In the front garden of our back-to-front house was a huge garage. It had two roll-up doors at the front for cars, and a smaller regular door at the side for people. Under the side door was a hole. I never took much notice of that hole. I didn’t think it was very important. I was wrong.
One day, I opened the back door of our house and ran down the four wobbly steps. I took only one step along the path before I found myself sprinting back into the house. I slammed the door shut, and then with my heart beating fast, I yelled, “Kids! Don't go outside!”
I headed to a bedroom window with my children following, and we all peered out. Lying on the path between our house and the garage was a huge snake. Its golden scales were glistening in the sun.
“You could ring WIRES, Mum,” one of my children suggested.
Oh yes, the Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service might rescue us. They could take the snake away. We'd no longer be trapped in our own home. I flipped through the phone book looking for the right number and then a few minutes later, I was talking to a snake expert: “It sounds like you have a copperhead snake.”
After some discussion, we decided the snake had probably come out of the hole near the garage door.
“Can you come and remove it for us?” I asked.
“No point doing that,” said the expert. “There could be a whole family of snakes living under your garage. If we remove this one, you’ll still have the others.”
“But what shall we do?” I asked. “What if it bites us?”
“Just leave it alone and it won’t hurt you,” said the WIRES man. “It’s probably been living under your garage for years, and it hasn’t caused you any trouble before. As long as you don’t agitate it, you’ll be okay.”
I wasn't exactly happy with this advice, but I had to accept it. There wasn't anything else we could do. Except name the snake. By the time my husband, Andy, arrived home from work, everyone was eager to tell him about El Cid, the copperhead snake. By this time, it had slithered off presumably back down his hole under the garage.
I suppose the WIRES man was right about snakes. If we don't provoke them, they’ll leave us alone.
I found this information on the Australian Museum website:
Copperheads tend to be secretive and prefer to avoid encounters with humans. If cornered a copperhead will hiss loudly, flatten its body and thrash or flick about, but usually without biting. Further provocation will cause the snake to lash out and bite. The venom is powerfully neurotoxic, haemolytic and cytotoxic, and a bite from an adult of any of the species may be potentially fatal without medical assistance.
Some years ago, the cow paddocks surrounding our house were turned into a new housing estate. Our old home was knocked down to make room for a bigger, more expensive, modern dwelling. Our garage was demolished too. When that happened, we wondered about El Cid.
“Do you think the workmen saw El Cid?” asked one of my kids. “Or do you think he slithered away unnoticed?”
I don’t really know. But if El Cid did suddenly appear, followed by all his slithery snake family, I can just imagine the looks on the men's faces.
Granny Angel has never met a snake on her garden path. But who knows? There might be a family of copperheads living under her garage. I did notice a hole near her side garage door the last time I was between the covers of my book The Angels of Abbey Creek. El Cid might be down there. What if he slithered up in search of some sun? I wonder what Granny would do? Do you think she’d panic? Would she ring WIRES like we did? What do you think?
Have you ever had a close encounter with a snake or other dangerous creature?