A True Story

September 18, 2008 077 (2)
It began just like any other day, every day, in the Fairegarden. It was late spring. I was wearing the standard gardening attire of long knit pants tucked into knee socks, sloggers, an old long sleeved dress shirt of The Financier’s buttoned up to the neck with collar standing up to discourage mosquitoes, and gloves. There was weeding, walking around, bending down looking for buds, more weeding, moving this here and that there.
Suddenly there was a cacaphony of screeching birds. There are many types of birds around here, and most of them were on their second nesting of the season. The first instinct was to check for our male gray cat, Kitty. He is outside sometimes and has been known to cause a ruckus with the parental bird units. But he was asleep on the deck, totally innocent of any wrongdoing. Maybe one of the neighborhood cats was causing trouble. Gardener to the rescue. The noise seemed to be coming from behind the arborvitae hedge that grows along the back property line backing the walled veggie bed. The main screechers were robins, who were darting and diving at a wildling mulberry tree behind the arborvitae. But it was not just robins in attack mode. Catbirds, cardinals and chickadees were flying around and making the most noise I have ever heard the birds make, cats around or no. What was the cause of this hubbub?

I stood on the wall in front of the tomato cages to see what or who was the cause of the upset. It was frantic activity, with birds swooping and diving and making the loudest possible, scariest noises ever. My heart nearly stopped in my chest when I saw the culprit. There, in a large messy nest, probably a robin’s building design, coiled like a garden hose was a snake. A big one. Oh no oh no oh no. I hate snakes, all snakes, I don’t care if they are poisonous or not. I don’t care if they help rid the garden of rodents like mice and rats. I hate them. And the larger they are, the more I hate, make that am terrified of them.

What to do, think. This is happening in the neighbor’s property, not mine. There is a fence under a gazillion types of vines between the evergreen hedge and the disaster playing out before my eyes. It is almost assuredly too late to save the eggs, or baby birds, or whatever was in that nest. This is a huge snake, several feet easily, most likely the rat snake I have seen around here twice before, always at the edge of the property, near the brushpiles. I walk away, without a destination, trying to put the thought of this perfectly normal act of nature out of my mind. This is the way nature works. It is called the food chain and baby birds are pretty low on it. Go back to your gardening and ignore it. Fat chance.

The bird brigade is still at it, squawking and diving at the intruding murderer. What to do, think. What can I do? I can’t even get to the little tree where the attack is taking place at this very moment! Anyway, it is a snake, a big one, and I wouldn’t even go near it with a ten foot pole. The old saw comes to mind like a flash. A ten foot pole. I have a ten foot pole, two of them in fact, that are hanging along the bottom of the garage deck, put there to hang the orchids on. There is nothing hanging on them now, it turned out to be too sunny a spot for the orchids that spend their summers outside. They are silvery metal stainless steel poles, for electrical wiring to run through, I think. They are long and strong. Like a medieval jouster’s weapon of choice. I am walking towards the poles thinking of an armored knight astride a mighty steed riding to save the day.

I grab the pole, being careful not to break a window as the rock steps are reclimbed to go to the scene of the crime still taking place. Question number one: Will the pole reach the snake? Question number two: What to do if the snake slides down the pole towards me? I am there now, be still my heart, for it is about to jump out of my body with the beats per minute totally out of control. The pole reaches the tightly coiled snake. I give him a hard poke. Nothing. Another harder poke. Nothing. He has his tail wrapped around the limb, no stupid snake, this one. Maybe I can stick the pole through a loop of his long body and pull him out. After several tries, the pole is positioned in a coil. We give a tug to the left, all the while the birds are still at it and the pole is sticking though an opening in the vine covered wire fence. Not much room to manuever the pole to the side. The snake is an immovable object, strong, very strong. And scary. We lift the pole above the vines and fence and try once again to get a loop of reptilian skin. He knows we are here and looks backwards, at me. This is too much. It’s now or never. I place my feet wider apart to not fall off the wall, bend my knees, say a little prayer and give a push of the pole to the left with every fibre of my being. It worked! The snake falls to the ground with the hard thump. I drop the pole and take off down the rock steps, leaping, make that flying like Michael Jordan over half of them and run into the house.

Why I have not had a heart attack at this point, who knows? I need to call someone, anyone, tell them what has just happened. Talk it out, calm down by telling the story. I go through the address book of family members on my cell phone. All four offspring are unavailable. Rats. One more person to try before calling The Financier at work, my good friend Gail. Praise be she answers. I spurt out the words of what just happened. It hardly seems real. Was this a dream? The telling of the tale and her intelligent responses and questions help get me back into a normal frame of mind, if not a happy one. I am ever so thankful for meeting this wonderful, kind person at the first Garden Blogger Spring Fling in Austin, Texas, 2008.

