Tuesday is trash day so minutes ago I was pulling fallen branches covered with Spanish moss to the street when my neighbor, Mike, out for a run, stopped to chat.
Mike: “Hi Faith, Have your gardeners told you about what happened in your yard recently?”
Me: “No, what happened?”
Mike: “It was about three weeks ago, on a Saturday or a Sunday, when I jogged into the cul-de-sac and chanced upon your gardeners who were having a discussion about what kind of snake was in the process of leaving your yard and heading across the road to the preserve.”
First Gardener: “I think it’s a water snake.”
Second Gardener: stops trimming a bush and looks down at the snake: “I’m not sure.”
Runner Mike: “It’s a water moccasin.”
Second Gardener steps away from trimming bushes to get a good look at the snake.
(As Mike tells the snake story, I am thinking that all this took place on a Monday, three weeks ago when we were in Jacksonville picking up Miriam at the airport.)
Mike: “The snake in question was about three feet long and very thick around.” (Spreads his arms wide to show how long the snake was; then cups his hands to show how thick it was.) “I kept running. The next thing I heard was: ‘chop-chop’ as one of the gardeners chopped it in two places. I didn’t see what he did with what was left of the snake, but I think he tossed the snake parts into the woods.”
Mike: “Have you seen water moccasins in your yard before?”
Me: “Only once. There was a small one swimming in our pool. Tracy fished it out, and tossed it into the yard where it landed belly up. Assuming it was dead, he went to get a shovel. Apparently, it wasn’t because by the time he had retrieved the shovel from the shed, the snake was gone. When he looked at the spot where the snake had been lying, there was no snake. Only a few minutes had passed, and the snake was gone.”
(Note: Tracy and I were impressed with what a good swimmer the small water moccasin was as we watched it zig zag across the swimming pool.)
Mike: “How about at your old house?”
Me: “No, but our neighbors on the other side of the preserve find water moccasins in their swimming pool all the time.”
Mike: “I’m always very cautious when I walk in the wooded areas of my yard.”
An Only Snake
Actually, the Snake Report began eleven years ago when we moved to Millhopper Forest: we learned that there are snakes in the forest, lots of them. When we first moved here and lived down the street at #5129, we had a resident black snake. We soon learned that having a black snake was a good thing. Our snake didn’t much like other snakes, so that may be the reason we didn’t see any water moccasins. For the three years we lived in that house, we had an “only snake” whose impressive length of shed-skin I’d occasionally find draped across my car’s review mirror. (Thanks, Tracy! Nice touch.)
One day, our snake was neatly coiled up on our front porch. This was just after we had moved down the street and were readying the house for sale. Perhaps the snake had missed seeing us and decided to take up residence on our former front porch. Tracy, who was outside by the driveway, said as I started across the porch from inside the house, not having seen the snake, “Walk to me. Don’t look left or right.”
I did so. When I reached the driveway and turned around, I saw the snake as it uncoiled and slithered in desperate speed across the porch and into the azalea bushes.
Now, at 5707, things are different. Our black snake did not make the move down the street with us. That’s unfortunate because we have encountered a number of snakes since we moved here eight years ago. First seen was a brown ribbon snake, long, thin and handsome, that made Tracy jump quite high while he was gardening and caused the snake to exit speedily under the fence.
One other snake, species unknown, came to an unfortunate end on top of our roof. We returned from a walk around the neighborhood in time to spot a long, dangling snake that appeared to be dancing from the jaws of a hawk standing on the highest part of the roof. Overhead, several other hawks circled in envy, I suppose.
Other than that, we’ve seen garter snakes in all parts of our yard, especially in the areas where chunks of limestone cover a dry creek bed in our front yard.
As Mike walks away, I start thinking that I may need a second team of gardeners to do some serious weeding because I am now done with picking up moss covered branches from the wooded areas in our front yard, at least for the time being.
Then, an earlier snake report comes to mind: our neighbor, a grandmother, who lives a few doors down tells us she was home alone one day when she saw a large snake in her yard.
She said, “I didn’t do anything. I just let it go.”
The snake scared her because it was so big and her little granddaughters play in the grass every day. Could this be the same snake that Mike saw or could there be a second venomous snake of that size commuting from the preserve? My neighbor shows me, cupping her hands, how big around the snake was, and then extends her arms to show how long it was.
A Snake a Day
The next day, the Pest Control Guy arrives to do whatever it is he does around the house and yard. I feel obliged to tell him about the snake stories of late in case he encounters something with scales in our bushes.
“You live in the woods,” he tells me. “I see a snake here every other day. Yesterday, I was working in a yard where children were playing on a driveway, right near a rattle snake that they didn’t see. I killed it.”
For now, we have come to the close of the Snake Report. Temperatures have dropped and before long there will be frost on the rooftops and for as many as thirty days during the winter months, we’ll have nights of freezing temperatures.
As to the water moccasins and other snakes, hibernation will be their usual winter inactivity. Personally, I was relieved that the snake report did not include any mention of a Burmese Python, the enormous snakes that have invaded the Florida Everglades.
The Snake Report
To be continued, hopefully not anytime soon!
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