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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Black Snake Visitor

In this dry summer -- if that has anything to do with it -- we have sighted black snakes -- or a black snake -- more often than usual, once on one of the side decks of our house, and the other times close to my workshop. But black snakes will do that. If, on first spotting one, you don't express displeasure with their presence by the usual drastic means that can't be at all pleasant for them, at some other time in the same season they will make a second appearance in the same vicinity, and maybe a third as well, and even a fourth. But they do it always by surprise, and I am glad that even with my somewhat blurred vision, I still have no trouble in spotting one, and I have to think that it as surprised as I am and uncomfortably so.

They show up stretched straight out somewhere where you want to step, but they are easily distinguished from being a stick or a shadow because of their sheer richness of pigment, their sheen, and the gentle, undulating differences in thickness along their whole length. But a black snake likes to remain still until you show your intentions, and if you get too close its front end will immediately rise and coil up cobra-like, while making a hiss and also showing its white underside, I guess in the hope that you will forget that it is only a black snake and its bite is non-lethal. I've never been bitten but I have picked up a couple by their tails and flung them somewhere else where I figured they meant to be all the while.

And speaking of where they are meant to be, black snakes are known for finding their way into houses, and one of those that, if I remember correctly, I picked up I found here in this workshop shortly after I finished building it and when the building wasn't loaded with nearly as much stuff as it is now. But so far, after 30 years, none has invaded the house as yet, though there must be hundreds of suitable openings between all the oak planks that have shrunk and drawn apart from each other, in the process of drying after having been put up tight while green. And I have seen black snakes and evidences of them in the form of their discarded skins in several of my outbuildings and also up over the edges of the rough oak boards under the eaves of my house, and once one even put on a show for some of my wife's Boston relatives by doing his shedding bit right on the outside of a window.

Though my blood and nerves carry the instinctive fear of the species in spite of anything that my head might formulate, I am fascinated by snakes, and always have been. And my head does a good job of reminding me that the black snakes have been here for eons longer than any of my species, and that therefore, whatever I might erect or do here, I am still always only their guest in these woods, and not the reverse.

It's hard to understand people who slough off with a vengeance all recognition of that totally obvious fact.


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