The birds are quiet now. I go back up to the little sad tree. The nest is a shambles, some of it must have fallen to the ground with the snake. There are twigs and bits of straw and pine needles on the ground. All that remains of potential orange breasted friends. No sign of the snake either. He is not dead, a good thing I suppose, for there has been enough death for one day.

The offspring start calling, why had I called, they asked. I told them the snake story, remembering the vivid vision of it clearly, cementing it in my mind with each telling. I was calm now, and sort of tired. You should blog about this, said one. Oh no, it is too terrible. I can’t. Not now. Maybe not ever. The blog is for happy stories and pretty flowers.

It has been several months since that day. The ten foot pole is hanging back on the garage deck. The birds are still all over, the babies are all grown up. A robin family was at the birdbath outside the master bedroom sliders yesterday. The juvenile has brown spots on his chest below the beginning of orange feathers going down from his neck. Is this the same family involved in the tragic attack? I can’t help but think of the snake and where he might be. A large snakeskin was found in the depths of the rotting carcass of the red maple Ferngully. Does that mean he has outgrown that skin and is even larger now? I think whenever that area of the garden is getting attention, the knee high muckboots might be worn, no matter the temperature of the day.

This is a true story. It was decided that the time was right to share the tale on the blog. Like a cleansing. A purging. Things that I have learned from this experience are that nature can be cruel as well as wonderful. And it is a good idea to have a ten foot pole or two hanging around. Just in case.

October 3, 2009 004 (2)

An edited version of this story was submitted to Fine Gardening magazine for publishing on the last page, where a personal narrative is normally shared with the readers. After no contact by that organization for several weeks, it was decided that the tale would be told on the blog. For free.

Added: To see an illustration of the battle, click here. Thanks so much Shady!

Added: The next day after this story was posted an email was received from Fine Gardening saying thanks but no thanks for the article that had been submitted two months before. Funny how the timing of that response worked.


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59 Responses to A True Story

  1. Garden Mary says:

    What an adventure. You were brave to take on that snake considering how you feel about them. It always amazes me how people rush in to help other creatures without thinking about themselves.
    Good job.

    Always Growing

    Hi Jan, this had my heart beating faster than it ever has before, don’t know how it didn’t burst! Even the writing of it, months after the event, gets me riled up again. It was like something out of a movie, only real. I didn’t save anything, except maybe my own sanity, knowing that at least an attempt was made.

  2. Beckie says:

    Frances, soo glad you shared this with us. I hate snakes too and my skin was crawling reading your very descriptive story.

    I can imagine what an effort it took for you to push that nest and snake out of the tree! But at least you DID something to try to make it better, Nature can be very cruel sometimes and it is hard for us to standby and watch. I think she doesn’t mind a little interferrence some times.

    I think your story would have made a great article. In fact, any of your writings would. So keep on trying.

    Congratulations on your awards! Well deserved!!

    Hi Beckie, thanks for the encouraging words, they mean alot. I don’t think I have the emotional makeup to take the rejections that publication brings. Blogging is so easy, no one to please but myself, no editors, no waiting, when I want it out there, it is just the click of a button. Hard to adapt to anything else. Skin crawling is an apt description of just the thought of snakes, tummy turning is good too!

  3. James A-S says:

    I met some baby grass snakes on somebody’s compost heap the other day: they were rather charming. Mind, you that is all we have over here: except adders but I have only ever seen one of those and it was about the length of a cat so not very scary.
    I have met a python once but that was a pet – a sadly short lived pet as it got stick behind a radiator and perished unpleasantly, poor thing.

    Hi James, no no no. Even baby snakes cannot be charming, by definition. Less frightening, yes, charming, no way Freenay, as my kids used to say. A pet snake is the product of insanity.

  4. Darla says:

    I am so glad that you dear Frances…..a gardening master, are a ‘little’ afraid of snakes too! I completely understand the digesting of such a tragic event before posting..I have now seen 5 snakes in the last two weeks…so ready for them to find their home for the winter…You are a brave soul…I would run to get my snake hunter…(husband)!

    Thanks Darla. In the past, I ran to my neighbor Mickey to come dispatch a snake found very near the deck under a log. He grabbed a machete and I was very glad the snake was gone when we came back to my house. The thought of seeing that bit if violence beat out the fear of snake as abbhorent. But there was not time to get help in this case and I was home alone. It was the birds upset that gave me the adrenaline rush needed to do anything at all. I have not seen any snakes since. That probably jinxed it and now I will see ten today!

  5. Dear Frances,
    You had me on the edge of my seat! Poor little birds. A valiant effort on your part.

    Thanks Jackie. I was worried about being able to convey the fear factor in the telling of this true story. For that is the number one point that needed to be gotten across. I wish I could have saved at least one life, but feel my efforts were too little too late.

