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Be kind to animals, for goodness snakes

May 29, 2008|By TIM ROWLAND

I still think that the freedom to drive where and when I want is a relative bargain, so it doesn't bother me all that much to pay $70 to fill up the car. But when I have to pay $30 to fill up the lawn mower, it gets to be personal.

I do all the right things. I ride my lawn mower at reasonable speeds, I avoid jackrabbit starts on my lawn mower and I am even open to the idea of lawn mower-pooling, although I haven't quite figured out how this will work.

It also annoys me a bit that last summer, when gas prices were more reasonable, I only had to cut the grass twice all summer because of the drought. This year, Exxon has colluded with Mother Nature, causing a wet spring that ensures that the grass needs to be mowed roughly every six hours.

My working theory is that the high gas prices have effectively grounded the cloud-seeding planes.

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Anyway, when I returned home from a recent trip, the grass was so high I didn't know whether to mow it or bale it. Along with the lawns, we have to cut the grass in the goat and alpaca paddocks for reasons that I am not yet farmer enough to understand.

It took the better part of the day, but at long last we sat down for a rest in the grassy area we set aside for Magellan the Pig (yes, pig - more on him at a future time), and that's when we first saw the snake.

It was about the biggest black snake I'd ever seen - but then, aren't they all? You never hear anyone say, "Yes, it was about the most average-sized black snake I've ever seen ..."

When it comes to snakes, I am like most people, that is, normal, in that they are just about the last thing I want to run into - and when I do, death and destruction are usually the first things that come to mind.

But Beth was born in the South, where apparently snakes are No Big Deal, seeing as how folks there weave baskets out of them and use them for bookends, they are such a common occurrence.

For her, a snake is like any other manner of wildlife, so a gratuitous killing was out of the question. So he had to be relocated, like he was some reptilian tsunami refugee or something.

My vote was for kicking him into the donkey paddock, but we couldn't do that Beth said because "the donkeys will kill him." As worries go, this was not real high on my list. Nor was the fact that the pig would kill him and the goats would kill him.

Nor could we let him scud off into the grass, because - and this is where the farm matrix gets complex - it was too near the bluebird house, and the snake would kill them. Someone, it seemed to me, had to die, and my vote was firmly in place.

But Beth seemed to think the woods would be a good spot to carry him. Carry? She looked at the snake, which was apparently oblivious to all the life-and-death decisions going on around him. Then she looked at me. Finally, she said, "I'll get a rake. Implied was that I was not man enough to - you know.

I looked at the snake. He looked back. I had to prove myself. He didn't. I had no choice, if I ever wanted to be taken seriously again. "Sorry about this," I told him and I grabbed him by the throat - well, it might have been throat, it might have been kidneys, it's kind of hard to tell on a snake.

I was braced for all manner of writhing and coiling, but he was pretty calm about it, really. He was kind of a Zen snake and by the time we got to the woods we were friends.

Even so, I have quite enough friends as it is. I'd be happy not to have any more.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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