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.
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.
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 Google+.