Oh, bugger

One of the first tasks involved in renovating the old house was (is) reducing the knee-high vegetation that surrounds it — which doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that the lot that the house sits on is bloody near three hundred feet deep. And me with an electric push lawn-mower.


There I am, poaching nicely in my own perspiration, when a neighbor lady wanders up and enquires if I am “scared of snakes”. Seems that she was fiddling with the garden hose; discovered Tommy No-Legs coiled up about four inches from her hand, and decided that this was an appropriate task for a handy redshirt.


I trundle over, peer sweatily into the coil of hose and spot what is obviously a fairly peevish young bullsnake.

Chuckling manfully, I reach down, avoid his first half-hearted swipe at my hand, pin his head to the grass with a handy twig, get a nice grip on the back of his neck and haul his scaly butt out of the hose pile.

I notice, as I hold him up for the admiring masses, two things. The first of which is that Neighbor Lady has disappeared. I mean, “Poof!” One moment she’s there, the next she’s gone, leaving only a faint odour of burning sneaker tread and a gently bouncing hoe to show that she was ever there.

The second thing I notice is that the bullsnake whom is currently wrapping himself around my good right arm has a rather nice, extremely loud, buzzing thingummy on his south end.

“Oh, bugger,” think I, as I gaze in some consternation at the eighteen-inch long prairie rattler who is apparently expounding at length with regard to my ancestry, sexual habits and intelligence.

It seems that my Venomous Reptile Recognition Skillset may have gotten a skoshie bit rusty over the last decade or so.

One semi-controlled yelp later, and Chris showed up at a dead run, took one look at the irritated reptile and sniffed, “Well, take it to the pasture and let it go.”

I was in the process of pointing out that I would be more than glad to let Jake go, that it wasn’t really a question of me letting him go, but rather convincing him to turn loose of me when the wee bastard gave a squirmy little twist and hung his left fang in my thumb.

I will admit to executing a fast-ball pitch that would have made Nolan Ryan all misty-eyed, but I emphatically deny that I “screeched like a Newhaven fishwife” while doing so.

Anyway, I don’t know how Chris would have noticed any screeching, considering that he had snatched up the discarded hoe and was vigorously — and somewhat emphatically — performing actions that might best be described as “Ginsu Viking” on the tumbling reptile whilst bellowing cusswords in about four languages at the top of his lungs.

As an aside, I’d like to give a hearty Paws Up to Hatch Corporation’s SGK100 model of kevlar lined search gloves. I’m pretty sure that the designer didn’t have “baby rattlesnake” in mind when he put those gloves together, but they kept me un-poisoned anyway.

*scratch, scratch*

I think I’ll keep a closer eye out around the old homestead this summer.


Now that's cool
The ancestral manse

73 thoughts on “Oh, bugger

  1. Wow, now THAT is an endorsement! How the heck can you mistake a rattlesnake for a bullsnake though?

  2. Poor little bugger. Glad you escaped envenoming, but dang if he didn’t make a poor choice of making a last-ditch fang-throw.

    That said I knew a guy who used to teach snakes for the military. In the middle of a nice Louisiana swamp, as he was telling his students how to tell the cottonmouth from a harmless water snake such as the one he just grabbed… and then noticed the very white flesh and unfolded fangs at eye level. Chucked that serpent for the horizon and told the stunned cadets, “That’s why you pay attention.”

  3. Twice in my life I’ve been struck at by water moccasins.
    I do not like snakes.
    I do not like them on planes.
    I do not like them on trains.
    I do not like them when it rains.
    Let’s face it, I hate the little buggers.

  4. They have their uses, though. There’s the guy in South Africa who captured and de-venomed a few puff-adders (nasty buggers). Whenever he went away on holiday, he’d release them in the house, and stick a note on all the doors warning that puff-adders were loose inside. Never had a burglary in the twenty years I knew him, even though he lived in a high-crime area and the houses on his street were regular targets. (The fact that he left the windows open, and passers-by could sometimes see the snakes crawling around, probably had something to do with that!)

