Well, I didn't tell that story right. Just goes to show, facts can be represented correctly or incorrectly. I represented the Tarantula story like it happened the other day. I stand corrected. Apparently, this was over two years ago. I'm losing it, I guess. The memory is still pretty vivid.
While I'm coming clean, let's talk snakes. Chief and I lived in the country for about 15 years. We lived in a couple of antique houses that had been renovated, added onto, and had porches closed in to make the homes larger. After all those updates, certain openings may have been created by chipping away at the foundation, new cracks may have formed, a variety of different things could have happened. Before we ever moved in, we knew there was the possibility of varmints getting inside.
Let's just say it doesn't take a city girl, and I use that term loosely, very long at all to figure out how to get a handle on mice, spiders and snakes. Oh, yes, the snakes. Just walking from the house to the car, you had to look down as you walked. I don't know how many times I almost, or actually did, step on a snake. Yes, some were rattlesnakes, and those are the most dangerous snakes we have in our area. I was easily spookable at first, but I suppose I have built up a tolerance. I have reached a level of okay-ness with them all. After all, the weirdest things can happen, and you never know when they will.
We pulled several snakes, okay something more than 60, out of the basement of that first ranch house. With the addition of central heat and air, the foundation had to be broken through in a few places under the house to make room for the ducting. Apparently................... snakes began to sneak down under the house, into the foundation area. It was cool and dark there. Great place to winter if you are a snake. Or possibly live year round...?
Chief knew he had seen a snake or two down there. He sealed the door to the room that had the air conditioning and heating equipment in it. Then there was another door that completely sealed off the stairs and whole basement from the floor level of the house. I felt pretty secure. Additionally, those snakes must have been helping keep the mouse population down, because I only recall a few in 15 years. But one day he was working on the hot water heater down there, and he had a flashlight. As he was leaving the room, he decided to point the light back up under the tiny crawl space created by the running of the "new" heat and air conditioning ducts. When he did, he saw eyes. Yellow eyes. Tiny yellow eyes, and a whole lot of them. He was pretty calm when he came upstairs and said, "Come with me downstairs, I want to show you something." Since I had only graced the basement with my presence a few times, and it never ended well -- I said, "Okay, hang on a minute." I went to put on sweat pants, a hoodie and shoes with socks. There are always spider webs, crickets, something.
Photograph by Chris Johns -- National Geographic
When he put the flashlight up to show me the snake eyes, I think I screamed. He calmly explained to me why screaming wasn't the best idea. I gathered my composure, and from that moment on, I was the "Flashlight Holder."
The resourceful Chief grabbed a piece of pipe, now he tells me it was about a 5 foot telescoping pole for a volleyball net. And of course, weed-eater string. You know, stuff everyone could have in their basement. The Boy Scout crafted a large loop coming out one end of the pole. So, holding the pole with one hand, pointing the loop toward the snakes, and holding the weed-eater string firmly with the other -- we gave it a try. Remember, I am holding the flashlight. Chief is able to keep his distance, and within seconds, we have our first snake. He has a firm grip on the weed-eater string after pulling it back and cinching it around the snake's head and throat area. So he pulls it away from its buddies in the den. It's just a racer. Nothing venomous. Nothing to stay awake at night over. But there is an exit from the basement straight to the outside. Chief knew that thing wasn't going to be walked through the house through the front door. It didn't live. None of the 7 snakes we pulled out that first night did. At this point, we didn't know how many more were down there. We got all we could, and we must have scared the others back further into the darkness, because they disappeared.
Guess what? They were back the next night. And the next. And the next. This was a spring through summer project, and seriously, we lost count after we pulled out the 60th-some-odd snake. Yes, there were some rattlesnakes. Not many, I would say less than five. Hopefully, you can see how I would get used to things like this. I didn't want to accept it as normal. You can imagine why I am sometimes offended to be called a "city girl." My tiny hometown is not a city. And just because I didn't grow up milking cows and driving a tractor doesn't mean I am incapable of being a decent "farm girl." Don't pigeon-hole me. There are a lot of things I don't like, but that doesn't mean I can't take care of them. In the words of Kelly Clarkson, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."