Friday, June 29, 2007


We have new baby chicks that are about 3 weeks old. Last night as part of my animal rounds I opened up the brooder to check on them, and this is what I saw:

Notice something amiss? Here's a closeup of that thing in the back:

It's a Texas rat snake, and I'd say it was about 5 feet long. Funny thing was I had been in the barn just before that and had been thinking about snakes. I am reading My Antonia by Willa Cather, and had just read the part where 10 year old Jim kills a rattler with a shovel. So when I saw the snake I didn't freak out, I just thought, "Ugh, I have to kill a snake."

I had seen this snake before (at least I think it was this snake). One night when the babies were just a few days old I realized we'd forgotten to turn on the brooder lamp, so I went outside with a flashlight. Oddly enough I had snakes on my mind then too (do you think God is with me out here or what?). I reached the brooder, saw a huge snake coiled under it, and turned right around to fetch my big brave husband. He relocated the snake down by the workshop in the hopes it would eat rats (of which we unfortunately have plenty).

My big brave husband wasn't home this time, so big brave me went to find a shovel (a la Jim in My Antonia). I grabbed the camera too. When I got back the snake was still there, and I counted chicks. We were definitely missing chicks, so I knew I had to kill it.

In a brilliant flash (do not even THINK the word cowardly) I called the five dogs over (yes, five... that's another blog post begging to be written). I tried to coax the snake down and out the back. It stuck its head out, saw the dogs, and went right back in. The dogs completely missed it. They are not the brightest bulbs sometimes.

I went back to the front and saw it taking a different approach:

It headed onto the roof of the brooder porch. I finally got the dogs to notice it. Molly barked and was clearly nervous. I should have realized that this was not an indication of a fierce snake hunter. Alas, I knocked the snake down right in front of her, hoping she'd finish it off, and she jumped back and quivered (while barking) as it slithered off to hide under the brooder again.

Now, let me be honest with you. I had been brave and matter of fact at the beginning. I'm not, generally speaking, afraid of snakes. But when I had to start touching the thing with the shovel as I tried to get it to go where I wanted, I started to lose my nerve. I wasn't 100% sure it was a rat snake (which are non-venomous). I knew it wasn't a rattler, but wasn't positive about what it WAS. And, well, it was a BIG snake! I got all shaky and weird feeling; I must have had a major adrenalin rush or something, but it wasn't like the rush I feel when I have to deal with, say, a goat emergency. It was a spooked out kind of feeling. I totally get why Satan was a serpent in the Garden of Eden. Ugh.

So there I am, looking at the ground under the brooder for the snake, holding a shovel, and wondering what I am going to do next, when I see a head. But not under the brooder...

That's the telephone pole behind the brooder. I can assure you that at this point the spooky factor was at its height. I could barely catch my breath. And that was the end of my snake hunting, although Farmer Boy tried to throw rocks at it unsuccessfully.

Ick ick ick!!!!

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