Monday, June 20, 2011

COLUMN: Snakes


Once upon a time, the house that I now call my own was built. This was about a decade ago. And way back then, whoever owned the place cared about the lawn. Hostas and decorative bushes lined the front of the house. Hydrangeas were planted on the south side to add some floral edging. On the north side, the new home was christened by the arrival of a small Japanese maple sapling. Home sweet home.

And from what I can see, that was the last time anybody looked at or cared about the lawn of this property until I moved in one year ago.

The Japanese maple? Dead as a doornail. The hydrangeas had grown together, merged, and transformed into some kind of Optimus Prime hydrangea monster -- half taller than my girlfriend, the other half collapsed under its own weight. And as for whatever the heck these bushes out front were supposed to be? Your guess is as good as mine. The whole mess had become so overgrown with weeds that I was clueless as to what was supposed to be there and what was an opportunistic passing seed in the wind forging a new homestead. The front of my house was little more than a habitat for passing chupacabra.

Because I bought the house in mid-summer, I let things slide last year. This spring, though, it was time for a little creative editing of Mother Nature.

That's when I set forth my Yard Work Action Plan, and I've got to tell you, it was exhausting. And now that I'm an expert in yard maintenance, perhaps it's unfair to hold all this knowledge myself. Many of you are first-time homeowners yourselves, and I couldn't sleep at night knowing that I'd failed to mentor those who so desperately need it.

Therefore I will share with you all my expertise. The hard work that I put into my lawn care can be divided into three major steps:

(1) Looking out the window and assessing the situation.
(2) Picking up the telephone and calling a lawn care service.
(3) While paying careful attention not to strain fingers, sign check and hand to lawn care guy.

I told you it was rough.

My lawn guy did an awesome job. I found him thanks to an ad right here in the Dispatch/Argus, and I'll even give him a personal plug later in this column. In a whirlwind, the maple was gone, the hydrangeas pruned, and my bramble patch out front totally obliterated.

While they worked, my girlfriend and I sat inside, watching TV and feeling horribly guilty about sitting inside and watching TV. We kept the window open, though, as if to somehow be part of the action. That was when I heard this exchange from outside:

"Blah blah blah." "Blabbity blah blah, blah blah." "Blah. Blah-blabbity-bab SNAKE blah blahity." "Blah blah GET IT!"

Say whaaaa? Did I hear SNAKE?

And that, dear friends, was the moment of my lawn care retirement. I hate spiders, bugs, and bees, but I'm deathly afraid of snakes. They're abominations of nature. If you're gonna be a creepy reptile and live in my yard, at the very least you should man up and grow some legs. I sincerely thought that living in the city, the last thing you had to worry about was snakes.

I grew up in the country, in an earth-sheltered "underground" home built into a hillside. "Cave sweet cave," as my dad said. One day, my mom and I were alone in the house while my dad was at work. Earlier, he'd been working on the roof to re-seal a skylight window that hung over the house's central courtyard. I was laying on my bedroom floor, reading a book, when I heard a noise and saw some movement. I looked up in just enough time to see a very unamused garter snake fall from the skylight onto the floor some six feet away and start slithering straight at me. My scream was so loud I almost broke my larynx. The whole nasty episode ended with my mom - a fellow snakeophobe - grabbing the thing with a pair of kitchen tongs while the two of us shrieked together like banshees. It was NOT my best moment.

I went out around sunset to admire my new lawn only to find a snake (the same one? a new one?) sunning himself under the newly-exposed porch. I took a rake and tried to toss him off my land but snakes don't fling as far as you'd want them to. Instead, it landed in the middle of the yard, coiled up, rose, and tried to take a big ol' chomp off the rake. I held back my scream and instinctively flung him into the street, where he immediately slithered into a storm drain and is now probably working at great lengths and expense to figure out how to snake up my toilet to bite my butt with gleeful abandon.

I got home tonight, now constantly looking straight down as I walk, when I noticed two of my neighbors surrounding his basement window well. He had just found THREE snakes hiding out down there, including one that had somehow made it inside the first of his two window panes. This is thoroughly unacceptable. If you're good with math, that makes 4 if not potentially 5 snake sightings in spitting vicinity of my yard in a 24-hour period. And my neighbor just told me, "Oh yeah, we get 'em all the time. They'll get in your basement window, just wait."

I'm not waiting. When I moved in, my dad replaced and insulated the basement window, so I called him up at light speed.

"DAD!" I said before he could even get a word out. "Can you promise me that no snake will get through my basement window and come say howdy while I'm watching TV?"

"Well," my dad replied. "Let me ask you a question. Now, these snakes that you've been seeing... would you say they're bigger or smaller than a molecule of air?"

"Umm... bigger?"

"Then stop worrying, because I sealed that window airtight."

There are times when it's good to have absolute and total blind faith in your father, and this is one of them. I am equipped to do MANY things in this life, but running a snake ranch is NOT one of them. As I type, I'm pretty sure I can hear them outside, speaking in parsel-tongue, conspiring to bite whomever mowed down their habitat.

Which is why I name-drop as promised and remind all snakes that the blame falls squarely on John at QC Quality Lawn Care. I'm just the dude who signs the checks. But if any of you snakes insist on requesting a meeting, I'll be available the next time I step out onto my lawn. How's December sound for you?

1 comment:

Lise Raev said...

Eek. I hate snakes. I live in an area with rattlers, and they freak me out. Sometimes they can hang out in your basement window well if you don't get it covered.