On garden walkabout with my coffee this morning, I noticed that someone - some thing? - had been digging around in the corner where I keep garden stuff and had drug out the deer netting. It ended up in the caladium patch - which immediately caught my eye. I grabbed it to put it back and screamed, dropping it. See him? How about now?
Surely now you see him.
He's in quite a tangle. Is he alive?! He certainly was playing dead, if not dead. Yuck! Poor guy. I got closer and moved the netting a bit and he moved, too. OK. Alive, then. Now what? I assembled my gear. Snake boots - check. Gloves - check. As good as it gets, anyway. I have got to get rose gauntlets if I'm going to be dealing with snakes! I had thought first to cut him out with the hedge clippers, but decided to call the queen-father. He'd know what to do. Maybe he'd even come over and take care of it!
No such luck. But he did give me some good pointers. Like use scissors, instead of garden clippers.
"It's a black snake, sounds like, and they are harmless. Well, harmless to you. They're hell on small rodents!"
The recent mouse sighting came to mind and I renewed my decision to free the snake. Not to mention the bumper vole crop this year! There are vole holes everywhere. . . .
The instructions continued:
"OK. Put your gloves on and throw a towel over his head so you can grab him just behind the head. He'll probably act like he's trying to bite you, but it sounds like he's going to be pretty tired. And he won't hurt you, don't worry! Just be careful.
"Then, once you have him by the head, cut him loose and let him go."
Right. What could be easier?!
Grab the snake by the head and cut him loose. Then let him go. Deep breath. I can't believe I'm even THINKING of doing this.
Grab the snake by the head. Check.
He wasn't real happy about it, but didn't try to bite me, and only wriggled a little bit. I set about cutting him out.
I talked to the snake, meanwhile. "All right Buddy, this is for your own good. . . . I know, it must hurt. . . . I'm sorry, this must be scarey! Poor little guy. . . ." And talked to God. "Please Father, please help me cut this little guy out of the mess he's wriggled into. And please calm him and please don't let him bite me!"
This was harder to do than I'd thought. The snake struggled more energetically from time to time, but then went limp again. I tried to be aware of how much pressure I had on his head. What a travesty to "save" the snake only to discover I've throttled him when the rescue operation was over! I loosened the grip, tightening only when I felt his muscles start to tense again.
It was hard to get the scissors underneath the fine netting which had worked its way into his scales. It helped when the snake went limp. I wish I'd gotten my close-up-work glasses. By now I was sitting on the grass with the snake almost in my lap. Did you know that snakes have a very distinctive odor? This one did, anyway.
"C'mon Buddy, hang in there with me! I'm sorry this hurts. . . . Almost done." He was a good deal longer than I first thought - but it was not possible exactly to pose him with something in the background for reference! My garden clog helps, I hope. I can't get all of him in the same frame, close up as I was. You can see where the netting bunched up and dug into him. . . .
I got him loose, finally, all except for the head. What will I do about that?! I decided to let him go, and see if he couldn't wriggle out of it on his own. Right. "There you go, Buddy! Let's see you slither out of that last little bit on your own, shall we?"
Buddy slithered, and the netting worked its way down from over his head to the first snag spot. It stopped, and he stopped. Great! Now I've got a snake mostly free that I have to catch again. sigh. I put the snake boot up towards his face to see what he would do. He didn't strike, but he did coil up. I put my boot over his head, best I could, and managed to grab him again.
"All right. Just a little more work to do here, Buddy. You know how this goes!"
A couple more snips and he was free.
He didn't stick around for his photo op. But slithered away into my bean garden. There's something about snake boots ands skirts, don't you think? Time for the rest of my coffee.
If I don't faint first.
postscript: The king came home and nearly fainted when he saw the photos of the snake rescue. It seems you're supposed to grab him from behind. . . . not over the top of the head like I did. Note to self. . . .