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Okay, so there are a few drawbacks to living on a ranch. I'll admit it. Every now and then you get a nasty, heart-stopping surprise.
Last night I stayed up late to watch Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Around midnight I heard the washing machine stop. I went out to the back porch/mud room, just off the kitchen, and moved the clothes from the washer to the dryer. The door was open--in the summer we always keep the door open between the back porch and the kitchen (not so smart, as I was reminded again last night)--and I went out and did what I needed to do without turning on the light--another stupid thing to do. Headed back into the house, I noticed something round in the shadowed corner by the kitchen door.
What's that? I asked myself, puzzled. I didn't remember putting anything that looked like that on the back porch. I reached behind the freezer and flipped on the light. My stomach flip-flopped and my heart started pounding. A coiled snake. Okay, before you panic, look at the markings. Oh jeez. Not a bull snake this time. Not a non-poisonous mouse hunter I could just toss a sheet or blanket over, bundle up, and let loose outside. A rattlesnake. A rattlesnake that could have crawled on into the house at any time. A rattlesnake that could have easily struck me, because I had just walked right by it--my bare foot a mere six inches away!
I've killed quite a few rattlesnakes in my day, but they've always been outside. Often very close to the house, but always outside. My good friend/critique partner, Debbie, calls me Snake Slayer, and she delights in telling her husband's work acquaintances (especially the ones from England or Scotland) about her crazy friend who lives on a ranch in the boonies, chases wild cows, and kills rattlesnakes. I draw the line at killing one in the house. Funny how the shovel's always outside when you need it, and I'm just not very accurate with a broom handle. I leave the indoor snake slaying to my husband.
As scary as this was, it was nothing new. When we moved into this old house, built of rock and mud sometime in the late 1800s, it had been vacant for a number of years. During that time rattlesnakes had denned up underneath. One spring, before we put down a good floor in our bedroom closet, my husband almost stepped on a baby rattler. The thing tried to slither back through the hole it had come out of, but Monty grabbed a pair of pliers from his pocket and caught it by the tail. He pulled it out, then grabbed it with the pliers behind the head, took it outside, and killed it. I think we killed three or four rattlers in the house that year, and not all of them babies. Looking back on the good aspects of that year, though, I don't remember finding any sign of mice. . . .
Anyway, back to THIS snake incident. I quickly ducked out the back door--no way was I going back into the kitchen past that snake!--and came into the living room through the front door. I woke up my groggy husband, my sleepy hero, and asked him to please go kill the rattlesnake on the back porch. He stumbled and staggered around, got his pants on, and realized his boots were on the back porch.
He couldn't go out barefooted and get his shovel, so he had to use the weapon of second choice--the trusty broom handle. After much whacking, fumbling, and scooting of furniture (I was listening from a safe distance in the living room), it was over. The snake was dead, and even though it had tried to get away, it had never rattled. I heard Monty put his boots on and shut the door behind him as he took the dead snake outside.
When he came back in the house, fully awake now and unable to go back to sleep, he sat with me on the couch for a while. He read while I went back to watching the conclusion of Tess. Finally, he got up and headed for the bedroom. But before he left the room he turned in the doorway and said, "I guess I should take my boots to bed with me from now on."
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