I had Julie's garage door opener with me, so I punched the button, the door opened and I walked into the dark garage, between her vehicle and the recycling containers, to the button for my garage door. As I reached the regular garage door and the nearby light switch, I saw a dark U-shaped object on the floor of the garage, sticking out from under the side door. I almost bent down to pick it up, thinking it was a plastic handle from a seed bag that had gone astray. Instead I switched on the overhead lights and saw that the plastic handle had morphed into a copperhead! And it was eight inches from the succulent pink toes sticking out of my sandals.
I leapt in the air, the snake made a feinting strike, though nowhere near to my rapidly pumping feet. I ran from the garage. Catching my breath, I pulled the van into my bay and exited the garage as the door shut behind me. As I walked toward the house, giving wide berth to the snake/door area, I saw that I'd left the inside garage light on.
I might have said "Oh bother!" like Winnie the Pooh does. But I think I said something less gentle than that.
Back into the garage I went (still had Julie's garage door opener in my hand for some reason). The snake was still there, half under the door we normally use to enter the side of the garage. When my shadow passed over him, he hissed and disappeared out from under the door, headed outside into the darkness. He moved so fast, I barely saw him go. This made me thank my lucky stars that I had not bent down to pick up the "plastic handle."
We've always had copperheads here on our farm. Julie has been bitten by one on the finger, while weeding her lavender. She went to the hospital, they watched her finger swell up then go back down and they sent her home. I have found lots of copperheads here, but have not been bitten by one yet. I do not mind snakes, but I HATE being surprised by them (and I suspect they feel the same). You can get the whole, really cool story about Julie's copperhead bite in her forthcoming book, "Letters From Eden" due out this fall.
We don't kill the snakes. We catch them and move them elsewhere. We now have a handy snake-grabbing unit on hand for this type of situation. We do not wish ill upon our reptilian friends, but nor do we want the kids or Chet Baker to be bitten. So when July rolls around and the days get long and hot, we go on snake alert. We open the garage door slowly and look before we step in. We do not weed flower beds without gloves and without looking beneath the plants. We probably see 10 black snakes for every copperhead we encounter here. The black snakes we leave alone, the copperheads we catch and transport.
Fortunately most of the copperheads we find are very docile. I told Julie about my late-night snake encounter on Sunday morning as I was preparing to leave for my jazz gig. I knew she'd want to know about it. The conversation started because she saw that I was bleary from lack of sleep. I'd had snake nightmares all night long..... Nothing like a little fight or flight adrenaline just before bedtime!
Sure enough, as I was driving to my gig, when Julie called me.
"I caught your copperhead!"
She'd gone into the garage to get some bird seed and saw him coiled up in the corner behind the door, right where he'd been the night before. Using the snake tongs, she grabbed the copperhead and dropped him into a large joint-compound bucket. Mr. Copperhead, beautiful and small but full of venom, went for a drive in the country. Zick is definitely The Copperhead Hunter. I can do it, but she's calmer and more businesslike about it.
Poisonous snakes--it's just part of life in the country. Nature lets us live, and in return, we try to let nature live, too.