Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Earth Day 2006

Some kind of prairie snake crossing the road.

This is a photo of a common snake I see all the time around Spirit Creek. This snake was fairly small, about three feet in length. Most of those I have seen are big snakes, five feet long and more. They typically try to stay out of human sight.

April 22, 2006 was a day I will remember as a significant snake day for the rest of my life. It was Earth Day. I was working around the barn in the bright sunlight of mid-morning. I was taking a break, leaning against a fence panel of the round pen when I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. I recoiled when I realized it was one of these snakes, about six feet long. It had come through a wide expanse of short vegetation and was heading directly to the barn, passing within about three feet of me. Not only was that far too close for my comfort, it was unusual behavior for this kind of snake. I normally only know they are around when I catch the movement
of their tails gliding out of sight.

I had a lot of work to do, so rather than run screaming for the house, I kept one eye on that snake at all times. It made a straight line into the open door of the storage side of the little barn. I noticed that it came out and went around the west side of the barn. It made a full circuit in and out and around the barn. I thought it was looking for mice. I minded my own business and let it look for all the mice it wanted, believe me.

I continued to work hard at scrubbing the water tank. About 15 minutes later I was again leaning on the same fence panel, taking another break. (Hey, I am the owner and general manager of this outfit. I can take a break whenever I want.) It was deja vu! In the same spot, another snake was quickly and purposefully crossing the round pen, following the same path. This one was a bit smaller. It went directly into the open door of the storage side of the barn, exactly as the first snake had.

Now there was approximately eleven feet of living, slithering snake within a few feet of me!

For some reason, the second snake's last six inches of tail remained draped over the door jamb. It was a windy day, and I thought perhaps the door had closed partway over the snake's body and it was stuck. Damn. Even a snake does not deserve to be slammed in a door.
Gathering all my courage, I took the manure fork and cautiously walked toward the open door.

Holding the fork as far forward from my body as I possibly could, I tried to push the door all the way open. I was holding the fork with the fewest fingers I could manage because this grip allowed me to stay as far away as possible. I was not able to move the door. I choked up on the handle a bit, gingerly stepped forward and pushed the door again. Something was blocking that door and I thought it was the snake's body.

I was not happy. I was going to have a seriously injured snake to extract from under the door. I had no idea how I was going to manage handling a six foot snake. Once I did get it out, if it was terribly injured, what could I possibly be able to do for it? I would have to call a nature rehab center. Hopefully, they would come to my barn and I would not have to take the snake to them... My mind was racing.

Finally, I gathered my courage and forced myself to get close enough to the door to see what was blocking it. As I carefully peered over the jamb, I practically passed out! BOTH snakes were beneath the door, but they were not caught. They love... I dropped the manure fork and backed away.

"That is not something you see every day," I said to the horse.

As I returned to scrubbing the water tank, I realized that only 'love' would make the snakes brave enough to so boldly travel the short grass, exposed to all their enemies, and pass so closely to a human being. They ignored the horse, as well. It was impressive how the first snake had been thoroughly searching for its mate, and how they unerringly found one another.

I finished up the tank and refilled it with fresh water. When I thought to look again, both snakes were gone. Even though I do not particularly like snakes, the whole incident was a strange and wonderful gift from the earth to me that day. This is a great web site with good photos of all the snakes in Kansas.

1 comment:

Dennis said...

Looks like a plains rat snake. Makes you wonder what else goes on in the barn.