  5. I *think* vipers have to get an even purchase in order to start pumping venom.
    Although that doesn’t really matter when Mr. Fang has one in ya, does it?

  6. Geez Lawdog…Oh about the yard..borrow the neighbors gas guzzler?

  7. I have two comments:
    1)I thought I had the Dog all knowed up better than that.
    2)I guess it was just too much to hope that the little bugger had bitten the neighbor lady(and I use both terms in their loosest connotation) first.

  8. P. S.
    There are people who say a rattlesnake can’t bite under water because it’ll drown. Some of those buzzworms don’t give a rat’s ass if they drown…
    As to purchase, once the body is anchored, vertical, horizontal, crosswise, or held dangling by the tail, that sucker can envenomate.

  9. I thought all venomous snakes had triangular heads…
    I haven’t laughed this much at a blog post in a long time.
    Oh, and I learned a new term:”Red Shirt.”

  10. I had caught the occasional snake and held it behind and close to the head. No. Wrong. I watched a herpetology guy do it the right way: Use a thumb and forefinger to hold the jaws shut. They have little strength for opening their mouths.

    (Shame the same can’t be said for politicians.)


  11. Good recovery. At least it did not attach itself to your nose. That would add a spectacular second injury to that site.


  12. A former employer of mine is an Iwo Jima veteran. Wounded 3 times, silver star recipient and battlefield commission from sergeant to LT.
    I watched his 4’10 inch, 80lb wife grab a garter snake and back him all over the yard.
    I shouldn’t have laughed but watching a 6’5 inch, 70 year old man get chased while yelling “Get it back, I’m serious, stop it honey” was more than I could take.

  13. Duly noted, LawMom.

    Thankfully, I haven’t gotten closer than a shovel-length.

  14. LD, that reminds me of the time when I was living in Thailand, and had a friend’s lady come over and clean the bachelor pad whilst he and I swilled some cool brews in the yard. We heard a shreik, “Sa-nik!” in the kitchen. And went to investigate.

    Not being familiar with the local slitherers, I promptly grabbed the little varmit behind his neck, close enough to his ears (?) so he couldn’t do the trick yours did.

    Only after I had firm hold of the little critter, and mentioned to my buddy that I caught a baby grass snake, did he inform me that I had a full grown bamboo viper in my mitts.


    I think Iwould have made Nolan a bit jealous also with my delivery also.

  15. Rattlesnakes of any description are a good reason that God invented shotguns.

  16. See, this is what happens when you don’t post for awhile, Dog: the Gawds notice a lack of new posts, and give you something to post about… πŸ˜‰

  17. How does one make a comment along the lines of “anybody who’d own an electric lawn mower could be expected to do that” without giving offense?

  18. With the comments on ancestry, intelligence and sexual preferences, seems like the little feller was batting about .333

  19. Reminds me of the time as a Small Curious Boy that I nearly got myself hospitalized by a no legger.

    Was about 10 or so, inside watching the cartoon cat and mouse kill each other when I heard Mutt barking up a storm outside. Normally wouldn’t have noticed too much, but this was his “come over Derius you GOTTA see this” bark. I ran outside to see Mutt with his head and most of his body shoved up under a shrub, barking, lunging in close, backing up, rise repeat.

    I shoved him aside and peered under said shrub to find a tiny little garden snake all coiled up and Mad As Hell. I think I actually said “Cool a SNAKE!” or somesuch, and reached under there and grabbed it. As I was hauling it out and getting up, I was heading across the yard to show my Dad what I had done, he can running across the yard, slapped my hand hard enough to hurt which set the snake flying, and ran over and proceeded to go all ninja on it with a machete. To make a long story shorter, KNOW YOUR SNAKES. I had inadvertently wrestled down a copperhead….yikes.

  20. *coughs*

    While I get the seriousness of the situation, the sheer hilarity value of this series of unfortunate events (imcluding “hoe bouncing gently on the ground”) makes this rank up there with the Pink Gorilla Suite Meth Lab Raid.

    I’ve had only one serious herpetological encounter. Teen hiker on a portage with a camping group in Algonquin park. Came across a rattler on the path while carrying the paddles. You betcha I backed off.

