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The best words I heard pertaining to my recent run-in with a snake were delivered by the Critter Control guys who announced after finally getting a good look at the creature: "He's non-venomous."
My wife and I purchased a place in rural Alamance County about two years ago. The property includes a pond that's flanked by a cabin. Also included is a cinder block house where we live. We've spent much of the past two years refurbishing everything.
I was putting down wood flooring in the cabin May 1, cutting the lumber on the tailgate of my pickup. I was constantly going in and out of the cabin and had left open the wooden back door as well as a storm door.
I was sitting on the floor hammering when I glanced to my left and spied a 3-foot-long brown snake with black markings. He was about 5 feet from me.
Yes, that little-girl scream you heard from off in the distance that afternoon came from me.
I've written about snakes and know they don't deserve the bad rap they receive. I know the odds of seeing –— much less being bitten— by a poisonous snake are slim. I know all this, but I still can't help but cringe when I see a snake.
Prior to spotting this guy, I'd seen a couple of black snakes around the property. There is one, I think, that lives under the cabin. Meg and I watched him sun himself the other day.
We had a heat pump installed at the cabin last summer, the ductwork for which was placed in the attic. When the installers first climbed down, they brought with them a couple of snake skins they'd found.
So I knew snakes were around. We own an old place, and we're in the woods. We're going to have snakes and other varmints.
But it's sort of like an unwritten rule I have with them — you live anywhere you want, just don't come inside. This snake violated that agreement.
When I spotted him, he immediately turned and retreated to a small porch on the back of the cabin where we have a refrigerator. I slammed the cabin door shut and watched the snake through a window. I thought it was going to leave through the open storm door, but it didn't. For several minutes, it didn't move.
I finally went out the front door and retrieved a shovel, then returned through the cabin, opened the back door and attempted to prod the snake out. Instead, it charged, then disappeared under the refrigerator.
Well, that worked out well, didn't it? I told myself.
Meg returned from work a couple of hours later. She's not as afraid of snakes as I am. The next morning, she pulled the refrigerator out and found the snake still coiled up at the bottom. She took a few pictures. We went on the Internet and tried to determine if the snake was poisonous. We didn't think so but couldn't be positive.
I finally called Critter Control, a business where the "technicians" (their word) do what the name of the operation implies.
Tim and his sidekick, who was in training, seemed like nice guys, very competent. I pointed to where the snake was.
The first words I heard either of the technicians speak regarding the snake — "He's big and he's got black stripes" — both comforted and alarmed me. The fact that these guys respected the size and look of the snake gave some credence to the little-girl bellow I'd emitted the day before.
But after that initial glance, they were also concerned about the snake being venomous, which I most certainly didn't want him to be.
Turns out, he wasn't. He was, Tim said, an eastern water snake, often mistaken for copperheads. It took Tim and his partner about 15 minutes to get the snake out. They wore gloves and used words like, "Push his butt," when trying to pry him loose.
Tim said that while the snake wasn't venomous, he's not the type to fool with. A bite, he said, still has to be treated. Tim said the snakes, which eat fish and frogs, also sometimes clamp on when they bite humans. They're aggressive, and their teeth are razor-sharp. A bite is not a fun experience, Tim said.
He said the snake probably lived in the pond and happened to go for a stroll the day he joined me in the cabin. The snake was put in a cloth bag. Tim said they'd release it far from my property.
I asked Tim's sidekick how he decided to enter the critter business. He said, "Well, I've always liked animals."
I told him, "I like to pet puppies as much as anyone, but dang if I'm going to reach up in refrigerators to pull out snakes."
I'd been quoted on the phone a price of $225 for the snake's removal. Tim said that since the job didn't take especially long, he'd only charge me $175. Was that fair? All I know is it's a job I couldn't do.
"Besides," Tim said in giving me the $50 discount, "you're out here in the woods. I get the feeling you're going to need us again."
"I've got your number on speed dial," I told him.
Credits: By Steve Huffman - The-Dispatch.com