Viewpoint by Janice Lindsay


The snake and I
By Janice Lindsay
(Photo Janice Lindsay, Photo Submitted)

We’ve often had garter snakes in our garage, but we never had one as bold as Samantha.

Our garage possesses a snake-friendly corner, just inside the electric door. A snake can slither in through a tiny gap in the door molding. The builders of the house created a concrete block along the base of the garage wall, about two inches tall and two inches deep. They covered that, except for the ends, with a wooden block about twice those dimensions. This creates a perfect, cool, dark tunnel for snake repose and concealment.

Most snakes prefer concealment. The only sign of their presence: shed skin.

Samantha preferred the “repose” feature. In the cool of a summer morning, I might find her 20 inches coiled into a four-inch rectangle on the corner of the concrete block. She would regard me with a defiant, steady gaze. She seemed to say, “So you have a snake in your garage. I’m not moving. Get over it.”

Historically, the relationship between snake and woman has been shaky. The snake in the Garden of Eden tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Eve succumbed, then tempted Adam who also succumbed. Thus began a time-honored tradition: when you make a mistake, blame somebody else. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake, and God decreed eternal enmity between woman and snake.

So it’s instinct for me to get skin-crawly at the thought of snakes in the garage, especially not knowing how many might be in there. Snakes are unsettling, the way they slither and twist in totally unpredictable patterns. Other wild denizens have legs. It’s easier to relate to creatures with legs. At least you can tell which way they’re heading.

Still, I didn’t interfere much with Samantha. I respected her pluck.

My first personal encounter with her had occurred one day when I needed to drive out of the garage, and she was stretched out behind the car. I tried to persuade her to move by prodding her gently with my broom handle. She was having none of that. Finally, I resorted to sweeping her aside with the brush part. To my dismay, I must have poked her with one of the bristles, because I drew a little blood. I felt terrible. I don’t like to draw blood from any creature, even a snake.

She apparently took my guilt as a sign that I would now treat her with greater respect, for she returned to the garage. I knew it was Samantha because I saw her in her favorite pose. On a warm summer day, she often rested with her head in the sun outside the garage, poked through the gap in the molding, while the rest of her remained curled up in the cool inside.

One late afternoon, as I drove into the driveway, Samantha was stretched out parallel to the garage door, a few inches in front of it. Her head lay exactly in the path of my driver-side wheels.

Here was an unexpected opportunity to diminish the garage-snake population, and to write a historic wrong. Respect for Samantha’s pluck aside, she was still a snake. And hadn’t her ancestor been instrumental in the fall of mine?

But I couldn’t do it. By then, we had developed almost a relationship. I stopped the car, got out, and explained to Samantha that she really must move. Slowly, with apparent reluctance – and perhaps some distain – she curled her way into the grass beside the driveway.

I called after her, “Samantha, I would not be unhappy if you decided to live somewhere else.”

Samantha was probably thinking the same about me.