Red and yellow, you’re a dead fellow. Red and black, you’re okay Jack. It is a rhyme we learn in kindergarten here to tell the difference between the venomous coral snake, and the harmless scarlet kingsnake. It is also a testament to the strength of the childhood memory. The words rushed back as I looked down at the little fellow sitting deathly still in the middle of my path as dusk settled in around me.
“Scarlet kingsnake—once again. It’s not like a person sees a coral snake. They are reclusive,” I told Big Dog. He blew a big gust of air out of his snout at the tip of the creature’s tail, but still it did not move. “Come along, no time for snake games.” I had a date.
A hot date. Well, hot if humidity counts. Darkness was creeping in, turning all the big pine trees that towered over me into one massive blob of a black shape against a pale sky. Big dog put his nose to the ditch, trailing something as lots of little moths scurried into the sky to avoid him. Slowly his nose was pulling us toward the woods.
“None of that tonight. No time. We’ve got to meet my date, and then it is back to put up the chickens. I know you’ve been catching a lot of bobcat scent lately.” Big Dog snorted again, like that sort of excited him.
Then I caught sight of my date in the distance. A strapping character—the sort that steps onto the scene and all eyes fall in his direction. He commands attention, but not in an obnoxious way. He is demure, and that is part of what pulls a lady to him. He also plays hard-to-get very well. I only get to see him in his full glory once a month, and it is a lonely 29 days until his return.
Big Dog, already bursting with masculine energy, had zero interested in Mr. Moon. He was hurrying me along as Mr. Moon rose above the trees. We locked eyes, and the magnetism of that beautiful ethereal being was pulling me closer, but never close enough. Always just out of reach, like all the mysteries in life. Big Dog pulled us homeward, and I let out a resigned sigh as I returned to my chores.
To my irritation, above the chicken coop in a crepe myrtle tree bursting with pink blossoms that fall like pink rain onto the heads of people standing beneath, roosted the knuckle-head white chicken.
Ever since a bobcat began prowling a few weeks back, Whitey—being of a very flighty nature—decided she would be safer outside the coop. I disagree, given that bobcats climb trees, and once it is dark this particularly clueless chicken sits dead still and allows any creature that passes to scoop her up. Every night I go and shake the crepe myrtle so that it rains pink petals down onto me, and then the knuckle-head flies down squawking like there has been an earthquake, and meanders on into the coop.
Maybe it was Mr. Moon that had her out of routine, something like how the Scarlet King Snake had decided to sit idle in my path rather than follow standard snake protocol of slithering to safety. Whatever the cause, instead of landing on the ground, she flew to the top of the chicken run.
“Get down!” I shrieked as I clapped my hands, but she dawdled to the middle of the wire roof and hunkered down. In the run I went, poking at her from the underside of the wire and had her near the edge of the roof…when Big Dog came storming up, eager to help, practically foaming at the mouth. Of course, Whitey scurried back into the middle of the roof.
It was around this time that my flashlight, which was bobbing around like something that belonged on a concert stage, flashed across the silent beast that was sharing the run with me. It was also at this exact moment that I felt the beast’s calling card on my hands and arms.
I like bugs. I don’t even really mind spiders, but the beast we in Florida commonly call the banana spider is different. Humans instinctively find the creepy-crawling movement of eight arachnid legs revolting, but some of us are rational beings…until we find ourselves tangled in the thick web of the six inch long banana spider. The web itself reminds me of dental floss, only it is that disgusting sticky spider web texture that just will not get off, least of all while flailing around in the dark trying to determine the location of the owner of that web.
“I am not a farmer!” I shouted at Whitey, or the banana spider, or Mr. Moon, or really anyone. “I am not equipped for this!” I caught a glance of the spider, with its long striped legs that come to a creepy point at the tips, like eight little daggers, and I high-tailed it out of there.
Somewhat panting, I stood outside the coop, shivering a little as I felt that spider web still tangled around my arms. I went around to the egg boxes, deciding to play it cool and finish up the job while I waited for Whitey to fly down. I opened the door, and there curled up like a fat coil of brown striped rope was a snake with the fat bulge of an egg on its insides.
This was the first time in five years of keeping chickens that I have had the misfortune to be visited by an egg eating snake. I closed the door promptly, and then as though in doubt as to whether I was delusional, reopened it. The snake looked to be having a spot of indigestion and only lazily lifted its head to return my gaze. His elegant forked tongue took in my scent of banana spider web. I made a movement toward him, expecting him to run, like every snake I encounter in the garden. He just stared at me and clearly he was thinking: “We both know you ain’t a farmer.”
“No, I’m not a farmer!” I yelled as I shut back the door. What to do…what to do…get big stick. Big stick didn’t help. Mr. Snake had zero interest in ever leaving the lap of luxury he had found in my chicken coop.
Suddenly relief washed over my mind. Romantic dates with Mr. Moon aside, I do in fact have a functioning husband. He likely did not read the fine print, but by marrying me he signed up to do all sorts of random jobs. For example, cleaning a smashed lizard out of the door jamb (because that is really, really disgusting), or snatching a snake by its tail out of my chicken coop.
That is exactly what he did. And just a minute later Whitey came fluttering down…and then ran blindly into the woods…because she is a knuckle-head.
“Survival of the fittest,” my husband grunted, rather farmer-like, as he turned his back to the woods and walked to the house. I let out a frustrated sigh as my eyes wandered from the woods to the sky. There was Mr. Moon.
“You and me, next month—same place, same time,” I winked up at him. “This time no snakes.”
Mr. Moon might have winked back, but then again, the banana spider might have too.