Snakes in Maine

Did you know that Maine has no venomous snakes? We were informed of this tidbit while house-hunting two summers ago, as if that bit of knowledge would suddenly cause us to say, “Oh, well in that case…we’ll take this house right now!”  Being a natural skeptic, I simply nodded my head at the realtor and smiled real pretty-like, reserving my sarcasm for the privacy of our car.

I couldn’t help but wonder how anyone could absolutely know whether or not poisonous snakes exist in a state filled with vast amounts of wilderness. Not only that but, how exactly, does one keep a snake from entering the state? Is there some kind of sentinel standing watch at the border of Maine and New Hampshire? “Can I see your papers please?” The visiting venomous snake pulls out some forged papers claiming that he is a common milk snake and hands it to the snake sentinel. “I’m sorry, sir…your photo looks nothing like you, you’ll have to turn around. We don’t like your kind in Maine.”

I subjected David to a relentless monologue about Maine and snakes after the realtor provided that weird (suspicious) piece of trivia. I have a hard time letting things go and, just as the ride settled into a comfortable silence, I’d ask, “So…do snakes just stop at the state line? Is there some invisible poisonous snake-repelling force field?” or, “Maybe the poisonous ones choose to avoid Maine. So….what? Maine’s not good enough?” I huffed, “Those elitist jerks.” We tend to engage in these types of conversations on road trips. Mostly because we’re slightly twisted and also because we make each other laugh with ridiculous scenarios.

Have you ever visited Maine? The first thing that you see as you cross the state line is a giant sign proclaiming that this is a state that lives life the way it should be lived. Evidently, whoever decided that living “The Way Life Should Be” also decided that life shouldn’t involve venomous snakes.

This morning I walked out of the house to find all three children huddled at the side of the driveway. Upon hearing the screen door shut, they all looked up and began talking simultaneously in a mixture of unintelligible squeals and excited sentences punctuated by high-pitched voice cracking. “Wait…what did you say?” Joe stood and ran toward me holding his hand out, “We found a snake, Mom!” I realized that the hand he was holding out was wrapped in a brown snake and my heart momentarily skipped a beat. Thankfully, I remembered that suspicious claim about Maine having only non-venomous snakes. I’m obsessive enough to have checked the facts and, short of contacting the State Wildlife Agency to confirm, I’m going to proceed living life the way I should…without fear venomous snakes. (The last known sighting of a Timber Rattlesnake in Maine was in 1901.)

Here’s our new (and likely temporary) friend, Mr. Baby Snake a/k/a Bing Bong. I can’t make this shit up.

Of course, after warning that snakes should never be picked up unless you know they aren’t poisonous and even harmless snakes bite, I let Joe hold Mr. Baby Snake who showed no signs of aggression. Plus, his tiny little head wasn’t threatening at all. I suspect that his mouth was too small to get a serious hold on kid fingers. Besides, how could I resist this textbook -boy” moment of exploration? Look at him… I love that smile and his new, too-big-for-his-face front teeth. I’ll think about the orthodontist bills later. For now I’m going to relish his final days as a six-year-old, big crooked teeth and all.

After he’d begrudgingly boarded the school bus and the grumpy bus driver shot me the hairy-eyeball, I realized that I was standing in the driveway in my nightie and a sweater. Whatever… we were having a moment. Besides, she’s pulled up and caught us doing The Robot and playing dead at the end of the driveway, I think it’s safe to assume her opinion of our family has been formed, nightie or no-nightie. (Do people even use the word ‘nightie’ anymore?)

Anywho… Joe was gone and the snake, now renamed Bing Bong, was subject to two inquisitive little girls who proceeded to poke him and decorate him with ornamental leaves. Bing Bong needed to look pretty for his journey home.

 

*Other than a bit of psychological trauma, Bing Bong escaped unharmed.

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The (Not So) Fantastic Fox

Damn it! I try so hard to embrace country life. I do. I swear… I do.

This afternoon Kate got herself all worked up about something in the field. She stood at the french doors that lead to our back yard and the open field beyond and squealed for me to “Come wook! Come wook, Mama, come wook!” Okay, I thought and inwardly sighed while trying to ignore my sinus infection and look thrilled about ‘wooking’. I expected to see a robin or yet another bunch of vapid, gangly turkeys meandering through the grass.

Nope. I saw a red fox. I’ve really only seen the flash of a red fox’s eyes at night as it scampered across the road. Alternatively, I’ve seen them dead and stuffed, dead and skinned or just plain dead and squished. To be honest, I was a little let down by our visitors lack of grooming. He certainly bore no real resemblance to the dapper looking fellow that sounds suspiciously like George Clooney in Fantastic Mr. Fox. There was absolutely no resemblance to the smarmy villain described in that story by Roald Dahl. What I saw was quite simply a mangy looking beast romping in the tall grass on the perimeter of our yard.

He was funny though.

His large ears stood at attention as he froze in place. Then, as if on springs his feet left the ground while he dove through the air then landed and drove his pointed nose into the matted meadow grass. When he resurfaced we saw that he’d caught a field mouse for his lunch. We giggled at his silly antics. Kate clapped her hands together and then smeared her macaroni and cheese coated mouth over the glass to ‘kiss the box.”

Whatever, I’ll clean that later. It was cute.

Mr. Mangy loped off over the crest of the hill and pointed himself to the direction of the woods. We bid him a fond farewell and giddily talked about the box in the backyawd (in layman’s terms that would be ‘the fox in the backyard’). I put my mangy cheese-coated baby upstairs for her nap and then I got to thinkin’…

Aren’t foxes nocturnal? Are they supposed to look that mangy? Why was it so close to my house? What if it eats Stella? What if it eats Kate? What if it has rabies? What if it morphs into a giant wolf-like creature during the full moon and eats the whole family? We should have a gun. We should call an exterminator.

In the past two hours I have gone to the french doors and pressed my nose to the glass several times. I peer through the glass scanning the horizon much like a nervous city-dweller peering out of her peep hole at the sound of movement in her apartment building’s hallway. I know that Mr. Mangy isn’t going to be there, but what if he is? I’ve got pepper spray, a high heel and 911 on speed dial! Maybe someday I’ll lose my city slicker ways.