  6. Daphne Gould says:

    In my last house I had a garter snake that lived there. Once I caught him eating one of my toads. Bad snake. Toads are precious here since they eat the slugs. You can probably tell that snakes don’t bother me much. I even wanted one as a pet (a boa constrictor) when I was a kid. My mother nixed that. I do jump when I first see them, but before I consciously know what they are. But then I grew up in the west and met a lot of rattlesnakes over my childhood. Those I’m scared of.

    Hi Daphne, I needed you here to take care of that snake! You could have gone right up to the little tree and uncoiled it, maybe give it a stern talking to, and sent it on its way! We had lots of poisonous snakes in Oklahoma where I grew up, including rattlers and water snakes, the sneakiest kinds if you happened to be swimming in a lake. Makes me shudder just to think of it.

  7. Les says:

    I hope the telling of your story has allowed you to reach some sort of closure. We can all take a lesson from this tale, never underestimate the power of a 10′ pole.

    Thanks, Les. I am glad you got the point of this tale, have a ten foot pole handy at all times! I am having to relive this event as the comments come in, surely this will dilute the terror and close the door on this unhappy story.

  8. Gail says:

    Frances, Dear friend, I remember well your harrowing experience with the snake! What an adventure, from start to finish. I was so glad to be able to help. It is still a complete wonder to me how you could have reached up with a pole to poke that snake. We are all now wondering if there is a pole long enough to entice us to attempt this! The critters who live at fairegarden are indeed fortunate to have you as their champion. I count myself fortunate to have met you. Thank you for the linklove. Btw, This would have made a good story for Fine Gardening. gail ps You keep wearing those muck boots in the garden.

    Dear Gail, you saved my mental health that day, and many others too! My weak arms would not have been able to lift the pole so high without the tremendous adrenline surge. I was like the incredible hulk! Maybe not hulk, more like incredible grandma, but stronger than normal. HA You need to bring some boots along when you come visit, BTW. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. VP says:

    And we your world-wide readers have benefiited so much from your generosity Frances. What’s the betting Fine Gardening’s acceptance is in the mail, right now?

    All bet’s are off, VP. I didn’t follow their strict guidelines of submission. I didn’t know how to make an outline of this story, what they asked for, and could not whittle it down to the number of words either. I just sent the whole thing, not this version, somewhat shorter without the phone calls part and never even got a no thank you from them. Don’t care. Blogging is way more fun anyway. But thanks for the support my friend. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • VP says:

      A pity – their loss is our gain ๐Ÿ™‚

      And yes, blogging’s a lot more fun!

      Thanks VP. I like owning the story on the blog too, rather than surrendering the rights to it, money crossing hands or not. And I like the comments. And awards, but the comments are more important, like a conversation. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • VP says:

        Just saw your comment to OFB. I still think there’s much to be gained by trying. We need to be shaken out of our niche from time to time and write something different. I’ve lucky enough to be able to do some guest posting and it can be quite a challenge to write something to fit with someone else’s style of blog. I wrote a more questioning piece recently for a blog on one of our national newspapers – I don’t think I could do that all the time but it’s good to try and it was something I felt needed to be said too.

        You are so right, VP, we do need to stretch and try new things. Like writing without photos about biscuits. My goal is to be a fruit. ๐Ÿ™‚ HA

      • VP says:

        Tee hee – so’s mine. I have a post on there lined up AND several more ideas. As if I need any more! But such fun and good to see everyone taking part like you and Gail. And yes, I treasure comments and conversations above all else.

        So glad you also came on a visit today. Of course I’d be delighted if you did another OOTS post whenever you have the time. I’m planning on doing the wrap-up post on Saturday. If you post later, just let me know and I’ll make sure it gets added to the wrap-up, just like Nan does at Gardening Gone Wild with GBDW. I’ll also make sure it gets mentioned in the kick-off post in December, so that the people who missed it have a chance to have a look. I did that with Patient Gardener last month ๐Ÿ™‚

        Hope your day is a fine one – Autumn’s truly arrived here, so it’s a bit gloomy and raining.

        Hi VP, it is fun to go off on that tangent, isn’t it? Thanks for letting me post late. This is just such a good meme and I always see stuff when out and about but usually don’t have the camera with me. Lots of good ideas seen all the time. Happy Autumn to you, gloom or no. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. tina says:

    You are so very brave Frances! I hope the snake is long gone now.

    Thanks Tina. I had to do something, you should have heard the urgency in the birds cries! It would have haunted me forever. I am sure the snake is still around. I saw the skin in ferngully well after that event. There is plenty of food for him here with all the critters around. I wish he would eat some voles!

  11. commonweeder says:

    Frances, you are a better women than I. Snakes scare me into frozen inaction. Fine Gardening’s poor judgement is all to our benefit.