  21. Dawg, last time I had a “snake call” from a neighbor, I reported with one of the cut-down Cold Steel zulu spear asegai dealies…

    They work quite nicely.

    And scare the bleep outta your neighbors at the same time.

  22. Oh, and another thing, dawg… I had a buddy in kollidge who was getting a masters in herpetology… His house had a LOT of aquarium tanks in it… He kept his stash in a big one, which also housed a rather large timber rattler. He figured that nobody was gonna smoke his pot but him…

  23. Um…

    Just in case you feel you’re a little out of practice…


    Oh, and always throw a snake underhanded. That way they’re arcing airborne longer and you can track their landing spot easier and avoid it, plus, it prevents the possibility of a long snake from coiling back around your noggin.

    I also think you need to send a quick note to your glovemaker with an endorsement. And, your thanks.


  24. “Oh, and another thing, dawg… I had a buddy in kollidge who was getting a masters in herpetology… His house had a LOT of aquarium tanks in it… He kept his stash in a big one, which also housed a rather large timber rattler. He figured that nobody was gonna smoke his pot but him…”
    On the first half of this….oh yeah I knew a guy like that. he had his PARENTS house filled with snakes and other assorted things. Non venomous in the house, venomous out in the garage.
    As to the second half, well..that is one way to keep people out of your stash.

  25. Oh geez. You didn’t notice the pits in front of its face?

    Also, keep a 25,000 volt (minimum) stun gun handy in case you get bit. Apparently, rattlesnake venom is positively charged and attaches to negatively charged nerve cells, and zapping yourself with the stun gun reverses the polarity of the venom so that it can’t bind with your nerve cells. It also causes the ones that are already attached to let go. Your body then just expels it as waste.

    Unfortunately, stun guns don’t work on cobra venom. Not sure about Copperhead venom either.

  26. Rattlesnake venom is an hemotoxin. In other words, it attacks cells and organs. With the exception of the exceptionally evil-looking Mohave rattler which has som neurotoxic properties as well and is almost always fatal.
    The prairie rattlers around here have comparatively tiny heads with very small pits, and are not large snakes. They make up for it by having highly concentrated venom. We have several types of rattlesnakes here, though fortunately, so far, none of the Mohaves.
    Rattlesnakes strike very rapidly, unlike the cobra, who is so slow it is possible to avoid being bitten by dodging, if you’ve your wits about you-and who DOES when faced with a cobra?
    The treatment at the Bendel Clinic and with Dr. Guilbert, with whom I worked, was to lay open the facia in which the bite was located, and inject cortisone at short intervals the length of it.
    Since a great deal of snake venom is concentrated protein, and allergens are protein, intense treatment with a steroid is often successful if the bite is attented to very, very quickly.
    I have been bitten twice, both times poisonous, neither time serious, although both could have been fatal. Fatal or not, it is a fearful and extremely painful experience, best avoided at the end of a hoe.

  27. I managed to mishandle a hat band sized red diamondback (Crotalus ruber ruber)and was bitten for my ignorance. 40 years later, the finger is still missing a lot of meat (when LawMom writes of hemotoxins, think high powered digestive enzymes,) though I did eventually get my finger print back. There was a neurotoxic component, as well, that numbed my face.

    The doctor who treated me had become something of a snakebite specialist while enjoying his hobby as an amateur archeologist. His day job was as an Ob-Gyn. I took a lot of razzing for having to visit my gynecologist for followups after leaving the hospital.

  28. I’ve been bushwalking and come face to face with an eastern brown snake (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_brown_snake) when I was clambering up some rocks. That was a “oh. SHIT!” moment.
    I remember watching a snake handler years ago showing off a bunch of snakes, and telling us about them, I think he mentioned something like out of the 10 most venomous snakes in the world, Australia has 7. I still wouldn’t want to be bitten by any venomous snake though!

  29. Lawmom-

    An article in a 2000 Natural History magazine seems to indicate that that rattlesnakes other than the Mojave are adding neurotoxins to their arsenal.

