Grit Blogs > The Daily Commute

Snakes in the Grass and the Kitchen

By Hank Will, Editor-in-Chief

Tags: wildlife, snakes, reptiles,

Hank Will and Mulefoot piglet.I like snakes. Lucky for me, plenty of different species call my Osage county Kansas farm home, including the dreaded Copperhead and at least one member of the rattlesnake family – I’m quite certain it’s the Massasauga. I’ve had several encounters with the rattlers, all of them quite amicable; all in the spring. There’s nothing like the buzz of a rattlesnake on alert to make you realize that there’s still some wild left in this land.

Although I haven’t seen a Copperhead yet, the vet was pretty sure that a small one bit Lucy, one of my dogs, on the lip a couple of years ago. That little West Highland White Terrier was a little under the weather after the encounter, all it took to get her through the night was a bit of benadryl and some bed rest. Her recovery was nothing short of amazing to me – and a huge relief, of course.

Snake in the kitchen. 

The farm is also home to several varieties of Ribbon and Garter snakes, Black Snakes (some version of the Rat Snake) that occasionally raid the bluebird boxes, assorted other Rat Snakes, King Snakes, and the like.

Until recently, my snake encounters have been quite random and outdoors. But just a few weeks ago, as the weather turned to a decidedly fall-like crisp, I was drawn out of the book I was reading in the living room by an odd thumping sound coming from the kitchen. When I finally decided to investigate, I discovered that my cat Callie had squared off with what appeared to be a young King Snake (Prairie King Snake is my best guess). The snake was coiling and looking quite ferocious for its diminutive stature while Callie repeatedly wound up and smacked it with her right front paw.

Ferocious little snake. 

Snake lover that I am, I shooed Callie off. Self preservationist that I am, I thought to grab a pair of kitchen tongs rather than getting up close and personal with a snake whose identity I wasn’t at all certain of. All I can say is that little snake was a ferocious one and after I teased it a bit – and snapped a couple of portraits with my phone – I took it outside and released it out of sight of my Border Collies, Gus and Clover.

I won’t go so far as to say I love having snakes in the kitchen. But hey, what do you expect when you live in a 102 year old farmhouse built on a stacked limestone foundation? If it’s the right kind of snake that infiltrates the crawlspace, Callie will have some help with mouse control this winter and she might need it considering her two confirmed kills this past week. Then again, I’m not so sure the snakes will be on patrol during the cold months – even if they are indoors. Either way, I look forward to the snakes I might encounter in the grass next year.

Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .

sue lackey
12/21/2009 1:56:32 PM

Our big male cat had an encounter with what we assume was a copperhead when he was still a kitten. The vet was mum, but every farmer in the place took one look at his swollen face and declared it a copperhead bite. Had he not been such a big boy (long, not fat), he might not be with us today. Years later, he still fears anything that resembles a snake and even jumps over concealed garden hoses.

robyn dolan
11/30/2009 8:58:14 AM

I saw my first snake on my property here in 10 years this summer. It was a small rattler, and because it was a novel experience I just called my son over and we watched it for awhile. Then the cats came over and it suddenly occurred to them that they should pretend they were chasing it away (in cahoots!). So they went through the motions and the snake pretended to coil and strike, though noone was hurt. It slithered off and is probably hibernating somewhere near my rabbit cages. I fully expected to see it stuck inside, digesting a bunny, but never did, and no bunnies missing! It will be interesting to see what the snake situation is this coming spring.

11/27/2009 9:50:13 AM

Our big male cat had an encounter with what we assume was a copperhead when he was still a kitten. The vet was mum, but every farmer in the place took one look at his swollen face and declared it a copperhead bite. Had he not been such a big boy (long, not fat), he might not be with us today. Years later, he still fears anything that resembles a snake and even jumps over concealed garden hoses.

hank will_2
11/16/2009 11:32:21 AM

Hey Cindy and Amy -- I don't love being surprised by the snakes, particularly since there is a chance for a venomous encounter around here. That's why I like the little rattlers out in the rocky meadows and CRP. Amy, I only wish we had a black snake hanging out in the crawlspace, especially right now as Callie has been getting one every couple of days and I can hear mice messing around in the wall from time to time. there was a blacksnake living under the old grain bin judging from the skin sheds I have found. I wish that one would move under the house. Brenda -- you are not alone with your feelings about snakes, and I can totally understand. But for me, living in the country is enhanced by the wild side, whether it is weather or wildlife. And then there's this huge bowl of a sky that overflows with stars on clear nights and compelling scents carried by the cooler air as it drains down the draw in the early evening. It would be difficult for me to imagine another life.

brenda kipp_1
11/16/2009 11:16:39 AM

I do NOT like snakes! Your snake stories make me glad I live in the city. That's the one thing that would keep me from living in the country --especially if I found one in the kitchen!! YIKES!!!

amy crawford
11/13/2009 11:33:11 AM

Hank, I enjoyed your snake story. I just had to laugh because I always have a good snake story to share. Snakes in the kitchen....yikes! I'm not afraid of snakes (anymore that is) because we have lived with them in our basement(stacked limestone foundation) since we've lived in this old farmhouse. I'm not crazy about being startled by them, but I do like the fact that we haven't had a mouse problem in years. With that being said, I did have a not so fun encounter this week when I went to the basement to treat our water. When turning off the valve at the top of the tank I touched something with my knuckles that wasn't the hose. I actually didn't "freak out" but struggled in moving the 5 foot black snake so I could continue my job. Finally I was able to lift him with some pvc pipe to the floor. He and 3 of his friends were "hanging-out" that day. Lately we have seen up to seven at a time and that is when my husband is called to remove some with his homemade snake catcher. However, I think they find their way back in. We have seen 2 in the kitchen because the top of the basement stairs lead into it...There is probably just enough room under the bottom of the door for them to get under. I believe they were racers (greenish blue in color), but not sure. My husband wasn't home at those times, so I swept them out with a broom. Don't you love country living? I do....there is never a dull moment!

cindy murphy
11/12/2009 6:51:40 AM

I like snakes too, long as they don't surprize me. Michigan only has one venomous snake - the Eastern Massasuga, and though the state is one of the snake's last strongholds, it's rare to come across one. It's not too difficult not to be afraid of snakes here when you know the majority of them are harmless. My most memorable snake experience was with a black rat snake. I was roller-skiing in the woods along the river. Up ahead, I saw a branch across the trail, and had plenty of time to slow down enough so I wouldn't ski over it. Good thing. It was a five or six foot long black rat snake, just laying there, sunning itself. I honestly never knew Michigan had snakes that big! I think I startled it, because it didn't move at all. While I waited patiently for it to get on its way, I was able to examine it quite closely. A really beautiful snake, shiny and black. But in my kitchen! Nope, nope, nope - I couldn't do it. "Keeeeiith!!!!!"