There are a few sounds out there that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up and set your nerve endings on fire — the racking of a shotgun, screeching tires, crunching metal or a blood curdling scream.
But I’ll wager few things say “Come to Jesus” quite like the hiss of a snake, especially if it’s heard but not seen.
“Dude, there’s a snake in your house!” I heard from the living room. “It’s hissing at me!”
“Yeah, his name is George,” my son answered.
But something about his friend’s panicked tone told me it wasn’t George the lazy ball python that he was referring to. Besides, George doesn’t hiss… much.
As I rushed into the room, I observed my son’s friend standing on guard, nervously looking toward the window.
“It’s over there, behind the curtains,” he said.
I ordered them to back away and scrambled for the snake stick (a long metal pole with a hooked end used to control a snake), then inched toward the curtains and used the stick to peel fabric away until I saw him.
While smaller than his hiss, the bull snake still presented a good four-feet of trim, slithering speed.
Not interested in trying to best him, I carefully reached over his angry little head to open the window, and used the stick to evict him.
“How about you eat the mice before they get inside?” I asked him, as he exited in a huff.
Going to sleep after the experience did take a little work, but after 24 hours I had moved on.
Until a day later when I saw tail-o-snake slipping under the door to my son’s bedroom.
Now a pro, I twisted it up with the snake stick, shuffled it into a pillow case and deposited it out in the yard.
Terrified by its abduction, the lanky racer just sat and looked at me, and I, in turn, looked at it.
Scars covered its body and its back was bent at an odd angle, no doubt signs of a rough life.
For a moment I felt sympathy and wished that I could bring myself to share my space, and my mouse issues with it — until I thought of us ending up unexpectedly in the same chair.
The drought has been tough on everybody this year, not just humans. Farmers and ranchers will tell you the rabbits have all run out of the fields or starved off and, so, I believe, have the mice.
It makes sense that they will migrate toward homes where us humans continue to eat and generate scraps.
And on their heels are predators, who are equally and just as desperately searching for food.
In recent weeks, animal control officials and law enforcement have received numerous, “There’s a snake in my house!” calls from frantic residents.
I listened to one this week in which the dispatcher was trying to give details but the caller was too hysterical to say much more than “snake.”
I get it. I like snakes just fine, when I know where they are. What I don’t like is surprise snakes.
I came across an old Egyptian proverb that says, “Because we focused on the snake, we missed the scorpion.”
Now I’m sure the saying has deep philosophical applicability, but on the surface, it’s pretty meaningful too.
Many believe where you have bull snakes, you have no rattle snakes — that’s good enough for me.
I’ll take hissing over rattling any day, and I like the idea that I don’t have to kill mice.
Of course I would love nothing more than to see this little food chain go back to the fields, but I have a feeling it will take a couple weeks of rain to get everybody back into the groove again.
In the meantime, it seems the drought has made porch lights look like “Eat at Joe’s” signs to our wild things.
Kind of makes you wonder what’s next? Coyotes, mountain lions, bears?
I’m not Joe, guys… I’m not Joe…