    Also, IMS, those snakes which produce both types of toxins tend to have higher ratios of neurotoxins in their youth.

  30. Never been bitten by a snake, but I’ve killed several with a shotgun, along with a few vines and an old garden hose someone had thrown away in the woods…

  31. Well, roy in nipomo, some years ago, a scientist in California, unable to resist the idiotic temptation of breeding enemies (and I’m one of HIS), managed to crossbreed a rattlesnake with a kingsnake.
    Of course, the inevitable stuff of which horror movies are made, happened. The breeds eventually escaped the lab.
    Unfortunately, they have a rather wicked type of poison, but no rattles. As you probably know, a kingsnake has a superficial resemblance to a diamondback.
    I don’t know by now if the cross is breeding true and not having rattles. It’s been a few decades since the new snake was developed and escaped. Obviously they’re breeding with something, because we ran across a couple of them in northern Nevada in the 1980s.
    I believe there are several snakes which embody both types of poison; a bite from one of them is very often fatal. The last I knew, no one had developed an antivenom which worked on both-and, as I learned in Africa, the cure is sometimes worse than the original poison.

  32. Great post, thought you might like to know that I’ll probably be spending a good bit of time in the original Newhaven on my night-shift, it’s just as scary as rattlers, but the venom isn’t in the snakes any more πŸ™‚

  33. Orangeneck:

    Anti-venom > stun gun

    But if you insist on stun guns, please ask for a stunning from a first responder.

    ( Reverse polarity of the venom? WTF is that? A venomous electric eel? You're making my head hurt. )

  34. May I recommend borrowing a powered lawn mower for the first round of brush cutting? It’s much easier that way, and the blades do a pretty good job at wiping out most of the hornets or yellow jackets that come out the hole when riled up by trespassers while you beat a strategic retreat.

    Come to Alaska – we have no snakes here at all!

  35. Beware of scorpions as well, Lawdog…or are you located too far to the north for those??

  36. I took a trip to California once. My Californian cityfolk friends and I drove between San Francisco and LA, and ended up being still out in the boonies after dark. So we stopped at a scenic stop to look at the stars, which they never got to see.

    Which was a good plan, except that when we got out, there were rattlesnakes at the perimeter of the parking area _and_ scorpions scurrying around _and_ a police car drove up to see what we were doing before I could even hurry back inside the car in panic.

    Obviously, people were never meant to live in places like Texas and California. πŸ™‚

    I’m glad I live in Ohio, where the nonpoisonous snakes live in seclusion and like to wriggle away before you get there, and the poisonous ones are even more shy.

  37. I was bitten by a copperhead about 8 months back. Leaving a friend’s cookout at night walking to the car on the front pathway.

    I remained calm, informed my friends I had gotten bitten, and on the way to the car to get to the hospital my blood pressure dropped enough to knock me cold out. I am a 190 lb guy. This was about a 10″ snake.

    Two doses of anti-venom and 3 days in the ICU (I fought them to let me leave since I had a date for that day), I have a lot of respect for the little guys. Couldn’t walk for a week after that. Easily the most painful thing I have ever had happen.

    Glad you didn’t get bit. Fingers and toes are the worst from what the snake doc was telling me. Potential to lose em and all that.


  38. The ancestral manse’s back 40 has tarantulas, rattlers, moccasins, rats, mice, scorpions, coyotes, javalinas, and probably the occasional cougar.
    It has more of those from a misguided Economic Development project that involved scraping the mesquite, tumbleweeds, golf balls, and various varmints off about 50 acres at the end of the street to make a highly restricted ‘estate.’ All that happened was they’ve sold no lots and the varmints moved en masse to the surrounding residential properties. You do not go into our storage buildings until well after the first freeze.

  39. Lawmom,

    Out of unalloyed curiousity, if the nature is so unfriendly and venemous, and the heat so similar to a blast-furnace, what is wonderful enough about Texas to attract and keep you there?

    I’ve no stones to throw about living in a place where nature is constantly trying to kill you (and I refuse to rake the leaves until we get the first rain to keep the volcanic ash down), but I know I stay of here for the flying, the sheer breathakingly beautiful summers, the wonderful culture, and I happen to have a job and project airplane.