    I doubt that very much, Pat, but thanks! If you had heard the sounds of the birds you would have had to do something too. As for the magazine, what was I thinking? I am a blogger and that is all I need to be. ๐Ÿ™‚


  12. ourfriendben says:

    Too bad about Fine Gardening, Frances! But maybe VP’s right. Fingers crossed!

    Hi OFB, thanks. Funny how the writers are all commenting on the magazine rather than the snake, with the exception of James. I have given up on that kind of writing. I am not emotionally able to take the rejection that goes with it, not very thick skinned. Blogging is better for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Lzyjo says:

    OMG! What a terrifying story! I can’t believe you actually had a ten foot pole! LOL! I love your descriptions, running like Michael Jordan, or should that be flying?! I hope you can laugh about it now.

    Thanks Lzyjo, it was unimaginable at the moment. It was funny about the ten foot pole, amazing that my mind could even remember that I had not one but two during the stress. And I did fly down the steps, sailing just like the master himself. It is still a horrible memory, but me and the pole is kind of funny now. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Wow, do you have any idea what kind of snake it was? I haven’t seen a single snake around here but really wouldn’t mind a couple to take care of the voles.

    I think it was the rat snake that I have seen around here a couple of times before. I was sitting under the arbor when it was first built and a giant snake slithered by my feet, raised up to eye level where I was in the chair, I said go away, and he went on his way. I moved the chairs out from under the arbor that same hour. That event is a whole other post, isn’t it? We still have tons of voles, so this large snake is not eliminating them.

  15. Teresa O says:

    Thanks for sharing your difficult tale to tell. Like so many others, I cringe at the word snake, refuse to go inside the snake house at the zoo, and try to believe garter snakes really are good.

    Thanks for your support, Teresa. Try as I might, the repulsion and fear of snakes cannot be overcome.

  16. Janet says:

    That was some adventure! Sometimes Mother Nature can be cruel. How kind of you to intervene on behalf of the birds. I can’t imagine the adrenaline surge you had after it was over!

    Thanks Janet. I had to do something, even though I had intended to walk away, maybe get in the car and drive away to escape the pitiful sound of the attacking birds. Maybe I have seen one too many movies where someone comes in to save the day and acted out. The adrenaline OD nearly killed me!

  17. Rose says:

    What a brave woman you are, Frances! I absolutely hate snakes, too; spiders don’t bother me, and my former wormaphobia has been almost cured–but snakes are another story. I think I would have been wearing those knee-high boots all summer in this area of the garden, if I were you, if I had ventured there at all:)
    Fine Gardening doesn’t know what they missed! I would have purchased a copy just to read this story.

    Thanks Rose, you are so sweet. And I did wear the boots from then on, no matter the temps. Although what would I do with them, kick the snake? HA ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Jen says:

    Snakes are not a problem to me, but a large hairy spider…you get the picture. I am glad that you did something, and obviously the right thing, facing fears is never easy.

    Everyone is right, Fine Gardening doesn’t know what it missed.


    Hi Jen, thanks. Spiders do not bother me at all, although I don’t want one on me. Hairy ones like taratulas are another story, thank goodness we don’t have those around here like we did back home in Oklahoma. They can jump into open car windows.

  19. Pam/Digging says:

    I’m not very scared of snakes, and I think I would have seen the whole event as a “Wild Kingdom” life-and-death story. I’d probably have gotten out binoculars to see how it played out. That must seem terribly callous to you though, as you went into superwoman mode to save those baby birds. You are very kind-hearted, Frances. I hope the birds reward you with many close-ups in days to come. ๐Ÿ™‚

    As for the essay, don’t be discouraged by one no-response. Or by rejections for that matter. I used to be an asst. editor at a magazine, and we received so very many submissions, including many good ones that just weren’t what we were looking for. I sent out innumerable rejection letters. Some of those writers sent new pieces again and again and eventually got a big YES. Don’t give up.

    Thanks for those encouraging words, Pam. I can imagine how many stories are sent to them, and I didn’t even follow the rules. That probably means I didn’t really want it to be accepted anyway. And I don’t believe for one minute that you would not have tried to help the birds if you were here and saw and heard what was happening. They were crying out for help, you would have responded swiftly. With your height, that ten foot pole would have been easy to defend the nest. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Sweet Bay says:

    OK I had to laugh when I read that you saw the snakeskin and wondered if the snake was bigger now. Sorry! ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’m not afraid of snakes (except for Water Moccasins, which luckily we don’t have here — perhaps the creek runs too fast), but it is surely true that there is a not-pretty side to nature. Snakes get a lot of baby rabbits and cotton rats around here, and I was forcefully reminded that non-poisonous snakes are constrictors when I went to check out a shrieking sound one day. (How did I think they captured their prey? I thought to myself.)

    I am glad Gail was there to talk to you. It’s wonderful to have a friend to talk to when you need to share an experience!

