Monday, May 23, 2005

Silver the wannabe mongoose

I was walking Silver this morning and, as I am wont to do, stopped by the garden to look around. I poked around in the eggplants a little; we have been meticulously scraping off cucumber beetle eggs, etc., and I wanted to make sure no more insect damage was being done.*

I happened to look to my left and discovered Silver nose-to-nose with a four-foot-long black rat snake, in a frozen staredown. Border collies and snakes: two types of animals that can really stare.

"Aaaaaaargh!" I yelled, as I hastily pulled her back.

I made her sit a few feet away as we watched the snake thread itself through the row of green beans, then decamp for the tomatoes. She eyed it, making soft "wuh" noises as it slid away. Then I hugged her about sixty times.

There are two problems with this series of events:

(1) If Silver had encountered a poisonous snake instead of a perfectly harmless one, she would have done exactly the same thing. That freaks me out really badly.

(2) I am going to be really jumpy in the garden from now on because the irrigation hoses look quite a bit like black rat snakes.

I need to have a nice cup of tea and calm down. I actually really love and appreciate the snakes on our property. So far I've never seen a poisonous one (the gigantic king snake that lives under the house is reputed to hunt, among other things, poisonous snakes--isn't that nice! I think I'll keep him). Also, we have a blissful absence of rodents in and around our house. Between the cat (inside) and the snakes (outside), rats and mice don't have a chance.

But I am protective of my girl. I need to keep an eye on her.

* This reminds me of two things. First, there are volunteer cucumber plants in the garden. I plasticked off a section for them to sprawl onto so I wouldn't have to hunt them among the weeds. (All that black plastic mulch is probably the reason the snake was there--good basking grounds!) Second, a neighbor stopped by yesterday and we talked gardening. I asked him how he dealt with the little black bugs and he told me he went down to the Feed & Seed in Greensboro and bought some insecticide spray. Uh, no thanks. Well, at least I tried to pick up some local wisdom.