Friday, May 02, 2008


Early in March, I mentioned that we had seen a big old snake in one the bushes in front of our house. I was all disappointed that day, because I didn't get a chance to look at him. Little did I anticipate that the snake would become a semi-permanent fixture!

We saw him a few days later, and then again several more days later, and then eventually realized that the snake had made a home in our front flower beds. My friend Marlene and Morgan have named him Sunshine, which is an amusing name for a big black snake, I think. We do usually find him basking in the sunshine.

He is definitely an Eastern Kingsnake--a Good Guy snake who will eat other snakes, including pit vipers. Sunshine has not shown any inclination to climbing our steps and heading inside the house, so we've left him alone. He's a bit over 3 feet long, I think, but I haven't seen him stretched all the way out to get a good estimate.

Here he is, you can see about half of him:

Here he is starting to curl himself into a coil:

Every time we leave or enter the house, we look for Sunshine and talk to him. If he's there, he'll just sit there, usually. Sometimes he'll slink back under the bush. If he's not there, we'll imagine out loud where he might be and what he might be doing. We have learned tons about Eastern Kingsnakes and the kids were thrilled when my sister found one of Sunshine's old snake skins lying around! (I don't think my sister was nearly as thrilled, but she held it together, like the trooper she is.) And of course I have stressed basic snake safety with the kids--not to reach hands into the bushes lest we surprise him, for example.

I used to live in abject horror of snakes--I can't stress enough how terrified I was of them. I didn't want to pass on my fear to my kids (I think if they see Mommy freak out about something, then they're more likely to decide that that something is worth freaking out about, if you know what I mean). One day I was watching Crocodile Hunter and marveling at Steve Irwin's ability to, you know, just go and pick up some mega-dangerous critter and talk about how beautiful it was, when it occurred to me that the snakes almost always seemed to be trying to get away from him.

It was then that I realized that the snakes weren't out to get me and over the years I have slowly gotten over my fear. We see snakes often in the spring and summer here and I'm glad that I don't nearly pass out when we see them. Morgan is not really a big fan, but Ryan enjoys going on our Snake Walks (as we call them) with me, and helping me spot them.

I like our Sunshine and hope he sticks around and also really, really hope that he's a boy snake. :o) A friend of mine who only lives a few miles away just found a copperhead in their yard the other day and hopefully Sunshine will take care of any similar problem for us.

So if you ever come for a visit, Beware of Snake! He won't do anything to you, but he might surprise you if you aren't expecting to see him.


Deb said...

Good for you for getting over that fear, Jenn! And, for not letting your kids in on it. I loathe snakes, I've had a visceral terror of them ever since I read the first Trixie Belden book when I was 12 (where Trixie's brother Bobby is bitten on the toe by a copperhead). But I've never told the kids this, or reacted when we've met them other than perhaps a little flinch and a casual admonition not to touch a snake if you don't know what kind it is. I really believe it's important, as you clearly do, not to communicate one's fear to kids, especially if there's no good rational reason for it. When kids see parents out of control, that's really scary.

On the other hand, I actually like snakes in controlled environments where I can be certain nothing is going to bite me or the kids, and I like going on hikes with people who know a lot about snakes, because I know they can tell me if a particular snake is dangerous or not. So, maybe I should just read up a lot on snakes so I can just tell if one I meet is friend or foe, and perhaps then my terror will disappear.

COD said...

My son has a 4 ft CA King snake in his bedroom. I definitely have a much greater appreciation for snakes now that I've lived with one for several years.

Rational Jenn said...

Deb, I think I remember that Trixie Belden book and it didn't help my issue either! I remember receiving Ranger Rick magazine and not being able to touch any pages that had snakes on it. If I ever saw one, I screamed and freaked and ran away and carried on. It's kind of humiliating to think about now. We lived in Texas for 5 years and we saw ALL KINDS of snakes all the time and I was a wreck. Once, one of our cats brought a (live) baby copperhead into the kitchen and I thought I would DIE. They have some major snakes over there in Texas!

The trick to getting over my fear was to make myself take a good hard look at any and all I saw in real life. Which happens with regularity around here. And I looked up information about the snakes I found (took pictures when I could) and tried to identify them. Once I even emailed a picture to a Snake Peopleguy because I wasn't sure if it was a brown water snake or a moccasin (it was a water snake). I'm pretty confident that I can identify the poisonous from the non-poisonous, but I always make sure to leave a buffer zone just in case. Education helped me quite a bit.

But just making myself look at them and watch them did wonders. At first I could only look for a few seconds. Now I eagerly scout them out and Ryan and I could watch them all day.

COD--You have one in your house!?!? I'm intrigued, although I'm not quite ready to go get one for our house. I like Sunshine as an "outdoor snake." What does yours eat and how often do you have to feed it? They are interesting to watch, aren't they?

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't you try to get away from the Crocodile Hunter too? I think the message I'd take from the attempted escape trend is less about snakes being more afraid of humans that we are of them, and more about snakes having low tolerance for loud, obnoxious and kind of silly Aussies.

Anonymous said...

Cool snake. I'm not a big snake fan, but I guess I can handle them. What I really really don't like are rattle snakes. I came across one during a hike in Arizona. It was truly frightening, and it was all I could do not to run, screaming. So glad I'm not in Arizona anymore. :)

Rational Jenn said...

No, can't say I'm a fan of rattlesnakes--they make my skin go all crawly. Especially the kind they have in AZ. We were visiting family there about 2 years ago and went to a restaurant that had 3 rattlers in a terrarium. Oooh, they were creepy. Would NOT want to run into one of those in the wild.

We have rattlesnakes here, but I've never seen one in person (yay). Don't think they are as big as they are out West, so that's something!

LB said...

Got this today in a "Daily Classic Poem" post and thought you might appreciate it.