    So what makes Texas great enough for you to suffer scorpions, snakes, summers, and lack of mountains?

  40. Law Mom – What, no black widow or brown recluse spiders? No assassin bugs or coral snakes? No wild Russian boars? Has Texas gotten tamer since I was last there, or did you just get tired of listing the locals?

    – felis sidus

  41. On a tangent: are these “Hatch StreetGuard gloves” the same that, a year or two back, absorbed a bite from an extremely unhappy hawk?

  42. On a Wing-
    Well, first you have to have enough money to move. So you have to sell the house you now own in order to buy another one; we own two in this town and couldn’t sell them for a downpayment somewhere else.
    Second, in these days and times, if you have a job, you bygod keep that job until and unless you can find another.
    Third, I’d be happy as a clam to leave here, but logistics just aren’t cooperating.
    You get used to being ‘shot at’ so to speak, and I was born here. Coping with the four-legged stuff isn’t nearly so hard as the two-legged variety; at least you can shoot the former.
    felis sidus-
    I neglected to mention bobcats and black widows, although brown recluse seems to be a bit further south, along with the coral snake and copperhead; I also omitted the city commission.

  43. I think I’ve had an encounter with about every snake, spider and insect native to Texas. These critters pale in comparism to the two legged varmints. The critters are easy to take care of; the varmints are another thing, although many I’ve dealt with deserved worst treatment than required for the critters.

  44. LawMom – the brown recluses are north of you, too. They are up in Kansas for sure. I can show you two dime sized divots on my leg where they ‘envenomed’ (great word, btw) me about 30 years or so ago.

    My best reptile encounter included a hysteric college roomate (from New Jersey), a small prairie rattler (abruptly deceased) and a shotgun (12g loaded with light buckshot). I to this day don’t know if she was more upset that the place I’d taken her camping had SNAKES in it or that I had a shotgun in the trunk of my car!!!

  45. My one encounter with a rattlesnake involved a Pacific timber rattler about seven feet (2m) long (literally the length of a railroad tie) that slithered across the railroad tracks in front of me.

    I looked at it . . . “That’s not a diamondback, and it has no rattles, so it’s safe because the diamondback rattler’s only venomous snake around here” and just stood there watching it from five-ten feet (2-3m) away.

    It looked at me, flicked its tongue a couple of times, and went on it’s way . . .


    Talked to a prof at the college . . . that’s when I found out what it was, and that it was venomous!

    He was quite interested because we weren’t supposed to have those within 200 miles (300km)!

    Webfoot Logger

  46. I will leave you with a quote from my grandmother.”The only good snake is a dead snake!”

  47. My lasting encounter with a rattlesnake was high up in a narrow canyon in Nevada, and it hung one fang in my thumb. Years later, the thumb produced a hard, BB-like swelling that was not only a bit sore, but ugly.
    I hied meself to the medic, who proceeded to remove a hard ball of stuff which, when he cut it open, had a small nasty greeny center. He was so fascinated, he sent the whole thing to a lab.
    The report came back that this was human tissue encapsulating (another word for you, threadbndr) very concentrated protein, i.e. poison.
    That was the second time I was ever bitten. The first was in Nigeria, and we still don’t know what the snake was, beyond that it was poisonous and blue.

  48. Lawmom,

    Thank you! That makes a lot more sense. I’m looking at moving soon, and while keeping a weather eye on the economy and knowing the environment is a big concern to me (Not being able to breathe in Houston struck it clean off the list of potential places to live), I keep forgetting about the two-legged critters.

    The more possessions I acquire, the more they slow down my ability to change and move. I’d have left this state months ago if it weren’t for the plane that needs fixing.

  49. On and Wing and a Whim-
    I highly recommend Amarillo. More restuarants per person than almost any other city, ranging from fairly fancy to down home cafe,’ decent shopping, adequate medical care, airport, and although it has changed in the 10 years I’ve been gone, it’s still got some really nice people.

