Monday, June 20, 2011

Scary Thing #2

2. Dealt with the snake in the bathroom. 

The Massachusetts State Reptile
Arriving home one evening at about nine o’clock, I opened the bathroom door, and in the split second before I turned on the light, I thought, I didn’t leave a man’s tie lying in the middle of the bathroom floor. 

The snake—a big one, I swear—was struggling at that very moment to leave, to work its way back down the heat grate and into to the cellar. 

I dealt with this problem by stamping my foot and yelling: “You, snake! Get out of this bathroom! Go back down that heat grate!” 

Slowly, the fat snake complied. 

It was September. Dan had been dead for just over two years. If it had been one year, I would have had to call the one couple I knew who stayed up late and tell them that Lulu, my basenji, and I were on our way over. We have to sleep on your couch, I would say. We’ll be quiet. We’ll leave early. But we cannot stay in this house tonight.

I didn’t do that. Instead, I pulled the bathroom rug over the heat grate. Then I found several large, heavy books and I walked around the house, placing one of them on top of each of the other heat grates, including (horrors!) the one near the head of the bed

I could have peed in the yard with Lulu under cover of darkness, but daybreak would end that solution. I might as well become accustomed to my sole, snake-infested bathroom. We made our ablutions that night, Lulu and I. We curled up in bed together. In the morning, light rose again. 

* * * *

You’re thinking, well, she didn’t really solve that problem. But there was more. The next morning I e-mailed a report of the incident to my friendly contact at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia County. He replied promptly that I had described a garter snake and don’t worry, they weren’t poisonous. I also called Todd Nuisance Wildlife Pest Control, who had helped me in the past with pests who were more nuisance, less frightening. We lived in the same town, Claverack, and he came over Saturday morning. In the cellar he sniffed around, literally. 

Nope, he said, you don’t have a snake infestation. There’s a smell when you do.

Then we sat at the table on the deck and he told me stories of terrible snake infestations he had dealt with. Opening the ceiling of a house to have dozens of snakes fall on his head, that kind of thing. 

We bought this house 20 years ago, I said. We’ve lived here full time for 11 years. I’ve never seen anything like this. 

He mulled over this information, but he had no answer. 

* * *       *

Images courtesy of Wikipedia
I didn’t see another snake in the house for two-and-a-half years. Then one evening in March I came into the bedroom to find Lulu, my sight hound, pointing a snake. By then I knew you were supposed to guide the snake into a shoebox and take it outdoors. My shoeboxes were upstairs in the attic, and I was dreadfully afraid the snake would disappear in the bedroom in my absence, so I ran to the kitchen, just a few steps away in my tiny house, grabbed a paper bag, and ran back to the bedroom, all the while calling to Lulu, “Good dog! Stay! Keep that snake there! Good dog!”

She was. She did. With my shoe I guided the reluctant snake into the brown paper shopping bag and then ran out of the house to leave it in the woods beyond the gate. 

I didn’t call or e-mail anyone the next day. I was in the midst of Scary Thing #1, and that’s another story. 


  1. A snake infestation. Snakes falling from above. I don't dislike snakes, but......

  2. Debby, you are braver than I. I would have ceded the house over to the snake and hightailed it over to the closest B&B, with Karma in his sherpa carrier.

  3. Great post and great bravery. I doesn't matter that the expert told you it was harmless. It is a snake, and most sensible people have a visceral reaction to spiders, snakes and the like. Our collected intelligence may inform us that it is Ok to stay and deal with the intrusion, but our natural reactions offer a different solution… like Monty Python once suggested …. Run away…..