Ah, yes. Life here in Paradise North is always interesting, isn’t it?
The latest saga in our rural Northwoods home began with a few text messages from my partner, Vaughan, sent at 8:30 a.m. on a Wednesday.
First there was a photo of the floor tile in the laundry room with a little a pile of … of… well, we didn’t know what it was.
“Did someone poop in their sheets? Where did this come from? I’m confused,” Vaughan said.
Apparently there had been sheets on the floor nearby.
In the photo it looked like a little pile of foamy coffee grounds.
My response was, “What the heck is that? Taste it.”
“Whatever that is, it wasn’t there yesterday,” he said.
Vaughan left the little surprise on the floor so I could see it when I got home. I got down on my knees and got as close as I dared. It smelled fishy.
I told Vaughan my guess was a snake. His eyes got wide.
“No! How would a snake get in the house? I saw your shoes by the basement door. You left the basement door open, didn’t you? I know you did.”
Whenever anything unpleasant appears in our house — mouse, spider, shrew… perhaps a snake? — it’s because Silly Paul left a door open. (Full disclosure: I do leave doors open.)
Both of us recalled that a day or two before the mystery pile appeared, we noticed a nasty smell in the laundry room. Was this related?
The next day, at noon, I got another text.
“OMG I found another one, it smells like fish; it smells fishy.”
The text was accompanied by a photo of one of my precious Christmas glasses, on top of the dryer (don’t ask), with another one of these mystery piles next to it. Yes, on the dryer. The ultimate insult — something pooped on Christmas.
Something had to be done. Whatever this creature was, we imagined it crawling or slithering or flying over us at night as we slept, mouths open, oblivious to this incursion of nature into our cozy home.
I consulted my friend Judy Young, who has kept pet snakes in the past and knows everything about nature.
She neither confirmed nor denied that the photo was indeed of snake poop. But she begged me not to kill the poor thing, whatever it was. Her suggestion was to set up a trail cam in the laundry room, and to hang a heat lamp or warm bulb just above the floor.
“Then the snake will curl up under it and you can catch it in a pillowcase and let it go outside! Easy.”
Yes, easy. As if I would let my cotton percale pillowcases come into contact with a serpent.
We told people the story. I was amazed by how strongly people react when it comes to snakes. They freak people out.
Vaughan’s nephew — a strapping young landscaper — said he’d just burn the house and everything in it, including the snake.
Sunday morning dawned bright and beautiful. I walked out into the sunroom to open the windows.
“What on earth,” I thought, “it smells like someone pooped the couch out here. Yuck.” I lit a candle and looked around but didn’t see anything.
After breakfast Vaughan went jogging. I walked into the kitchen and as I passed the sink I knew something seemed out of place. I looked around, and there he was.
Curled up between the warm coffee maker and the sink, our resident serpent stared back at me.
I ran for my phone and got a shot of it, staring at me from next to the dish soap.
I grabbed a shirt hanging on a chair and crept toward it. I went at it slowly, and it started to slither over the back of the sink but I pounced, stealthy as I am.
It wiggled and squirmed in the shirt. I grabbed a two-quart antique canning jar, removed the top, and lowered the snake into it, tail first. When most of the snake was in the jar, I released my grip and it dropped in. I twisted the lid on and put my face to the jar, meeting him eye to eye.
“Got ya’, ya’ little creeper!”
The antique jar is beveled on the top, and when the snake rose up the bevels magnified its head, making the tame little garter snake look more like a miniature cobra.
I considered taking it right outside to let it go, but what fun would that be?
So I poked holes in the top of the jar, set it on the kitchen island next to the Bluetooth speaker, set my phone to video, and waited for Vaughan to come in from his jog.
Eventually he did, and he said he was heading straight to downstairs to the shower.
“No, come in here,” I said from the kitchen.
“No, I’m all hot and gross.”
“Just quick,” I said, “I can’t get the speaker to work, and I want you to look at it.”
Vaughan walked into the kitchen. He always has a glass of water on the kitchen cart, and he reached for it. And just beyond his glass was the jar.
Let’s just say I’ve never heard a noise like that come out of a human being.
Yes, I caught it on video, but if I ever showed it to anyone, I’m sure I would face a lonely, lonely future. I laughed so hard I almost wet my pants.
The next day on my way to work, I stopped at Judy’s house with my Snake In A Jar. Her son Egan was outside as I pulled in, and Judy was walking out the door.
Egan thought the snake was great and opened the top of the jar. The snake immediately shot halfway out and Egan struggled to control it. It dropped into the grass.
“They bite,” Judy said.
“I know,” Egan said, just as he reached for it. It bit him.
“It bit me!” Egan said, laughing and holding his finger.
Judy stood guard on their circular driveway as I left to be sure that I didn’t run over her new friend.
She later told me that she and Egan caught it again so they could let it go in an area of their yard where other snakes live.
“It’s pregnant,” Judy told me. “I could feel it.”
Yes, I immediately pictured little baby snakes slithering over my pillow.
Life in the Paradise North. “Interesting” doesn’t begin to describe it.