  50. Lawmom…may seem a silly question, but do you have your own blog? I think it would be an interesting read.

  51. No, from time to time I consider a blog, but haven’t done it yet.

  52. Lawmom…may seem a silly question, but do you have your own blog? I think it would be an interesting readI have to concur.

  53. ROFLMAO!!! Your skill at describing these situations is amazing, and had me laughing almost to tears, although I understand that being in the situation itself must not have been funny, at all. Glad you’re still alive to tell more tales like this, thank God for those Kevlar gloves!!

  54. I haven’t been here for a few days, er weeks, er month, ok make it a tad bit over a year-er nearly two, but I’m glad to see you haven’t lost your writing style that I loved. I’ll become a regular again

  55. It is that time of year, I am in the Austin area.
    I took my dogs out for their evening walk in the back yard and last Tuesday and my daughter came out with me. I was about to sit on my favorite swing when I heard it. She had her MP3 player in her ears, so she could not hear the warning sound. I heard it, and saw it strike toward her. She hotfooted it up the steps to herd the dogs in… squealing!
    I grabbed the machete and my camera. We chased it out of the yard, into the field behind us. I am not allowed to shoot in the community (which I am about to change… SCREW THAT!) so we threw ROCKS at the darn thing! As we were flipping rocks over, a scorpion charged us! The rattlesnake is dead (so is the scorpion), but he was a good sized snake at 4 1/2 feet without the head! It was hard to measure as it was still moving.
    My kids were too creeped out to take a pic of me holding it up.
    Darn city kiddies!
    I am sending the 12 button rattle to a friend in Washington πŸ˜‰

  56. And the Dog is currently on the way to the vet with a snakebit dog.

  57. And the Dog is currently on the way to the vet with a snakebit dog.Oh crap!
    ::fingers crossed::

  58. YIKE! What happened?

    (fingers crossed for the canine contingent).

    Hopefully the local serpent population will realize soon that you all are back to stay and skedaddle.

  59. A recent wildfire has driven many of the undesireable varmints into populated areas. I learned today that 2 rattlers had been killed on the main street of town. Two more have been killed in our yard, bringing to present total to four, but a block away, one man killed seven just in his front yard while mowed the grass. Three blocks away, another man killed five in his garden. Jake the Snake do love to hide under leafies like cucumber, pumpkin, squash, and watermelon plants, but he also likes corn and tomatoes because the field mice like them as well.
    So gardens are pretty well covered by creepy crawlies.
    Atleast the snake got the dog and not the Dog, who happened to be carelessly standing on it….

  60. and not the Dog, who happened to be carelessly standing on it….o_0
    So…I guess this means we’ll be getting “Oh, bugger redux”, perhaps?

  61. A recent wildfire has driven many of the undesireable varmints into populated areas. I learned today that 2 rattlers had been killed on the main street of town. Two more have been killed in our yard, bringing to present total to four, but a block away, one man killed seven just in his front yard while mowed the grass. Three blocks away, another man killed five in his garden. Jake the Snake do love to hide under leafies like cucumber, pumpkin, squash, and watermelon plants, but he also likes corn and tomatoes because the field mice like them as well.
    So gardens are pretty well covered by creepy crawlies.
    Atleast the snake got the dog and not the Dog, who happened to be carelessly standing on it….

  62. I wish I knew the attribution, but someone fairly famous once said, “everyone has a snake story.”
    I’m not one for giving snakes a chance to test that theory about biting without securing himself to something, and I have absolutely no interest in snakes, venomous or not. Unlike my brother who kept a gopher snake in an aquarium (sans water) in the dining room between the kitchen and the dining table. You knew which visitors had snake issues pretty quickly.
    He’d feed it mice, until one day it decided his thumb looked pretty appetizing, which abruptly resulted in the snake having to fend for himself in the mountains north of town.

  63. “Oh bugger”, yeah right, bet it was something else that came out. Mark

  64. I’m not worried about my pregnancy, we’re good to go at 35 weeks. I’m worried about those ladies who are still in their 1st and 2nd trimesters. And this is just not a good time for me to stay home so I don’t infect them. bugger.

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