The Snake Charmer

“Come over here and see what I found,” my mother said.

She was squatted next to the back porch steps weeding around her flowers while my brother Billy and I played in the yard. We both ran over to her.

“See it?  Right there,” she pointed, “it’s a garter snake.”

Mom reached down and picked up the snake.  Holding the head of the snake in her left hand and its body in her right hand, she told us it was a friendly snake that was good for the garden because it ate bugs.  Then she laid it on her left forearm and it began to slowly climb towards her hand and then it wrapped itself around her wrist and sat there, flicking its tongue at us.

“It’s a bracelet!” I said, and I thought my mother looked beautiful squatting there on the ground wearing her snake bracelet.

A year or two later, my brother and I went outside to ride our bikes in the driveway and found the driveway was covered in snakes.  They looked like the garter snake Mom had found but they were little, only about six or seven inches long, and there were hundreds of them. Billy and I ran into the house and told Mom that there were snakes all over the driveway; that there were so many that we couldn’t ride our bikes.  Mom looked out of the backdoor, saw all the snakes on the driveway, grabbed her broom and told us to stay inside.

Billy and I ran to my bedroom window and watched as our broom wielding mother began trying to shoo the snakes off of the driveway.  She was shooing them and sweeping them, but it did no good, for as soon as she got some of them off of the driveway, more would appear, crawling out from underneath the garage door.

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Baby Garter Snake Photo by Tony Alter

Mom opened the garage door and Billy and I ventured back outside and made our way to the garage by stepping over all of the baby snakes.   What we saw was amazing.  The baby snakes were coming out of the french drain in the middle of the garage floor, climbing out two, three, four at a time.  Once out of the drain, they headed towards the driveway, slithering through the open garage door.  Once they reached the driveway, they stopped moving and laid there, soaking up the warm sun.  As the three of us stood there watching, eventually the snakes coming out of the french drain got bigger and bigger.

“Let’s go back up on the porch and watch,” Mom said.

We scrambled to the back porch and watched the snakes coming out of the garage until finally, they stopped coming.  After warming up on the driveway for a while, they all took off into the grass and kept going, to parts unknown.  After an hour or so, all of the snakes, baby snakes and big snakes, were gone.

That evening when my father got home from work, we told him about the snakes and about how many snakes there were, but he seemed to think we were exaggerating. My father grew up in that house and said he had never seen such a thing happen and in all the years my family continued to live at that house, we never saw it happen again.  What we didn’t know at the time is that garter snakes hibernate together.  What we happened to witness that day, was a den of garter snakes, adults and young snakes, emerging from their winter den – that just happened to be under our garage.

My mother is now retired and living in Florida.  A few weeks ago when we were chatting on the telephone she said, “Well, I had a Splendippity moment this week.”

Mom explained that she had been home alone watching television one evening when she heard a loud thump.  When she investigated, she found a decent sized snake on top of the dog crate. When she moved to Florida several years ago, locals in the area warned her to be careful around any snakes as some in the area are poisonous.

She said, “I didn’t want to just pick it up because I didn’t know what kind of snake it was and I didn’t want to get bit.  So I went to the kitchen and got two oven gloves and put one on each hand.  Then I went back to the living room and picked up the dog crate.  The snake was still on it, but not on the top, he was on the ledge in the middle.  I headed for the door, but right after I opened it, the snake fell off of the dog crate and landed on the floor. Without even thinking about it, while still holding the dog crate in my right hand, I bent over and scooped the snake up with my left hand and tossed him out the door.”

My mother, still the beautiful snake charmer wrangler.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

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