Confession time. I was going to skip writing this Sunday column.
A snake changed that.
I LOL (that’s text talk for “laugh out loud”) as my hands fly over the keyboard, and I mean typing fast because I’m also on deadline for another project. What I’m supposed to be concentrating on is a public presentation I am to do in Biloxi about the mid-20th Century music of the Mississippi Coast.
You now, Elvis, Hank Williams, The Raiders, Ann Raye, Kitty Wells, James Brown, that sort of music. Fun stuff but time-consuming for someone obsessed with accuracy and good storytelling.
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The debate with self over whether to carve out time for this regular Sunday missive was decided by an easy-to-write-about, yard-long, rather skinny, juvenile black snake, commonly called a ratsnake in Mississippi and Virginia.
OK, a little explanation. I’m at my Virginia abode, a house on top of a small hill. A day ago I realized I was tired of working in my second-story office, a former bedroom not much bigger than my former newsroom cubicle. It has a great woodsy view but two weeks of the same scene was too much.
So yesterday I brought my computer downstairs and set up a table in front of the patio door.
My theory is that the natural scenes outside the big glass double-door won’t be too much of a distraction. And they aren’t — the tufted titmouse splish-splashing in the birdbath, the hummingbird fighting over nectar, the butterfly sucking the pentas flowers dry and the squirrel investigating immature acorns plunking on the wooden deck.
Back to work
I resettled into the music history project, occasionally looking up from the computer to refocus my eyes on the natural. About 10 o’clock that night, out of habit I looked up to be greeted by pitch blackness outside the patio door. Uh, except for The Snake.
Good thing I’m not faint of heart. I was eye to eye with a critter that had managed to squeeze through the small space between the sliding screen door and the outside glass. I suspect it was attracted by bugs, who were attracted by the light from the desk lamp.
I’ve seen interesting sights out this patio door, including a black bear tilting the bird feeder to pour seed into his mouth. But I’ve never spotted a vertical snake. On glass. A foot from my head.
My mother, deathly afraid of snakes, was determined we would not follow in her fearful footsteps. She succeeded. I’m not afraid. Cautious, yes, until I decide if they are venomous, but not scared at the sight. I’ve learned such rules as stepping on a log, not over it, to avoid snakes nestled on the other side.
My “worse” snake story is when I was camping by a river in India. I crawled out of my tent in the morning to be greeted by a cobra skin hanging on a limb in front of the tent flap, where a shedding snake had deposited it while I slept. Gulp. You can give me a vertically inclined, non-venomous black snake a foot from my head any ole day.
I grabbed my camera last night to take photographs for skeptical friends and family. Taking a photo at night through glass is no easy feat and I give myself a D grade. But at least I have proof.
Research set aside, I watched The Snake for about half an hour. It seemed in no hurry. Finally it squeezed through the screen frame and headed up the glass, unsupported, (I can’t explain how it managed that) to the top of the outside of the door, where a string of lights hang. Then all signs of its black and white body disappeared. No “thunk” on the deck so it didn’t fall. Just disappeared.
Not at night
If daytime, I might have opened the door to investigate, but not in pitch black. I scribbled the word “Snake!” on a yellow sticky and stuck the note on the door so I’d remember to be cautious in the morning. Then I went to bed, LOLing at myself.
Lord willin’ and creek don’t rise, by the time you read this the music program will be a fait accompli and my vertical snake also a fading memory. I did talk through the glass, though, inviting it to eat the moles and voles that ravage my gardens this summer. I hope The Snake listened.
Kat Bergeron, a veteran feature writer specializing in Gulf Coast history and sense of place, is retired from the Sun Herald. She writes the Mississippi Coast Chronicles column as a freelance correspondent. Reach her at BergeronKat@gmail.com or at Southern Possum Tales, P.O. Box 33, Barboursville VA 22923.