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Well.  I had had enough of this scary snake talk.  I calmly picked up a large flat rock and asked her how far up ahead along the path the snake was.  Then quietly, slowly, I began stalking it.

After all, I remembered my last encounter with serpents.  My next door neighbor, an elderly widow who sometimes indulged in spirits, had called me to ask if I could come over to fix a furnace problem for her.  It was summer, so I wondered aloud why the furnace could possibly be a problem. She said I would just have to see it.  So I went into her garage and stared at the furnace for a few minutes.  It was dusty, turned off, and I began to fear my neighbor was gone around the twist.   She said  "Bang on it with this broom." Then she retreated to the safety of the kitchen door.  I banged, and within a few seconds the furnace became animated just as if some Hollywood CGI studio had done it up for a movie.  Like nozzles on the ends of  short lengths of garden hoses, snake heads began curling out of various openings, extending themselves a foot or so into space and waving from side to side in a menacing manner.  Black snakes.  A whole nest of black snakes had taken up residence in the furnace.

After I had pasted the sight into my mental scrapbook of remarkable events, I pondered a while about how to "fix" the furnace.  The "direct approach" was my first idea, and it worked.  I got a garden rake, the iron pronged type, twisted the prongs around one of the snakes and pulled if from the furnace.  Then holding the rake by the end of the handle, and moving it about enough to make the snake "hold on" to it, I walked about fifty feet into the back field and released it.  It made a bee-line (snake-wiggle?) for the woods.  I repeated this operation nearly a dozen times.  Once I got two snakes on the rake at one time.  I turned on the furnace and got a few more that way. 

Strangely, the last snake was the hardest one to deal with.  It would not stay on the rake.  When released like the others it did not make a break for the woods, it took off instead straight back to the garage.  I chased it, caught it and released it again.  Same thing.  Finally, I released it, ran back to the garage and grabbed a shovel, and then stood guard on the grass.  Presently that snake returned.  I warned it off, but it kept on coming.  When it got close enough I chopped off its head with the shovel and left it there as a statement to the other snakes.

Like Dodge in BURIED CHILD, (the Sam Shepard play I am currently playing Dodge in at a small stage in Indy), I have both watched  "a bitch eat her puppies," and drowned  "the runt of a litter."  I have lived rurally enough, though not a farmer, to have sat in judgment upon the lives of lesser beasts. Those acts of killing will haunt you even if you were pretty sure they needed to done.

A rooster we had came viciously at my daughter once when she was of grade-school age.  That rooster was the chief ingredient of a rooster soup by the next sunrise.  And now this Greek viper that scared my daughter was the next thing on my personal list of things that would be better off dead. Hopefully it would not prove to be a god in disguise.

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Cydonia photo: ESA

This is the journal of David Ross
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