Turning on the porch light and peeking out, I saw the largest snake I have ever seen (except in zoos) slithering down the lattice off the deck. I grabbed the flashlight and went back outside to try to identify him.
About 5 to 8 inches of his tail still remained on the top railing. I thought as I looked at the tail, “He is not a rattler!” His head was just touching the ground. What childish impulse possessed me to grab that last bit of tail? The snake threw himself loose from my grasp. He was strong! If I had had a firmer grip, there is no doubt that he would have whipped me right off the deck.
Yikes! So I called the animal control officer and left a message.
The next morning still in pursuit of snake knowledge, I went the Alexandria Public Library and looked at all their books on reptiles. No luck. I mentioned it to June Dunning and a young man at one of the computer terminals said, “Oh, that was a chicken snake. They can grow very large.”
Then, a friend, Jo, told me about an experience her husband had had with a chicken snake. When her husband went out to collect eggs at dusk, a chicken snake was in one of the nests eating the eggs. Her husband, not seeing the snake and reaching into the nest, was bitten. I learned that a chicken snake, although not poisonous, has a strong and painful bite--enough break the skin. Ask Jo’s husband!
I’m glad the chicken snake, also known as a rat snake, is here and I was given the opportunity to see him. I hope that he is killing the millions of moles in the yard. Maybe I scared the snake enough that he won’t be stalking the birds at the feeders. I, for sure, don’t go barefooted outside in the evening anymore. A tape measure confirmed the distance from railing to ground to be six feet, two inches! I learned chicken snakes can grow up to eight feet long.
St Augustine, who lived from 354 to 430 said, “Some people, in order to discover God, read books. But there is a great book: the very appearance of created things. Look above you! Look below you! Note it. Read it. God, who you want to discover, never wrote that book with ink. Instead he set before your eyes the things that he has made. Can you ask for a louder voice than that?” Thanks, God, for a safe snake encounter. Believe me, I’m looking below quite often.
August, 2010 ©Ann Rains
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