    Thanks Sweet Bay, laugh to keep the demons at bay. Bay, get it? HA The thing about constricting makes perfect sense, I had never thought about it before. That was one strong snake. Gail has been a wonderful gift from blogging, I don’t know what I would do without her. ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Okay, can I relax my white knuckles now? The heart-pounding is so loud, I can hear it.


    Thanks Cameron, I do appreciate your getting into the story telling. You are a good audience member. ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Catherine says:

    That was quite the story. Luckily we don’t get snakes in our yard, but I know they would scare me too. The way you described it I felt like I was there watching the whole thing. I bet those birds thought you were their hero ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks Catherine. I tried really hard to make it seem real. I think the telling and retelling on the phone with Gail and the kids, then my husband when he got home helped me remember the details. The birds go about their own agenda, but I like to think I am a silent protector of their habitat. ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I had a similar happening many years ago. I can feel your pain but I am not as afraid of snakes as you are. I usually let them go on their way but when I found one in the bluebird box eating the babies and the parents outside crying in their distress, lets just say the snake had its last meal.

    Alllllrrrrriiiight, Lisa!!! I needed you here that day. Just imagining finding one in the bluebird box would make me see red too. I don’t think I would be able to go farther than just making it stop. Perhaps a relocation in a cat carrier to somewhere out in the country where it would be more welcome.

  24. The poor snake! It had finally found something to eat, yet was being dive bombed by birds so that it could hardly enjoy its meal. Then this cold metal pole rudely knocked the poor thing out of the tree.
    I think snakes are cute and wish I had at least one in my garden. My thinking is, if it isn’t the snake getting the eggs, it’ll be the raccoons. We find smashed or broken robin’s eggs on the ground frequently in spring.
    But good for you to confront your fears and try to do something for the birds. (Even though I don’t agree.)

    Well, in all fairness I guess the snake’s side of the story should be told. Always the solicitor, eh MMD? If you had heard the birds and seen what was happening, I don’t believe you would have been able to think it cute. I did try to walk away, but the sound and my love for the birds got the better of me. When the phrase about the ten foot pole entered the thought process, I knew what I had to do. And I think you would have done the same. I don’t think I hurt the snake either, just interrupted his meal, rather rudely I admit. Baby birds are way down on the food chain, like the baby rabbits, basically food for all. But that doesn’t mean I have to witness it. I am delicate, you know. ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. Lona says:

    OMG, Frances you were a hero to the birds. I am with you I have a real hate for snakes, no matter how big or what kind. I got bitten as a youngster so have no use for any of them. I am not as generous of nature as you because if I can reach them they are dead.
    It was Fine Gardening’s loss and our gain of the telling of your adventure with the snake.

    Hi Lona, thanks for the sweet words. Oh my goodness, you were bit as a kid, that is just too traumatic! I don’t blame you for killing them, I just don’t have the nerve even if I felt the need, to kill anything.

  26. Hi Frances! I couldn’t help it – you conjured an image in mind as I read this… please go here: http://yardisgreen.blogspot.com/2007/10/frances-to-rescue.html

    Wow, Shady, that was great! Your illustration is spot on! And thanks for making me taller. Love the helmet. You are quite talented! I have added the link to the post. ๐Ÿ™‚


  27. lotusleaf says:

    I too have had similar experiences with snakes. A snake is a scary creature whether it is poisonous or not. Congrats for showing so much courage and presence of mind.

    Thanks, Lotusleaf. Whether or not they are poisonous is irrelevant to me too. They are all equally scary. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

  28. Frances, i really enjoyed the sketches by shady. And this post of yours did not allow me to take my eyes off the screen. You are really courageous.

    Hi Muhammad, thanks. I am so glad you went to see Shady’s drawings. What a talent and she portrayed it quite accurately, maybe not the helmet part though. HA ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. What bravery. And, a great story, too.

    Thanks Linda. Brave? Not me, I just couldn’t bear the thought, and sound of what was happening. If I was brave I would have gone over there and yanked that snake out of the nest and give it a good shaking instead of poking it from ten feet away. It probably would have wrapped itself around my arm, or neck, aarrrgghhh…sorry I went down that path. Thanks will do it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  30. VW says:

    Add me to the scared of snakes category. Good for you for saving the babies. A mother’s protective instinct is an important part of nature.

    Hi VW, thanks. It is common sense to be afraid of snakes, methinks. Maybe it was the mother in me that was the motivation, I’m a mother allright. ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. Kathleen says:

    omg Frances. You deserve a medal. I am absolutely terrified of snakes too so I know how difficult this must have been for you. The squawking of parent birds would have been a high motivator tho. I do the same thing when I’m outside ~ check to see what all the commotion is about. The blue jay parents were doing this in my garden this spring and the culprit was a squirrel. Easier to take than a large snake although I still hate the cycle of life occurring right before my eyes.
    I was going to say “don’t give up on FG” but sounds like you already read the submission guidelines and figured out what to do (for next time).

