Rural Living

 Sneaky snakes: Or, how to cure hiccups

by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer


 Margo Oxendine

I’ve developed this irrational fear of finding a snake inside my house. It’s one of the last things I think before I fall asleep: What if a snake gets in the house?

Thank heavens, summer is almost over.

Every summer, we seem to be plagued with a plethora of pesky things. This summer, there were ticks, and those armored, mid-sized ants and … snakes.

I am happy to have had no interaction with ticks this year, although they do find me attractive. The armored ants must be stomped on twice before they die. And snakes? I’ve seen several of them, looking outside from the safety of my porch screen. A friend actually encountered two of them, just getting from my back door to her car.

I keep a sharp eye out for them.

I’ve developed this irrational fear of finding a snake inside my house. It’s one of the last things I think before I fall asleep: What if a snake gets in the house?

Well, my big fear was realized one recent summer afternoon. I’d been up to take a photo of the fab Bath County Art Show. The show volunteers had donuts, so I grabbed one to take home.

I happily walked in my door, clutching a donut in a greasy napkin. Lunch was served!

I stepped into the dining room and stopped, frozen in my tracks: There was a snake.

Inside the house. Slithering toward me. Gad! I had to inch in front of it to grab the phone. I couldn’t take my eyes off the snake to find the phone book, so I called the sheriff’s office. It pays to have the sheriff’s number memorized. The dispatcher seemed unperturbed.

“What kind of snake is it?” he inquired.

“I don’t know! It’s not carrying an ID!”

He told me to call animal control. I asked him for the number. I called. Sharrie Woodzell answered. Now, I know Sharrie to be a fearless girl. She and her cohort Robbie Chestnut once dislodged a cluster of six bats from my window. Sharrie said she’d head to my place forthwith.

I stood there, still frozen in place. I’m sure it wasn’t more than 10 minutes, but the wait for my rescuer seemed to take much, much longer. I watched the snake slither under one chest, and then behind a fan. It is very important to keep one’s eyes on the snake. God forbid it can’t be found, yet you know it’s somewhere inside the house, lurking.

Sharrie arrived with a big bucket that had a lid and a long, heavy-duty “grabber,” like the kind I use to reach something from under the bed. I was startled to see she was wearing shorts — not the attire I would choose to do battle with a snake; yet I’m glad she didn’t take time to suit up in armor of some sort.

I pointed behind the fan, where I’d last seen the slithery thing, and sure enough, there it was. Sharrie wrestled the writhing reptile and dropped it into the bucket.

“Hand me that lid!”

I did. The lid was clapped on top of the bucket, trapping the snake inside. The bucket thumped and jostled around.

“He’s a frisky little feller,” Sharrie observed.

The snake safely ensconced, she and I toured the house, trying to figure out where it might have found ingress. Turns out, she says, they can get through the smallest openings. She pointed out a tiny gap in the front door. That’s probably how, she observed.

I may never leave my front door open again.

That night, I had dinner with a friend who’s a naturalist. (Is it naturalist? Or naturist? I’m never quite sure, but I’m thinking of the one who is not naked.) He told me that one out of two houses in Bath County has a black snake living inside it. We just never see them, he said. Gad!

I began to wonder just how long that garter snake had been creeping around inside my house.

As my friend and I sat on the screened porch after dinner, I developed the hiccups.

And suddenly, my friend alerted on something behind my chair.

“Don’t move!” he ordered. “There’s a snake right behind you.”

“Is it coming from inside the house?” I quavered, quaking with fear.

He leapt up. And then he laughed out loud.

“I’ll bet your hiccups are gone,” he said.

And he was right. He’d scared them right out of me.

Now, if I could only get to sleep at night …

To read more of Margo’s columns, order A Party of One. Call 540-468-2147 from 9-5, Monday-Thursday, or email:  



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