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Close encounters of the summertime kind

As I revisit these snake tales, I am very, very happy to report our “snake situation” on Nebraska Avenue ended years ago when the city re-did the entire street and installed a massive storm sewer. For some reason, that 1 1/2-year project eliminated our problem which had affected people from the trails to about Fourth Street. We have very few snakes now and for that, I’m grateful. But oh, the drama in those days . . . . here we go! Back in time, to remember our constant war, revisiting our challenges several years ago: 


As I casually strolled down the basement steps last night, everything seemed normal. Keesha, my furry but ineffective friend, was right behind my heels, following me as she always does to the downstairs bathroom where I change my clothes every day after work.

But, suddenly, we both stopped. I saw a wiggle, a squirm, a swath of moving green that could not be mistaken.

It was the “snake of the summer.”

Each year, somehow, we get that first one in the basement — a snake who snuck by me as I left the door open for the dog to go outside, or slithered in from some tiny little hole somewhere that human eyes don’t even see.

It was “the snake.”

The first instinct was to flee. But as I started, I remembered that fleeing was not an option. I had to stay and fight. The key was to get the critter before he or she had a chance to slither and hide. Once they did that, God only knew where they’d show their ugly heads again or how many more would emerge.

So, in one swift movement, I grabbed the broom and headed down the stairs at lightning speed.

He was a quick one — he put forth a valiant effort. The snake whipped his tail in fury as he tried to dart under the furniture, but lucky for me, the broom was half-way new (hadn’t been sweeping much, I guess), and the bristles were able to pull him back out.

And for the next few moments, it was a heinous scene — full of pounding noises, screaming and unfortunately a very scary killer instinct on my part.

As I gasped for breath, my heart beating from adrenaline, I realized the season is here. The season of close encounters of the summertime kind.

When we lived in Elgin, the challenge was bats. Hundreds and hundreds of bats, flying in the trees, living in people’s attics, hanging on my sweater in the bedroom and upside down from the shower head.

We moved from Gotham City to the grand town of York. And that’s when we realized we were surrounded by snakes.

So many snakes.

When the husband mows the lawn he closely watches dozens slither at lightning speed in front of him, paying attention in order to avoid massive chopping. Many of them get just that — sometimes he hits so many, it actually stops the mower.

If the grass gets a little tall, you can actually see the lawn part as the tribes of disgusting reptiles move through.

We try to be careful — to keep the doors closed, all openings sealed. But sometimes, misunderstanding can create a snake nightmare.

Several years ago, I was cleaning the basement where our living room is located. It was about 10 p.m., and obviously dark out. It was getting hot down there, as I was working, so I decided to open a window. What I didn’t realize is that the screen had been temporarily removed as my husband had been cleaning out the window wells earlier that day.

So as I cleaned, I kept hearing this “clump, clump, clump, clump, clump” sound. I turned off the vacuum cleaner. What is that sound? I turned it back on. Back off. I looked around. I kept hearing the sound and couldn’t figure out where it was coming from.

“Clump, clump, clump.”

Was it the bass of a teen’s stereo as he listened to rap music on the street outside?

“Clump, clump, clump, clump.”

Maybe it was the beginning of a practice session at the neighbor’s house on the corner — he played the drums.

“Clump, clump, clump, clump, clump.”

The sound became more personal, and it was obvious this was something in the room with me. Was the water purifying unit making a strange sound? Was the water meter outside malfunctioning?

“Clump, clump, clump, clump.”

Then, I discovered the horrible truth. Snakes by the dozens were climbing up over the window and falling onto our hard-surfaced couch. I couldn’t even believe what I was seeing.

The clump sound? The snakes falling down and hitting the couch.

I grabbed everything I could find — the husband’s work boot in one hand, a big wooden, two-foot hamburger-flipper from the grill kit in the other. And with both hands in motion, I started to beat everything that moved. I knew I couldn’t let one get away.

Realizing they were overtaking me, I reached up and slammed the window shut — a lot of snakes met their demise. I pushed the window until I couldn’t push anymore — squishing anything that dared to enter.

Then I continued the task of stomping, hitting, smashing – while creaming at the top of my lungs the entire time. The sound alone should have killed them, if they had ears like normal animals.

Meanwhile, the husband arrived home. All he could hear was blood curdling screams coming from the basement. Not knowing if I was being attacked by a serial killer or just finally losing my mind, he ran for the door.

“What’s the matter?” his voice boomed, as he ran down the basement stairs.

“Snakes . . . snakes . . . lots of snakes,” I screamed, never stopping the bludgeoning.

“Oh my God!” he yelled, grabbing a boot and a scissors that was lying on the coffee table. My reinforcement was here — they had no idea what they were up against. The allies were at work, it was no longer a single-front attack.

Now four hands were at work, and his feet — he stomped what he could reach, cut what moved before him and beat what he saw.

For the next 10 minutes, we waged war against the invaders. We moved the furniture, to make sure we had everybody. It looked like the battle was won.

He got a shovel and scooped everything up. We started to clean up the zone.

“There is one more snake under that boot over there,” I reminded him.

We took a few minutes to catch our breath.

“Oh, that’s right,” he said. “I still have to get that one under the boot.”

But to our horror, as we lifted the boot, the snake was gone.

“How could that be?” I screamed. “We have to find him.”

We searched and searched, but to no avail. I’d heard these dastardly creatures could “reinvent themselves” —I have no idea if that’s true, but there’s no other real explanation. It wasn’t for a few weeks until the sickly looking assailant appeared. He might as well have been holding a tiny white flag of surrender. Unfortunately for him, we hadn’t signed a treaty allowing prisoners of war. Execution was the only answer. He had gone all this way, only to be put out of his misery by my killing machine. You see, during those few weeks, I carried the shovel with me everywhere I went in the downstairs level of our house — which proved to be excellent strategy on my part.

They say snakes are a good thing — they kill insects, or something. Whatever. That’s what bug killer is for. At least a bottle of something from the hardware store doesn’t slither and hiss and make your skin crawl.

And let’s not forget that it was a snake that turned the Garden of Eden upside down.

This morning, when I opened the door to leave for work, there were six big boys lying on the cement, sunning themselves in the rays from the eastern sky. As they slithered for cover, I quickly shut the door.

And I announced out loud, as if they understand English, “You have no idea who you’re messing with.”

Hope they heed the warning — I’m not in the mood for any more close encounters.


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