Occupational Hazards

Thursday, October 7, 2010
This spring someone asked if I had a pocket knife they might borrow. I hoisted my "Sex and the City" tote bag higher on my shoulder and looked around, assuming they'd been talking to someone else. Just because I live in the woods, one shouldn't forget my pile of high-heeled shoes collecting dust in a corner. In lots of ways it feels that woods chose me more than I chose them and as a result, I'm not the most proactive woods resident. Pocket knife? What pocket knife?

Still, I'm not Carrie Bradshaw. I'm not going to throw a fit if a squirrel scampers up on the windowsill. I'm pretty in sync with the other animal residents of my neighborhood. The squirrels, chipmunks, birds, foxes, etc., all have a special place in my heart.

But going back to the whole not always being that proactive . . . . For whatever reason, despite having grow up in older houses, I'd never actually set a mouse trap until this summer. But when you work in a 76-year-old building that was never winterized, you learn pretty quickly. Now I think nothing of setting mouse traps or wiping bat crud off the cabin's bathroom walls, for that matter.

Yet I wasn't quite prepared for the woodland intruder I found beneath my desk at work last week: a little garter snake. He was just a teeny little snake who must have slithered through the crack by the front door, probably to soak up some of the sunlight the large slab of slate next to my desk had absorbed.

Years ago, in my kindergarten days, we rented an old house that seemed to be a veritable garter snake refuge. My brother and I often were called upon to remove snakes from the basement or stairwell. But after one of the snakes defecated on me (one of their defense mechanisms), the chore kind of lost its enjoyment. I looked at the little snake and thought, "I could live a long happy life without having to touch you."

Luckily one of the visitors had a thing for snakes. She thought nothing of crouching down by the desk and pulling the snake out by his tail. Here's our bold little snake. He really wasn't too scary. We got him back in the woods in no time, although he left our fearless snake remover a present by musking on her hands before she let him go.
I apologize if this not how one should properly hold a snake. The intent was not animal cruelty but to release the snake into his natural habitat.

That's just life in the woods.

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