Well, this morning I was a little late getting around, so I hurried out to the chicken pen to feed the hens. So I get the scratch and the feed and pour some in one dish, then went to hunt for the other dish. But I found a big gardner snake lying across the chicken yard, perfectly still. Its head is somewhere in the mess of bird netting I left in a heap just outside the pen. Shoot, I need to pick that up. I already had one snake die in the netting, unable to get out.
I touched the snake – and its sides expanded, as if it had gasped. Okay, it’s still alive, I can work with that. So I cursed myself for being late, because now I was going to be even later, and hurried back through the wet grass to the house. I found two tiny scissors in the sewing box and hurried back out again, crouched down by the snake, and lifted a bag of leaves out of the way. Now I could see its head, lost in a snarl of netting, and the thin black strands of netting were tightly clamped around its body.
As soon as I exposed the snake, it started trying to crawl farther into the netting, though the many strands held it fast. Boy, how was I going to keep it from crawling in there and getting more tangled? I took hold of the snake’s body, but it squirmed more and tried to get away, and then it started wrapping its body around my hand, trying to constrict it to death, and I pulled my hand out of there. I started cutting the strands around her. (I can’t sex a snake so we’ll just say it’s a girl snake.) She pulled her tail up toward the netting as if she was going to send her other half into the netting, just to complicate matters, but as I kept snipping, she began to wind her body around my other hand. Well, fine, at least I’ll be able to keep her from running deeper into the netting that way. She wound and wound around my hand, squeezing all the while, until the tip of her tail lay on my wrist, and it shook a little like it was trying to help squeeze my hand to death. Actually it wasn’t very tight, just a nice squeeze, like a handshake.
Of course this now meant I could only snip and move netting aside with my right hand. “Okay, if that’s how you’re going to be,” I said, and kept snipping. At least now that she was curled around my hand, she was still, and it was easier for me to carefully work the tiny scissors between the snake’s scales and the black strands of netting that bound her. I was so afraid of hurting her because the netting was cutting into her body, it was so tight, but I’d work the blade of the scissors between and snip, and then snip again, and that would release a little bit of her, and then I’d snip through the snarl of netting all around her, trying to open up some more space to work. She hissed softly now and then, and occasionally she’d try to squirm her head and neck (this was all firmly trapped), and her unblinking yellow eye would watch me. Or she’d squeeze against her bonds, only cutting them deeper into her scales and skin, and I’d say hush hush little snake, it’s going to be all right, trying to calm her.
My hands and scissors were getting a little muddy – it had rained last night – and she hissed and wriggled when I snipped away the netting around her. She was scared. But more and more of the black cutting threads were being cut loose. Then I eased the scissors under a couple of threads and snipped, and all that was left were about two strands around her thin little neck.
She started to unwind from my hand, and she flipped over in the strands, trying to break herself free. “Hold on, honey, this really is not helping,” I said, trying to squeeze the scissors between the belly scales and the threads that still held her fast. But finally I managed to do that without nicking her and I cut the two threads free and pulled her out and got up with her in my hands.
And she opened her mouth and threatened to strike me!
Of course with her pale pink mouth so wide open like that, it was obvious that she had no teeth, and all she could do was gum me to death. But still I was a little offended. Hey, I just saved your snake butt, not that you actually have a butt!
But I was scared by her trying to strike, and she was scared because she was in the hands of a predator, so I understood. I leaned over the fence of the chicken yard and set her down in the grass on the other side. She immediately coiled and pulled her head back over her body, flattening her head into a triangle shape so she’d look like a rattler or something poisonous, staring at me.
“Now you stay away from the netting and wire, okay?” I said. “I don’t want to have to cut you out when I get home tonight.” But she went on looking ferocious, and I didn’t have more time to lecture her – because obviously lecturing a snake works – so I retrieved my muddy scissors and let myself out of the chicken pen.
She oriented her head to face me as I stepped out. I felt a little shaky from the encounter when headed back to the house. I washed my hands with a lot of soap (snakes are stinky) and got some food and raced off to work.