Bart Mendoza 5 a.m., Dec. 8
If you listen, carefully, you can hear the rattles under the house, beneath the bathroom floor. You disturb that snake, every time you set foot in the bathroom. Unnerving, the babysitter called it. Rodent control others might call it. But there is indeed a snake living under the house. A rattlesnake. Size unknown.
This is opposed to the snake that tried to move inside the house last summer--that snake curled up behind the front door, on that nice cool tile floor. Before breakfast, before coffee even. That rattling put a new spin to the day, and bless those fire department men who came and took that snake away. This is a slice of life in Valley Center, where we live a little closer to nature. Nature that isn’t confined to a state park or a preserve, it lives in your front yard, back yard, or attic or even under the bathroom floor. I think we’re very lucky. Our local paper, the Roadrunner, reports snake removals on the crime blotter column, amongst the other 911 calls. Now I can’t exactly dine out on this story, but it did open the door to other people’s snake stories, So here are a few because of that morning the snake tried to move inside.
The elderly woman, with silver haired grace and beauty, told me of her son, who was remodeling and renovating their rental home in Poway, a house situated up against the chaparral hillside. There was a wooden fence separating the house from the “wild” on the other side, and it was over this fence that the son threw the nightly catch of mice from the house. He would set the traps at night when he finished work, and come back the next morning. The catch was flung over the fence, into the wild. This went on for some time, as the house had been vacant, and the previous tenants were not known for their tidy housekeeping. So one morning the son went to the fence with the dead rodents, ready to send them flying, when this time he looked over, and much to his surprise, there were two very large snakes with their heads up, waiting for the flying rodents to come their way. Who needs pizza delivery when you can get freshly caught mice, and you don’t even have to hunt them? They just fly through the air with the greatest of ease.
Like any good fish story, it is my belief that in any good snake story the snake grows larger with the telling. Yesterday while taking the garbage to the dumpster, I almost stepped on s adolescent rattlesnake at the bottom of the driveway, flattened by one of the plumber’s trucks. Hmmm. And I think nothing of this size snake now; it’s not unlike the one my dainty girl cat killed last autumn. What a good cat! Then the SDG&E lineman, whose truck’s got a flat tire and was stuck in the driveway, spoke about snake he’d seen in De Luz last week: “And that fellow was that big around,” holding his hands in a circle, about 6 or 7 inches in diameter. He thought it was a bumper crop of snakes this year. Rodents, too. But it’s those small rattlers that are the most unpredictable, the most dangerous, because they don’t control the venom well. All or nothing for them. So perhaps big is better.
Speaking of SDG&E, the ex-wife of an employee told me of their intensive rattlesnake avoidance training. At this particular seminar, they’re told if they encounter a rattler, they simply need to walk away for 20 minutes. When they return the snake will be gone. This is probably very reassuring to the linemen, who encounter inadvertently-dropped-from-the-sky rattlers (thank your local raptor) at the top of utility poles. And that snake is going to go where in 20 minutes? Down the utility pole? Those snakes do climb trees, but we’re taking bets on how it got up to the top of a utility pole.
And finally in today’s North County Times was the story of the women bitten twice in the ankle by a rattler. This one she ran over with the baby stroller while taking a walk on the sidewalk, in the suburb, in Oceanside. The husband did all the wrong first aid, but she survived. At the end of the story, the husband complained that this wasn’t a walk on a dirt road or a trail….well, not everything is tame in suburbia, nor is it always safe, even behind gated enclaves.
My friend Bob, the farmer, had a most excellent story, about climbing up a ladder to his roof, only to be confronted by a very large snake. This is the roof where the cats leave their spare rodent parts. Bob is a kind man, and relocates unwanted varmints, and in this snippet of a story, this snake lived to skulk another day. Bob was shaken, alive and unbitten. One of the cats was not so lucky, and that summer was bitten on the head. Cat became rather pumpkin headed, very swollen, and the vet gave her Benadryl, lots and lots of Benadryl. No anti-venom, as no one thought the cat would make it. But kitty did, and lived to hunt another day.
And I learned from this, and when our trusty Labrador was bitten on the butt, just before Mothers’ Day, I remembered Bob’s cat. There was not enough money in the savings to pay for either the vet or anti-venom, so I pulled every trick in my odd collection of homeopathic and herbal remedies, supplemented by an Alpha Sonic machine (healing alpha waves, not unlike acupuncture). Then Benadryl was added, 100 mg. 3 times a day. That would have put me to sleep for a couple of days. That next day, on the way to the vet, the Benadryl really kicked in and that dog was ready for the park. The vet must have thought I was loopy, telling him the Ranger was bitten by a snake. He said we could shave his butt and find the puncture marks, but that seemed rather pointless and embarrassing, not to mention cold. Especially if you’re a Labrador and not a poodle. So Ranger survived his snakebite. He’d been waiting at twilight, next to the fence, in hope his newest girlfriend, that yellow lab Abbie from up the hill might visit. Instead he’d screamed and fallen over, unable to stand up. Snakebit, while waiting for his true love. Last time she came around, he tried to hump her, and she tried to take a chunk out of him. But he’s ever hopeful and that’s another story. .