhere amongst the pipes, the buckets, the bottles, the odds and the ends and the just plain junk, we also had a snake. To leave it there would of course be to never know when entering the kitchen where you might encounter the thing. I had even heard of a snake coming into a bedroom to share the electric blanket. One of us, therefore, had to root this reptile out and route it away from the bedroom.

"It's your cleaning stuff," I pointed out to my wife. "You'd know better than I what should be moved. What to look into. And so on."

We finally agreed to remove the stuff alternately, she taking out an object, then my turn. She going first, as it was her cleaning stuff. Thus by ducking in and out, we had everything removed but the mop bucket in the corner. And it was my turn. If you ever saw a mop bucket snatched up in a hurry, that was it. And if you ever saw a man whack his head on the sink ledge coming out of there, that was also it. And I had jarred my brain loose from its mooring all for naught. No snake.

However, after my vision cleared, I spotted a 4x4-inch square hole that a former tenant had cut into the wall behind the sink. If it had been for somehing besides a snake entrance, its purpose escaped me.

We couldn't be altogether certain, of course, that the snake had found its way out. Hadn't I read that most snakes are nearsighted? What if this one had gone right past the hole and was now reposing on the floor behind the sink? Not only did we leave the junk out for the rest of that day, to be on the safe side we also looked under the bed, around the bed, and in the bed that night before climbing in ourselves. A little past midnight, when the cat jumped onto the bed, I was out of there before my wife could say, "It's only the cat, where do you think you're going?" I had to get my own Band-Aid to close the gaping wound in my knee that had failed to clear the wrought iron nightsand. My wife, a bit nearsighted herself, said it was only a scratch.

The next morning, after another search finally convinced us that the snake had indeed let itself out, I plugged the hole with insulation and stuck a piece to tape across it. And that was that . . . unitl that afternoon when I flung open the cellar doors.

Yep. Along the concrete ledge heated by the sun shining on the metal doors, there lay our snake, stretched out to its full five, or six, even maybe seven, foot length.

What happened after that was almost too fast for the human memory to record. I remember dislocating my wrist disengaging my hand from the door handle, and I took time to scrape my good knee across the corner of the door before departing for the patio. From this vantage point I saw the snake, now heading for the line fence, cut off by Brutus, my foolhardy dog. With Brutus sparring with the snake's head, Lump, my wife's cat, seized the opportunity to sink her claws in its tail. The snake promptly rolled itself into a ball, no head or tail showing. My dear wife, to show me up, as promptly dashed out with the broom and rolled the snake over to its original objective, the line fence.

I spent the rest of the day on the patio with my wrist in a solution of Epsom salts and my eye on the fence. And again, that was that . . . until the following day.

When I am home, Brutus and I share the chore of walking down our hill to the mailbox, he carrying up the junk mail. Never before had he so much as dropped a single sweepstakes envelope or a letter asking for money. Today, however, on our way back, eureka! (accent on the eek). There lay the snake sunning itself on the grassy slope. By the time Brutus had investigated and discovered that the snake was sound asleep, I had twisted my ankle and backed into a freshly pruned forsythia.

Brutus, the crazy mutt, actually went up and touched noses with the snake, which wok it up and set it in motion, it going one way, me the other, bum ankle and all. We haven't seen the snake since . . . to date, that is.

That same weekend, however, we were at Clifty Falls State Park and by coincidence, after hobbling up to the Nature Center, I saw our snake's identical twin. It was in a cage labeled, "Black Rat Snake." And above the cage hung the sign: "HARMLESS."

That shows how little they know about snakes.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:identifying poisonous and harmless snakes
Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Previous Article:The grand-time striders.
Next Article:Celebrating spring.

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