    Thanks Kathleen. I was too late to save anything, but at least the birds quieted down as soon as the snake was on the ground. Poor dears. What was interesting was that it was several types of birds, all working for a common cause. Oooh about the squirrel, I didn’t realize they were carniverous, even more reason to be mad at them beyond all that digging. As for FG, I had read the submission guidelines before sending the story to them. They wanted an outline, and I didn’t feel this story could be outlined. I am a poor rule follower. ๐Ÿ™‚

  32. Kanak says:

    I don’t think I could’ve done what you did. Snakes freak me out and knowing how you feel about them, it was very brave on your part, Frances.

    Thanks Kanak. You probably have much larger and more dangerous snakes where you live, but if you had heard the plaintive sound of the birds you would have done something, even if it was just throw a rock, or shovel, or hoe….

  33. elephant's eye says:

    Hiking on the mountain years ago with a niece. Suddenly she screamed and shot up the mountain. I looked down, and there at my feet, enjoying the winter afternoon sun, was a snake the size of a car tyre. No scream. I quietly reversed back on to the other path. The road not taken. And left him in peace, HIS home after all.

    Oh my. You are wise to just back down, the size of a tire you say? That is the stuff of nightmares. Thanks for sharing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  34. We know who to call now if we need someone to scare the snakes. The illustration was hilarious with the kitty looking on and questioning your sanity.

    Yeah, someone besides me! The drawing by Shady cracked me up, I didn’t notice Kitty the first time I looked at it. What talent. Thanks for checking it out, Anna. ๐Ÿ™‚

  35. Barbarapc says:

    Frances, you are a braver woman than me. I’m ok with snakes, but thats because ours are so benign and small and don’t climb trees and eat birds, yuck. I thought your story had a wonderful Mutual of Omaha feel to it. I can hear Marlin Perkins narrating as the snake slithers up to get his meal, when all of a sudden, and so unexpectedly St. Frances with her mighty pole saves the day. And, word on the street is that the Editorial team at Fine Gardening is like a slug on Valium. Thanks for sharing.

    Thanks Barbara. I didn’t realize snakes climbed trees, but remembered Jungle Book. Yikes! How funny about ole Marlin too. I used to love his shows. The illustration by Shady was sort of Disneyesque, don’t you agree? Slug on Valium, thanks, that made my day! ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. What an ordeal! You must have been scared out of your wits! I have several family members who are deathly afraid of snakes as well, good thing I was the kid chasing them around the house with the garter snake or the green grass snake,whichever I had happened to catch that summer day, or else I might be ill prepared for the cottonmouths and timber rattle snakes I sometimes cross paths with in the cedar glades!
    The key is, to think like the snake,
    so your a snake,you’ve got no arms,no legs,
    pretty much helpless, and you’re just chillin on your sunny rock in the glades,and along comes this monstrous creature that smells awful to you, so of course,your frightened silly,and provided no escape route resort to your only defense of striking.
    Ok yeah still terrifying to many people, but hey at least the rattlers give fair warning!

    Hi JJ, thanks for your input, another person presenting the snake’s point of view. Except this one wasn’t just chillin’ on a rock! ๐Ÿ™‚

  37. marydelle says:

    You were very brave, Frances. Bravery means that you do the right thing at the right time no matter how frightened you are. I know the birds needed you to do that. That snake was in their territory. No matter the injury he had caused. He needed to go. Very brave.

    Thanks for that, Mary. I am impulsive to a fault, and this time it led me to do the right thing, I agree. If there was time to think it through, it might not have happened the way it did. I was proud, if terrified. ๐Ÿ™‚

  38. Siria says:

    Oh Frances…you are a brave soul! I have a horrible fear of snakes and only wish if I was in your spot that I would have the courage to do the same. Your birds are lucky to have you as their protector!

    Thanks Siria. If you could have heard the pitiful cries of the birds, you would have figured out something to do about it too, I’m sure. ๐Ÿ™‚

  39. Hi Frances, I was surprised you added a link to the sketch. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing and I’m glad you liked it! Thanks. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I loved it Shady, thanks so much! You are a very talented artist too. I showed The Financier and he was impressed with how long you made my legs. He always was a leg man. HA ๐Ÿ™‚

  40. lynnsgarden says:

    I loved the story here, Frances. Can just envision you in your getup with the 10ft pole…too bad there’s no picture! Me too, me too…I don’t like slithers..and if I see one..well, I run and scream like a girl! You’re my hero!

    Thanks Lynn, glad you liked this true story. It would have made quite a photo, Shady got very close to how it really was with her great drawing linked at the end of the post. Whenever I come upon a snake, or it comes upon me, I am frozen with fear, can’t move or scream, but feel nauseous and petrified! It was the birds hollering that moved me to action.

