For the last few weeks, I’ve had an unwelcome tenant.
I was getting in my car, headed off to work one morning when I saw him, curled up next to the retaining wall in my front yard, half-hidden beneath a pine tree.
I went on high alert. There are few things that strike pulse-pounding fear into me as much as snakes.
(And for all you snake lovers out there, yes I know they keep away rodents and are mostly harmless and are more afraid of me than I am of them. Doesn’t change the fact that I break out into a cold sweat at the sight of one. It’s emotion, not logic. It’s me, not them.)
I left for work, leaving him to slumber, and he was gone when I returned home that evening. I hoped that would be the end of it.
But he was out the next morning, and the morning after that.
By this time I’d gotten a better look at him and realized he wasn’t a big long black snake as I’d feared, but a tiny two-foot long garter snake.
This made me feel slightly better…he had to leave, but this was not a DEFCON 1 level emergency.
He was curled up near the retaining wall again, sunning himself. I crept into the garage. After briefly considering running upstairs and hiding under the covers, I instead picked up a shovel and gave myself a pep talk about how this was a tiny snake and I could handle it.
I approached the snake and drove the shovel into him. But the little guy lunged for the retaining wall and wiggled out from beneath my shovel.
I was too scared to hone my killer instinct.
Fortunately, my neighbors drove up at just this moment. I explained the situation, and as I was, the little snake darted out from beneath the wall and headed lightning quick beneath the pine tree. My neighbor tried to get him, but the snake was too gone.
My neighbor shook the pine tree, saying he was trying to scare the snake out, but I knew that snake wasn’t coming out for anything.
Eventually, we gave up. Still, I figured the snake would’ve gotten the message he was unwanted and moved on.
The next morning he was back.
As soon as I got near him with the shovel, he made a beeline for the retaining wall. He slithered into one of the little holes, where I couldn’t get him without sticking my hand in there.
And if you think I was going to stick my hand in there, you don’t know me at all and didn’t read the first half of this post.
He stood up like a mini cobra and stuck his tongue out at me, taunting me from the safety of his hole.
I threw down the shovel and made a beeline to Target, where I bought one of those trash picker grabbers that people use to reach for things on high shelves. I also bought a big plastic storage container.
I would grab the snake with the trash picker, put in him the box and close the lid, and carry him over the hill.
Catch-and-release. Very humane.
He didn’t show himself for the next few days. He’d lulled me into a false sense of security when I was going out to cut the grass and there he was. Same place, right up against the wall.
I ran for the trash picker and set up the box while he watched. For an instant I had him in the trash picker, but before I could lift him he squirmed loose and hid in the wall.
That little guy could move fast.
By this time, I wasn’t nearly as afraid of him. I’d decided that maybe he could stay, if he wanted to so badly, and I named him Frank.
I figured it’s tough to be afraid of a snake named Frank.
But truly, although Frank wasn’t a bad tenant, all things considered, the truth was he had to go.
So how does this story end?
It is Father’s Day, after all, so it ends with a dramatic catch by my Dad.
Actually, he came over, saw the snake and picked it up and carried it over the hill.
I would’ve been humiliated by my own inept attempts if I wasn’t so relieved.
Happy Father’s Day!