I found a snake in my yard yesterday. I was raking leaves (shut up, I’ve been busy) and after I had already filled about 7 yard bags I noticed this small figure-8 wormy looking thing on the ground. I won’t lie to you–I thought it was one of those fat ridged worms and I almost picked it up. But my better judgment kicked in and I flipped it over with the rake. It was brown, and it was definitely not a worm. At first I thought it was dead, but after a few pokes with the rake it started to squirm a little, and its teeny tiny mouth opened wide as if to say, “Leave me the hell alone!” It stuck its little tongue out at me. I thought it was cute. My first thought was, “Awww, it’s so tiny. I need to take a picture of it.” My second thought was, “But if I go in to get my camera it might crawl away.” Clearly I’ve watched too many episodes of “The Corwin Experience.” I stood over it for several minutes observing it’s pretty triangle patterned back and it’s teeny eyes. And then came my third thought: “Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, it’s a SNAKE! What if it’s a COPPERHEAD? I should get it out of my yard.”
Without panicking at all I lifted the snake off the ground with the tines of my rake, carried it to the field behind my house, and set it free in the wild tangle of weeds and brush where I’m sure there are other snakes with which it can make friends and do snake things in an area more snake friendly than my yard. I know what you’re thinking–why not just chop it up with a hoe and be done with it? You’ll recall the angst I suffered over leaving poison in my garage for the mice. Do you really think that once I made eye contact with this tiny creature–a BABY, for Pete’s sake!–I could actually kill it? Besides, I don’t even own a hoe.
The whole incident was mostly an amusing interruption in my yardwork, and I went right back to bagging leaves, making sure to toss them around a bit before scooping them into the bag…just in case. But when I went inside later, when it was dark out and I started thinking about the snake and it’s probable siblings and parents, I got a little nervous. I spent several minutes Googling “snakes of North Carolina.” I decided that my little serpent friend did not look exactly like the photos of copperheads I found online, and that perhaps I had actually discovered a baby brown snake. Or a garter snake. I was confused and more than a little creeped out from looking at snake pictures, so I decided to give up and ask the snake expert–let’s call him Snake Man–at work the next morning. Every workplace has one of these guys–he knows millions of random facts about reptiles, insects, and weather, and whenever random vermin find their way into the building someone calls him up and he materializes in seconds with a butterfly net and a magnifying glass. He was thrilled that I wanted to talk about snakes. I was less so by the end of our conversation.
Snake Man asked me lots of questions about my snake–its markings, its length, its head shape, its eye shape, its behavior, where I found it, what time of day I found it. I had hoped to get a solid identification from him, but he left me as unsatisfied as www.herpsofnc.org had the night before. He said it might be a copperhead, but maybe not because I only saw one. And it might be a brown snake because they have varied markings. But it might be a copperhead because even though they normally hatch in August, Global Warming and the unusually warm winter we’ve had could have thrown off the copperhead mating patterns (see, he had to work weather into the conversation). Then again, it might have been a worm snake because it was small. And then Snake Man did a curious thing. He told me HOW SNAKES GET INTO HOUSES. What? How? Why? At no point in the conversation did I ask, “Snake Man, how do snakes get into houses?”
Needless to say, my Jeff Corwin Experience turned very quickly into a scary scene from Year 2 at Hogwarts. I’m listening for hints of Parseltongue in the pipes and walking from room to room with a mirror clutched in my outstretched hand. Suddenly this tiny creature I could not bring myself to kill yesterday has morphed into the Basilisk That Will Kill Me If I Look At It, Oh My God, It’s Going To Get Me.
My house goes on the market next week.