  41. Lola says:

    OMG, what a harrowing event. Can’t imagine standing on a wall poking at a snake of that size. It was bad enough for me stepping on a baby snake. Couldn’t run, couldn’t yell, thought if I tried to get off I might get bitten. Rods in leg don’t help any. Finally thought may as well just walk away. It worked.

    Oh Lola, how frightening! Glad you survived to tell the tale. At least I was ten feet away from it, but kept thinking it could slide down the pole towards me. Scary stuff.

  42. Wow a braver woman than I am that’s for sure.

    Thanks Joanne. You would have done something to save the birds too. Maybe not grab a pole, probably something smarter. ๐Ÿ™‚

  43. gittan says:

    You are so brave I must say! I’ve had a snake in my house as a pet for my eldest doughter. I didn’t relise what I did when I sayed yes when she told us that she wanted a snake for her birthday when she was ten. During the first week that snake lived here he managed to escape from the terrarie three times! The Carpenter had to surch the whole basement for him. Once he found him inside the washing machine. I can tell for sure that we wont ever, ever have another snake in this house!

    Thanks Gittan. You are quite a good mother to allow your daughter to have a pet snake. I would never in a million years allow that, but my kids would not want a pet snake anyway. They inherited their mother’s fears. I might have had to get a new washing machine too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  44. Miss Daisy says:

    Oh my! What an adventure! Glad you were safe and the birds were saved, too!

    Hi Jen-Miss Daisy, thanks and welcome. Not sure if any birds were saved, possibly, but the parent birds were glad of it I think. ๐Ÿ™‚

  45. I’m laughing because you are freaking out over a snake. I see little grey ones often in the summer and one big black snake at least once during the year. I can understand how the pitiful cries of the birds can spur one to action. I might do the same thing, not because I didn’t like the snake eating babies or eggs, but just to quiet the ruckus.

    Hi Christopher, I wish you had been here, with your height and strength you could have dispatched that snake quickly, and since you don’t fear them, could have done it bare handed. The sound the birds were making would be impossible to ignore. That certainly was the impetus for me, along with my love of the birds and non love of snakes in general.

  46. Semi says:

    Oh my! I would have had a heart attack. Brave mom. I could hardly read it. I love the pictures of the garden warrior. Good story, scary but good. Love u

    Dear Semi, I am so glad you weren’t here. I know you saw snakes when you lived here, probably from the same family if not the same one. I have seen it before too, but in the tree in the nest was just too much and action had to be taken. I think you could have done it too, the birds were begging for help. Shadys drawing is great, isn’t it?
    Love, Frances

  47. Carol says:

    Well Frances you certainly have given me a few laughs… right before I go to be… should be in bed. First I have to say that first photo is gorgeous! What is that waterfall of a plant … so lovely… the colors and textures. I will take another look at that right before I go to be… writing about snakes this late might not be such a good idea… even though I am thankful for most of the long slivering creatures. I can understand and applaud your heroism in saving the baby robins … and I hope those were the very ones you saved visiting the other day. Snakes do not bother me like spiders! But I have never met a truly harmful snake … just garter snakes … not since my youth… but I was away and never saw the water moccasin (I admit I do hate those… horrid creatures) that killed my dog. Any snake that keeps country mice and voles in check I do respect… but if they were going after baby birds I would try to persuade them otherwise. Great story and I can see why you might need to wait to share it. Carol

    HA Carol, thanks. The white blooming thug of a plant that rides the brush pile behind the Arborvitae has the common name of Mile A Minute, silver fleece vine, Polygonum aubertii, don’t get it!!! I planted it to hide the chain link fence until the Pyracanthas grew. Bad idea. I did not dream of snakes the first night after posting this story, but did last night after answering the comments and having to think about snakes in general just once too many times. Right before bed is a bad idea to think about them, or anything icky. I am so sorry about your dog, a tragic loss. I double hate water moccasins after hearing that sad story. Hope you were able to have a good night’s sleep.

  48. chuck b. says:

    If you’re as afraid of snakes as I am of spiders, what you did was very brave indeed! If it had been a spider of comparable size, I would have left the birds to fend for themselves, and fled the garden never to return.

    I think you gave that snake a clear indication it was not welcome to Faire Garden hospitality. Hopefully it slithered away to a more suitable location.

    Well, it is hard to say if our fears are equal, Chuck, but the fear of snakes is great. Being afraid of spiders is worse though, you would have to see so many more of them! I don’t believe you would have left the birds alone if you could hear their pleas for help. No one is that hard hearted, fear or no. I do think the snake was given a surprise, not expecting a poke from behind with a ten foot pole. He is probably around here in the brush piles that surround the property, or wherever snakes live. I hope not in ferngully, althought fernG is about to crumble down to earth.

