Snakes on the Plains

While recently working at my computer, I heard a faint rustling sound, so I turned to see what the puppy was chewing. Lizbit was asleep at my feet. Moving my desk chair woke her, and she suddenly jumped up and lunged past me. From beneath a TV stand not far from my bare feet, I glimpsed a dark, scaly head emerge and retreat. I grabbed the dogs’ collars, dragged them out of the room and shut the door.

OK, I thought. I’m a grown-up. I can deal with this. I found a flashlight and a shovel and returned to confront the enemy. He was still under the TV stand, but he’d turned around, revealing loops of his midsection that were thicker than my hand could encircle ” not that I wanted to try. This was no baby snake. I shined the light on his back, trying to figure out what kind of snake it might be. Then, through some combination of curiosity and stupidity, I prodded him with the tip of the shovel. He pulled back quickly and rattled his tail, vibrating it against the furniture. I set a world’s record for the standing long jump ” backward ” and slammed the door again.

I had him trapped, I thought, but I was not so brave after all. I needed help. I looked in the yellow pages under “snake removal.” That section did not exist. My hands were shaking and logical thought ended.

I called 911 and described what I’d seen. “If it’s yellow and black, it’s not a rattlesnake,” the dispatcher said, “but we’ll send someone out.” I imagined that “someone” would be whichever Norman police officer pulled the shortest straw.

Eventually, a policeman arrived. He was no more thrilled by snakes than I am, but he was gracious and professional. Alas, the serpent had disappeared. The officer and I moved furniture, emptied the closet, and looked under and behind everything, but we couldn’t find the snake. My theory was that he found some kind of opening that let him escape into the wall. Nothing more could be done. “Call back if you see him again,” the officer said.

Around midnight, the snake reappeared on the windowsill in my kitchen. I could see all of him now. He was perhaps 4 feet long and even scarier in his entirety. I called 911 again. A different policeman came. He took one look at the snake and promptly radioed to ask for assistance. A second officer arrived, equipped with heavy leather gloves. With two officers, a big stick, the shovel, my dustpan, the gloves, a garbage bag and about 45 minutes of serpent-wrangling, the snake was pinned down and slipped into the bag for transport to “Far Far Away Land.”

The police were wonderful. When it was all over, they clearly took pride in having dealt with the situation so competently, despite having no previous snake experience or training. I asked all three their names so that I could give them the praise they earned. Alas, I didn’t write those names down promptly, and by morning the information had evaporated. Here is my brain: “ZagrebisthecapitalofCroatia/Tobeornottobe/E=mc2.” Here is my brain on snake: ”          .”

I did remember Norman’s May 13 municipal election. I voted yes on the city’s proposal for a dedicated sales tax to provide additional funds for police and firefighters. Snakes beware ” the measure passed.

Murphy is a freelance writer living in Norman.

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Judith Murphy

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