Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The One That Got Away; or How I Learned to Shoot Twice

Another lapse. I apologize. Things have been exceedingly busy around the little farm for the last couple weeks. Between the garden and the profuse number of chickens and the regular chores, it seems all my time gets eaten up before I get a chance to do anything new! One thing that has monopolized a fair chunk of my time is yard work.

I think a lot of folks (or just us...we're stupid that way) don't realize that when you move to a place in the middle of a very vast wilderness that said wilderness will try whole-heartedly to reclaim the little portion you took. Everywhere I look there are saplings growing, vines encroaching, weeds overtaking, bugs eating, and most recently animals lounging. Yep, animals. I had my first run-in with a creature of the wild sort yesterday...and it was most ghastly! I was eating lunch and heard the chickens (who are fairly close to the house) making a ruckus. Now, much as parents can understand the different cooings of an infant, I can understand, or at least differentiate the different squawks, chirps, cackles, and whistles of these birds, and the noise that went up was not one with which I was familiar. I immediately ran to the porch and out of the corner of my eye, caught sight of a long, scaly, black tail sliding under some shelves by the bedroom window...right beside the open cat door that leads into the bedroom, right beside the bed.

Now, I'm not necessarily afraid of snakes. They don't send me into paroxysmal fits or fainting spells or hysterics of any kind. But, man, they are pretty freaking creepy when you're not expecting to see one. And when the one you aren't expecting to see is coiled up right behind your favorite rocking chair, well...it's enough to shake even the most stalwart (right? all you stalwart folks think snakes are creepy right? cause they are. it's not just me). So, I did what any brave and stalwart soul would do...I called my dad! I know, I know. He's like seven hours away but he knows what to do! Surely he can give me advice on some magical, old-school, country way to rid myself of this heinous, heinous visitor.

"Daddy, there's a huge snake on my porch!"

"Well, kill it," he says.

Ahh!! Kill it! Yes. That's what I'll do. I'll kill it.

( As an aside, I can hear many of you saying to yourselves, "But, K...aren't you kind of...you know...a hippie or something? Doesn't that mean you should want the snake to be all groovy and snakey and do his own thing and live in peace and harmony with nature and stuff?" And the answer is thus: I am so cool with snakes being snakey and groovy it's ridiculous. But as soon as one tries to groove onto my porch and plot his next chicken killing mission, I feel it's my duty as chicken protector to intervene.)

To continue:

Hmm...I have a .22 and am not a bad shot (keeping in mind that I've only ever shot at very stationary and lifeless paper targets). But, the nasty little bugger is right beside the house, and even in my current state, I knew that shooting the house was not an option. See? Rational.

"Daddy, I can't shoot it. He's right next to the house!"

"Well get a stick and move it," says my wise old sage.

Yes! A stick. So I set out in search of the perfect (very, very long) stick, and as luck would have it the previous owners of this little slice of heaven had a very diverse collection of walking sticks they had found in the woods (no doubt when they were out beating back nature from stealing back the property! But I digress...). I found the perfect one. A stout pole, around seven feet long.

By this point, I had gone in and gotten the little rifle, and being so armed, stick in one hand, gun in the other, I set out to poke and prod this snake. Also, by this point, I had googled. I decided that this was a common rat or chicken snake (which Dad also said, but I had to check for myself), which is rumored to not be aggressive and was described as being something of a pansy.

So, I poked and poked and poked (from a very safe distance, of course.). And this scaredy cat of a snake didn't move an inch. He looked at me and my stick and went right back to lounging. So, I poked more. I think I may have hit him on the head, which got his attention and got him moving...right up the wall of the house. Not acceptable. I knew, in my rational, calm, logical mind, that I could no more shoot him out of the rafters as I could off the floor. So I hit him again with my trusty stick and off he went, slithering around the corner of the house.

Success! Now I can get him out into the grass and single-handedly defeat him! Unless he goes under the box in which we keep our recycling. Which he promptly did. So, I poked and poked and poked. And he finally stuck his head out. I knew the time was almost upon me! A little further and the house would be out of the way and I could take my shot! Unless he crawled onto that big slab of stone. Which he did. Again, logic and rationale won out and one half of my brain explained to the other that shooting at a big piece of stone from four feet away was a very bad idea. So, what did I do? Poked him with the stick, of course. And alas! After, what felt like ages, he moved into the perfect area for me to shoot him. I picked up the rifle, aimed, and did that whole inhale/exhale thing like my dad taught me to do when I was little (and yes, down here, little girls shoot guns with their daddies. It's just how we roll in the south.), and squeezed the trigger.

And missed. I freaking missed. And, never having shot at something alive and moving before, I did not immediately understand that you generally only get one shot before the thing at which you shot hauls ass. Which it did. He sequestered himself under a woodpile. Now, at this point, I was determined to get him. And allaying my fears, decided to root him out. And, being the sensible girl that I am, I decided now was the time for boots and jeans instead of shorts and birkenstocks. So, after I changed clothes, I grabbed stick and gun and went back out to the woodpile. Before I missed my shot, my dad had suggested using a hoe to remove the snake's head from it's body. I set aside this option as it would require me to get closer to the scoundrel than I wanted. But now, in the midst of snake killing zeal, it seemed a perfectly reasonable alternative to the gun. So, hoe, stick, and gun in hand I began to not very systematically dismantle the woodpile.

And I never saw the bloody snake again.

Let this be a lesson to all you would-be vermin slayers out there. If you shoot at something that can run away from you, don't miss. And if you think you might miss, shoot at it more than once.

Lessons learned!

Now, I'm off to fight the good fight. I go now to protect both man and beast (and driveway and lawn) from the encroachment of a most persistent and insidious enemy. I take with me naught but loppers, shovel, hoe (and my snake poking stick) to do battle with the woods.

Have a good day everyone! I'll try to keep my posting lapses to more reasonable amounts of time in the future!!


  1. Thanks for sharing your story, and telling it in such a fun way. This reminds me of the time that I saw a snake sliding up the wall in my garage, decided it had to go back into the woods (since I couldn't see myself chopping its head off with a shovel in my driveway), hooked it onto my dirt rake, and flung it across my lawn. Only to have it go about 4 feet and have to repeat the whole snake-flinging all over again once I had actually walked with it on the rake to the edge of the woods. Stupid snakes!

  2. The hoe method worked great for T when we found one in the garage in Raleigh. No snakes here in the city thank the LORD. I would almost be able to let the girls run barefoot in the grass if not for the *&^&^%$ dog and/or cat crap that inevitably appears whenever we try to venture beyond the pavement.