by Kris Neri
Although we're well into it by now, it's still spring, and that's my favorite season. I love the way the earth comes back to life after winter. Allergies be damned. I’ll take soaring pollen counts, and the necessity of using steroid nasal sprays, if it means I get to see endless bursts of vibrant color when the Arizona high desert wildflowers enjoy their brief blooms.
Another thing I especially like about spring is that it’s when so many baby animals are born. Baby animals are almost always cute. I actually stopped my car beside a field of cattle grazing the other day, just because there were so many little calves in it, and I don’t consider the cow to be an especially attractive animal. I even like javalina babies. Javalinas are a distant relative of a wild pig, which roam the Southwest. Ugly, smelly, hairy beasts. But the babies, with their little pink snouts, are actually kinda cute.
And baby animals are everywhere. I ran into one recently, when I left the house to take my dog Annabelle for a walk. While I was turned away, locking the door, Annabelle discovered a young gecko on the sidewalk. By the time I turned back to her, she had given the poor thing a thorough bumping with her nose. The gecko’s little feet were scurrying so fast, they looked like wheels slipping on ice. Not nearly as verbal as the gecko that shills for that insurance company, either.
So, I guess I like most all baby animals. Apart from snakes, that is. And, man, are the snakes prolific here at this time of year. We see baby snakes flattened against roads all the time here, but that doesn’t noticeably seem to cut their numbers any.
I’ve always been a little afraid of snakes — don’t ask me why. And now I’m especially sensitive when it comes to baby snakes because of what I call my “Season of the Snake” two springs ago.
I first noticed something amiss when my cat Philly began parking himself outside the base of a workbench in our garage, and he all but licked his chops while he watched. Philly, a big Maine Coon, has the least natural instincts of any cat I’ve ever known. He’ll watch spiders slowly meander past him until they’re out of visual range. It never occurs to him to pounce on them — we like to say he watches them to death. We discovered later that some snake had gotten into our garage and laid her eggs under that workbench. Philly may not go for spiders or crickets or even birds, but the scent of those snake eggs sure brought out the natural hunter in him.
Then baby snakes started emerging from under the workbench. I managed to get one away from him with a broom, after which I swept it out the door. But that was the only one I dispatched that easily. Thereafter, every day or two, Philly would carry one into the house -- so he could play with it in more comfortable surroundings, I guess. Or perhaps to show me what my great hunter had caught.
A total of eight baby snakes emerged from under our workbench. Never once when my husband was home, so it always fell to me to get rid of them.
I got pretty good at catching them, even though those babies wiggle like nothing you can imagine. I kept two legal pads on my coffee table. If I moved fast enough and never hesitated, I could sweep the little snake onto one pad and smash it with the other. Then I’d run as fast as I could and hurl it out the door.
Fortunately, the babies were all King Snakes, which meant they weren’t venomous. King Snakes are actually beneficial, since they’re the mortal enemies of rattlers. But no matter how much good they do, I really don’t want them around. Not in my house, anyway.
A couple of weeks later, after Philly had gone back to being a non-cat cat, I figured we were past the snake crisis. But one evening after coming home from work, I paused outside my house to unlock the front door. And another baby snake fell on my head! On my freakin’ head!
It’s a two-story entry — I can only conclude the stupid snake crawled up on some trim and fell off. Or maybe a hawk dropped it there. However it got there, it fell off right onto my highest point.
I didn’t actually know it was a snake at first. I felt something moving there, but I thought it was a bug. I reached up with the key I already had extended in my hand and flicked it at. Nobody could have been more shocked than I was when I saw what I tossed off with that flick.
So, now it’s spring again. Still love spring. Still love the wildflowers and the baby wildlife. But not snakes. No how, no way. For those of you who like them, and especially those of you who keep them as pets, let’s just agree to disagree on this.