The gravel roads going both east and west from my home have been recently renewed with fresh rock. While necessary, it is always better when the roads have been pounded into a surface resembling concrete. New rock yields about a year's worth of dust that finds its way into every nook and cranny in a vehicle, and in my case, into the house. It means a fair amount of mud though we have almost forgotten what a muddy road is thanks to the extended drought. It also means that I can no longer drive 50 miles per hour. Fresh gravel is the equivalent of covering the road with marbles. After the county has brought in new gravel, it takes a couple of days to adjust to a slower and safer rate of travel. That is why I almost drove into the ditch Sunday afternoon.
I was going a little too fast for fresh gravel when I spotted a small snake racing across the road. Normally snakes stop and lay in a straight line, thinking they are camouflaged - not a good strategy. This little guy knew better than to act like a stick but instead of turning back he was slithering across the road at top speed. I quickly slowed down, hoping he would stop. He must have been a racer because he did not slow at all. I instantly recognized a fateful encounter for him, so I hit the brakes - a little too hard - and the car began to skid in the loose gravel. I kept steering away from the snake but quickly ran out of room and the snake just kept racing toward the front wheels of my car. Luckily for me and the snake, I was not going so fast that I lost control. I avoided the ditch and the snake, seeing in the side mirror that he was unharmed and still racing for the other side.
Snakes know nothing about insurance companies. Even if we could somehow speak their language, it would be impossible to explain about the human snakes that have successfully lobbied the government into an unholy morass of liability laws that do not favor "the insured". In addition, this particular snake had no idea that I was genetically predisposed toward hating snakes - that I was tenderly nurtured by a man who fearlessly locked up the wheels of his truck, skidding recklessly, confidently, to kill any snake unfortunate enough to cross his path. My father would slam to a stop, crash into reverse and floor it in order to run over any snake he spotted in the rear view mirror.
I have evolved past my fear and loathing of snakes - as long as I am at a safe distance. I have often stopped in the road to get a good look at one laying still, stretched in a perfect line. If I wait long enough, it will eventually make its silent, graceful way across the road. I have overcome the unreasonable fear and hatred of snakes learned at my father's knee but not because I have grown wise or mellowed with age. There is only one reason why I do not kill every snake that crosses my path: mice. Snakes eat mice. I wish mice would cross the road in front of my car. I learned the techniques of vehicular assassination from a master. I would kill them all in cold blood and back up for good measure.