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My Uncle and the Snakes

It takes some mental acrobatics, but you can almost picture my uncle as a young child if you try.  Ditching school, jumping off the roof because he thinks he’s Superman, teaching relatives the hula: this cute kid today oozes cool through his “Yeah, man”s and clipped phone calls to unidentified people I’ve named Shorty.  One Christmas, years ago, he gave my sister and me two packages of CDs — one for each.  On the wrappings, he wrote something like this: “Jen/Jess/switch/swap/Tweedle-Dee/Tweedle-Dum/Booger1/Booger2/give/take/share/keep.”  Fifty years ago, I wonder if anyone thought he’d one day say to his niece (i.e., me), “Look, Tweedle-Dum, I thought you were supposed to be smart,” when she failed to grasp the finer points of Bridge during his five-minute explanation.

On Thanksgiving, I asked him about the snake problem I’d heard he’d been having over the summer.

He said that he’d had four under the fireplace in his house.

“How did you know?”

“I could hear them rustling.”

“How did you know there were four?  Did you count them?”

“Ok, to back up the story, months before I caught one in the garage.  That’s one –”

“What did you do with it?”  I’m curious about the particulars, although most would likely have no trouble accepting, without further details, that my uncle had a snake problem and now no longer has one.

He explained that he got a rake, took it to the woods, and released it.

The others were a bit more complicated.  They were slithering in and out of the house through a crevice between the wall and the fireplace.  The smaller ones were about five feet long and the bigger one — “the Mama” — was eight or nine feet.  He could see them coming down the wall outside the back of the house and going under the deck.

One time, he saw the Mama on the ledge outside.  He went back to the garage and got a pitchfork.  She was slithering from the crevice and “halfway down she saw me and froze,” he explains.  She tried to slither back inside, but only about half of her made it around the cinder block indoors.  The rest of her was exposed, and he plunged into her tail with the pitchfork and pulled and pulled.  “It was a job,” he says.  “Finally I got her out.”

“What did you do with her?”

“I cut her head off,” he replies with a nonchalant shrug.  He used a hatchet, and I’m wondering what else is in his garage.

He similarly caught the third snake outside.  There’s still another on the lam, but he hasn’t heard it in the house and doesn’t seem too concerned.  They kill other stuff, he explains. As long as they’re not in the house, he isn’t bothered by it.

One unintended casualty was a rabbit.

The baby rabbit hopped onto a sticky snake trap in my uncle’s hatchet- and pitchfork-filled garage.

“I got it off, but it was a mess.”  He sprayed it with oil and tried to pry it loose.  Finally he released it and left it outside where the bunny, traumatized, just sat in place until my uncle left.

When he returned later at night the rabbit was gone.

No one’s actually certain the rabbit was eaten by a snake or some other creature, but to believe otherwise would be dopey in the extreme.

I think he’s still bouncing around out there somewhere, maybe dining on discarded snake heads in the woods.

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