The pest control guy came yesterday for our monthly service call.  Sean is a young guy, probably not older than twenty-five.  I asked how the plans for his upcoming wedding were going and then I launched into my little vent session about insect season being in full swing and just how thrilled I was about the whole thing.  NOT!  Sean (perennially polite) just chuckles at my insects stories and says in his thick southern drawl, “Don’t worry Mrs. Crawford, we’ll work on getting rid of these creepy crawlers for you.”  I know I mentioned at least a dozen times finding the large spider, the one that decided to pick my bedroom, on my side of the bed as his hang-out in the wee morning hours.  I mostly kept my cool (really) but I did use half of a can of Raid on it.

After Sean was finished with the inside of the house, he went on to take care of the exterior–sweeping corners for large cobwebs and spraying around the foundation.  I was outside picking up the mail when he called out for me.  “Um… Mrs. Crawford,” he drawled.  “Now just tell me if you want to know this ….or not…. but it might make you just a little upset.”  “OK, what?” I asked.  “Well, I just wanted to tell you that I found a large snake on the south end of your house.”  And there you have it.  Need I say more?  But I will.

I confess that I let loose with a number of expletives.  I’m not proud of that (I wasn’t brought up to swear like a sailor) but in my defense I never used colorful language until I was going through a divorce with my first husband some seventeen years ago.  Now, on occasion, in times of stress, an inappropriate word will slip out.  I considered this a time of stress.

“Exactly where did you see it?” I asked, trying with all my might to not act like a madwoman.

He leads me to the side of the house and pokes the mulched area with a stick to show me where the snake was.  “It’s not there anymore ma’am,” he says.  “He’s probably long gone by now.”

Meet "Harold" the rat snake

Meet “Harold” the rat snake

IMG_9770 IMG_9774I continue to follow Sean into the back yard watching him spray around the foundation and there we both see the snake!  It’s on my back patio, inches away from the door that leads to my bedroom.    I am immediately sick to my stomach.  “Oh my God, Oh my God,” I shriek.  My heart is racing…pounding in my chest.  I am doing all that I can to fight overwhelming panic.   I have to do something to get myself out of my head.   “Oh God…I’ve got to get a picture of this,” I say as I run back into the house to get my camera. The camera is upstairs in my study; its amazing that my knees didn’t feel a think while I’m bounding down the stairs like a teenager.   The snake was still there a minute later as I returned to the back patio, camera in hand.  I start taking pictures while Sean tries to get the snake to move.

It wasn’t any comfort that Sean was almost as upset about the snake as I was.  Still, even though snake service isn’t part of our service agreement he was ready to take out the snake with a shovel.  I made a mental note in that instant to send him a wedding gift!

“I’ll tell you that I’m just not good with handling snakes Mrs. Crawford…its the one part of my job that I haven’t been able to be very good at.”  Oh, I totally understand pest control dude….no need to apologize!  “Having said that, Mrs. Crawford, I will tell you that there is a rat snake.  They are the good kind to have around.”  Of course I tell him that matters not to me since I loathe snakes.  “Well, they do take care of rattlers, frogs, mice and rats,” said Sean.

I think about this for a moment as I’m pacing back and forth on the patio, hands to my stomach hoping that I don’t throw up.  The snake is still attached to the riser portion of the patio steps, its black head raised and that nasty forked-tongue flitting it and out of its mouth looking as if he’s ready to strike in an instant.  It just looks so evil to me!

“Don’t kill it.” I say.  “Shit! I cannot believe that I even said that.  I have lost my mind!” I cried in wonderment.  Sean laughs saying he understands adding that “it’s better this way.”  Personally I think he was just mighty relieved that he didn’t have to try to kill it.

The damned snake spent a good twenty minutes on the step, not budging even though Sean was trying to get it to move.  “That’s one stubborn snake,” he said.  “Usually they are quite shy; he should have made a bee-line out of here once I started pounding the ground.”

When the snake finally slithered off into the woods I bade goodbye and thank-you to Sean and I went inside the house, locking all the doors (as if the snake could unlock a door) and wondered when I’d ever set foot on the back patio again.  I tried to reach my husband to tell him about what had just transpired.  As usual, I could not reach him.  So I went upstairs to download the photos from my camera.  Inexplicably, seeing the image of the snake on the screen was almost as bad as the real version…maybe worse!  I then do a computer search on rat snakes.  I confirm what Sean had said about the benefits of having rat snakes around but also learn that some varieties of rat snakes (e.g. The Asian rat snake) are venomous, although its venomous harm to humans negligible. I learn too that they don’t necessarily strike their prey, they are constrictors.  I emailed the photo to my sis and a couple of my friends.  My California friend–who also knows my fears– replies to my email.  While she does sympathize over my traumatic morning she says the snake looks “kind of pretty” to her.  Oh Lord, I think with an eye roll for emphasis.  Sis of course was equally sympathetic; she knows the depth of my fear for insects and snakes. But, she also says the snake looked kinda cute.  “He has nice eyes,” she says.   I cannot believe my ears.  In fact, she thinks the snake is so cute that she names it on the spot!  Yes, sis..I think you should call him Harold.”  I’m laughing, really, but also thinking what’s this all about with these people….one says the snake is pretty….and another saying it’s cute?!  What am I missing here because I think these people are nuts!  But, I think about it for a moment as I’m walking my poodle and, as often happens when I’m walking my pooch, I come up with an answer.   I think these people who love me are just trying very hard to get me to relax a little over this near-debilitating fear. They care for me…. I’m mighty lucky to have people who care enough about me to try.  I’d say that ranks up there–in an odd way– as a degree of bliss.

So, for now, I’ll do as my beautiful and wise sis advises.  I’ll call this snake Harold, hoping of course, that I NEVER see it again.  Just do your work Harold and stay away from me and things will be just peachy.   But for the record Harold….You are NOT cute. Got that?