Snakes are icky. So are scorpions, taranchulas, and havalinas, but when you live in the Sonoran desert, you have some creepy things in your back yard now and then. I’m prepared for the worst–I have a magnet on my fridge with the phone number of my local snake catcher. All of my friends know where to find their emergency snake information too. I’m hoping I never have to dial that number.
Though I haven’t had a slithering intruder on our property yet, I did get a call from friends with this question one evening, “Would you guys mind coming over for the cook-out about an hour later than we planned? There’s a diamondback wrapped around our barbeque right now so we’ll need to wait for James.”
”James,” I asked nervously?
“The snake guy.”
This couple was on a FIRST NAME basis with their snake catcher and seemed really calm about it! How many times had this guy been to their house, I wondered? Will I ever get so accustomed to living in the desert that I can be calm about a snake in my yard too?
No, probably not. In fact, I’m sure of it. I DO NOT want to meet James the snake guy. Ever. My fear of snake visits even produced this bit (now resting on the cutting-room floor) of my novel-in-progress:
I kissed her cheek and touched the bracelet on her wrist. “I’m glad you like it, Honey.” I started to tell Cassie that I was thinking of becoming a jewelry designer, but Jack came back looking so strange it stopped my words. “What?” I asked him. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s Ruby,” he said. We went to the door and looked out. Ruby was standing on her hind legs with her front paws stretched up. She looked like she was dancing. Hopping was more like it. “What’s she doing?” asked Jack.
“I don’t know,” I said. We watched as Ruby hopped and barked, finally resting her front paws on the back fence. The large Palo Verde tree was directly above her. We followed Ruby’s eyes trying to see what she saw. My dog kept barking, willing us to get it for her.
Jack saw it first, “Snake,” he said pointing. I put my hand on my stocmach.
“Kids, stay in the house!” I yelled. I hurried out the door to the back yard and grabbed Ruby by the collar to hustle her in.
Drew came into the kitchen, “What’s up with Ruby?”
“Snake,” said Jack grinning. The boys loved this kind of thing. Drew joined him at the glass door smiling too.
They boys looked excited, the dog barked like crazy, and I felt faint. Cassie, the one we can always count on in a crisis, went to the fridge and took off the “snake rescue” magnet I kept handy. It was a gift from our realtor.
I loved everything about living in Phoenix except the snakes. It was bad enough that there were dangerous ones among the just plain icky, but the only way to get rid of them safely was to call a snake handler to come to your house. Both my boys had begged me to let them try to catch the last one. There was no way I would let them near it.
The problem I have is that snake handlers are environmentally conscious, meaning they are obligated to relocate the snake within two miles of the place it was removed, keeping it within its natural environment. I pleaded with the last snake handler to just kill it. I couldn’t bear the thought of it coming back to my house. After all, two miles isn’t that far. But no, there is no snake death squad in the city. If you want it dead you have to kill it yourself. I wondered what kind of snake it was as I dialed.
I turned to see the boys still watching from their spot with Ruby by their side. Her face pressed against the glass as she barked her warning. Good dog, I thought. I wondered about the family that lived approximately two miles from us. Would they be seeing a snake in their yard sometime soon? Or did they evict one just yesterday?