  49. Tatyana says:

    Hi Frances! I couldn’t even write a comment after I read this story yesterday. My imagination is very good, and snakes are not my favorite creatures. How brave you are! We have garden snakes here, I think I got used to them ….almost. My boys used to read snake books all the time, and it helped a bit. But to do what you’ve done? I think I’d call Animal Control. You are a hero! Garden hero!

    Thanks Tatyana. I am sort of used to the snakes around here too, as long as they stay on the ground! This was an emergency, no time to wait around for animal control, although they are very speedy and have been called before for lost dogs, etc. It was a now or never type of situation, action had to be taken right then.

  50. mothernaturesgarden says:

    We found a snake in place of a nest of birdies on top of the porch post ledge. Scary! You are one brave gardener.

    Oh how awful, Donna! That is way too close to the house too! Thanks for the kind words, but I don’t consider myself brave, merely impulsive. ๐Ÿ™‚

  51. Jenny says:

    Of course it is hard for us all to witness such events and then to write about them. Most people do want to see pretty pictures, don’t they? We witnessed the jays stealing the chicks from the cardinals nest. I hate those nasty jays.! They also took the eggs from the mourning doves. Both times there was a lot of commotion which alerted us to the happening. We were helpless to intervene. A long pole is a good weapon to have. Love your illustrations.

    Hi Jenny, thanks for visiting. I was hesitant to post the story, but it seemed to be well received thank goodness. I didn’t realize bluejays did such dastardly deeds, how awful. We did see a hawk fly away with a baby mockingbird one time, with the parents darting and diving and squawking at it. But somehow that large coiled snake was so much worse, to me anyway. Shady’s drawings were great, weren’t they? ๐Ÿ™‚

  52. As you point out, that’s the food chain. I have to say it has its benefits being at the top of it.

    Yes, Rob. Life would be pretty tough if we weren’t. Hard to imagine.

  53. Autumn Belle says:

    Frances, that was very brave of you. Snakes are my astrological ally but my real-life enemy. I am scared of them. All members of my family are. My late grandma would sprinkle sulphur powder around the corners and edges of our house building to ward off snakes. This was a yearly affair which she did during the lunar 5th of May (dumpling festival). Whenever, we spotted a snake inside the house, the males will be notified immediately and they wouldn’t rest until they have caught the snake. Women and children will have to wait at a safe place. Some equipment used were fork or Y-stick, a parang knife, boiling hot water. That was a long long time ago. My thumbs up to you, Frances.

    Thanks Autumn Belle. The thought of snakes in the garden is bad enough, realizing they are part of the food chain and the non poisonous ones are not a threat to humans, BUT snakes of any kind inside the house isthe stuff of nightmares! It is unimaginable. We have had critters get inside the house, possums, mice, bats but never snakes. It is something I cannot bear to even think about, but good to know about the boiling water!

  54. Sherry says:

    I too have been startled to find snakes in my garden, especially around the pond next to my backdoor. But then I started having compassion for their plight: their mere presence causes so much hatred and fear in humans. It is probably instinctual on our part so that we avoid the poisonous ones, but what have most non-poisonous garden snakes really done to us to deserve such treatment? They find a garden that looks like a nice place to live – just like the toads, squirrels, chipmunks, lizards, birds, and other animals – they search and kill for food (because there are no snake grocery stores), make use of warm compost piles to raise their young, and for the most part, are quiet, reclusive neighbors. That said, I still wish the ones I find to move on, but otherwise I have made my peace with them. Besides, when I have no snakes, I have lots of cave crickets to contend with; when I do have snakes, suddenly there is not a cave cricket to be found.

    Hi Sherry, thanks for visiting and welcome. I guess our garden is a snake grocery with the many critters here. But the birds are special guests here, we put food out to draw them here in addition to what is growing. We feel responsible for them since we might be attracting more than would normally live here, somewhat. The noise of the birds and the shock of seeing the large rat snake in the nest was just too much to leave it alone. We do appreciate the snake eating some rodents, wish they would work a little harder to get the large vole population down. ๐Ÿ™‚

  55. Molly says:

    I witnessed a similar occurance. My aunt and I were having coffee on her back porch and we heard a ruckus of two birds in her shrubs. They were going crazy! As we watched the birds pulled a 4 or 5 foot snake out of the shrub and flopped him onto the driveway! It was unbelievable. I couldn’t believe the birds could have pulled it out like that!

    Thanks for sharing that, Molly. I do wish the birds here had been able to do the same without my intervention. This large snake was wrapped very tightly around the trunk of the tree, it took every bit of strength I had and several tries to pull him loose. I believe the pokes with the metal pole helped loosen his grip so I could get him out of there. What an ordeal, one I hope to never witness or be a part of again!

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