My gal doesn’t like snakes. A phobia that seems to have stemmed from an incident back in coastal Shandong. A wee-girl, she was caught by surprise when some local delinquent threw a snake at her. The countryside, she described to me with a sour face, where you could see piles of snakes, all writhing together just outside the village. The poor village, which has since then had a hulking chemical factory built up next door. No one has to worry about snakes or much of any other wildlife now.
I have always been fascinated by snakes. From as early as I can remember, I’d wanted to catch frogs, and turtles and certainly snakes, if I could. Birds, and rabbits and deer were of no particular interest. But reptiles, were exceedingly cool. In the time that I’ve been back in this area, a year or so now, I have only really seen one garter snake, out by the bridge over the stream, on Huguenot Street, near Garvan’s. But then I haven’t been hunting them out.
Today I got a wechat call from my wife. (Fuck-off Donald, the app still works, for now.) “Can you come down here? There’s a snake.” I was in the middle of five things and I dropped them all, grabbed my phone and headed out to the pile of gravel and bricks we’d inherited here and which she’d been dismantling. First question, of course: “How big was it?” I’m brave to a point. She suggested something a little over a foot in length. “What were the colors?” “Black.” Hmm. “It wasn’t black and yellow?” She shook her head, disgusted to even think of it. I was intrigued as it didn’t sound like a garter snake.
or so later, I saw the smokey grey ribbon, between two paving stones. Colder than summer, he seemed a bit sluggish
as he moved to find new shelter. My wife
presented me with a challenge: “Move it!” And “Do not touch it!” in the same
exhalation. First, I used my app to identify
that this was a ringneck snake, with a telltale yellow ribbon circling his round
(read, non-venomous) head and a pale, yellow underbelly. I attempted to coax him on to a spade, but
eventually gave up and just picked him up, right behind the head and gently escorted
him off to the pile of rocks on the edge of our property. Later (yes, after thoroughly washing my hands,
my dear,) I learned he was nocturnal and we’d obviously disturbed his sleep. Oh, if I could have only presented that culebra
to my eleven- year-old self. That would
have been a grand gift, across time.