Fowl, Reptiles, and Worthless Mammals

Instead of Spring Fever, I have contracted a bad case of Chicken Fever (this is not to be mistaken with Bird Flu). It has been brought on by pictures, videos and reports of friends and family getting some new spring chicks.

If you didn’t know, my flock of fowl came to a bitter end a couple months ago after losing the last 2 to a raccoon. It was heartbreaking.

Today I decided “it’s Easter time, it’s springtime, I’m going to the feed store and picking out some baby chicks”. This was  completely an impulsive idea since our family is in a state of transition and because we’re not exactly set up for a new brood of babies, but I let the impulsivity settle in and I set about preparing for some new chicks. My husband built me a nice mobile chicken coop a few months back that I could use to easily keep them safe and warm, so I decided to get busy. My first order of business was to walk through some high grass and drag it to another part of the yard.

Now friends, I consider myself a brave person for the most part. That is, as long as I keep both feet on the ground. I really don’t care for deep water, and I’d rather not participate in anything that involves jumping from a cliff so I’ll just politely decline. But you know, the everyday things don’t too much bother me. I’m not afraid of spiders or storms or Friday the 13ths. Despite my courage with these things, there is still one thing that will make me scream out loud and pee down my leg a little and that is a snake in the grass. Or one in the road. Or the pasture or even a cage for that matter. They just give me the eebie jeebies. It goes back to Genesis where God says to the serpent “You will crawl on your belly and strike at their heels and they will pee down their legs” or something close to that.

I’ve had my fair share of snake experiences, more than I care to count.  I’ve even had one of those real scary snakes shake their tail at me and I’m telling you what……there is nothing that can make your heart quicken like hearing that sound.  Living in the country in Texas taught me how to differentiate between the “safe” bull snakes and the poisonous rattlers but no matter the kind, I still don’t like them.

We have a big backyard here in New Mexico, full of big trees and unkept grasses. It’s a bit wildernessy and wild with sticks and rocks and a creek that butts up to it. It’s a great place for our three dogs to run and live like dogs.  “Worthless” dogs as my husband would call them, because you see J-Dub believes animals should have a job or serve a purpose (like a horse, a cow, a pack mule, a chicken) and these dogs are nothing more than pets. Mostly he’s joking. Mostly. But it wouldn’t hurt if they could do a little something to earn their keep around here.

Now in this big backyard, just this spring, I have seen no less than FOUR SNAKES!!! FOUR! Granted, they’re nothing like the big bull snakes that hung out with me in Texas, they’re just little old grass snakes, but they’re snakes just the same. They crawl on their bellies and give me the shivers.

The other day, our little dog Ozzie and our middle-sized dog Grace were bothering a snake in the yard and EK and I wanted to spend the day outside without worrying about a snake, so I got a big shot of bravery and decided I would remove the snake from the yard. It was coiled up good so I got a shovel and scooped that little serpent up. I held that shovel out away from my body as far as I could and I fast walked to the fence to chunk it over. But Grace, the cow dog, was too nosey and jumped up to see what I was carrying and the snake slithered off my shovel and into the tall grass. So much for my bravery. Watching that sucker slither off, made me turn and run in the other direction. I’ve had enough of that good deed.

Today after getting my wild new chicken whim,  I attempted to drag the heavy mobile chicken coop to a different part of the yard. I pulled out my back and only managed to get it out of its deep ruts about 1/2 inch when I noticed that Ozzie was interested in something in the grass. He kept sticking his nose in and jumping back a little. Grace ran over, nosey as always, and I called her back just to see what would happen. Ozzie stuck his nose in and out quickly a couple of times before he dove in hard and pulled out a snake and began shaking and biting and I’ll be dadgummed if he didn’t kill that snake right then and there.

His worth just about quadrupled in my book. I think I’ll keep this one around. My little snake killer.


And I’ll keep this one because he’ll defend his turf and take on anything that dares threaten his people. He’s fought porcupines, raccoons, skunks, and even those fearsome possums–you know, the ones that play dead.


And this one? She’s still got a lot of earning her keep to do. But she’ll love you to death and is sewn together out of 100% obedience and loyalty. I guess we’ll keep her too.


Needless to say friends, with the excitement of the morning, I didn’t get a chicken coop moved. Nor did I get any chicks today. I think pulling out my back cured my chicken fever…for a while anyway.

Lions, Tigers, and Bears, Oh my!

Snakes, spiders, tornadoes, heights, death, the dark, the number 13.

The fear of colors, the fear of music, the fear of wrinkles, even the fear of the belly button.

Fear, fear, fear.  Dear, dear, dear.  There are so many things to fear.

My mother is a fearless woman.  She taught us not to fear by not being afraid herself.  Her sister on the other hand, whistles when she’s in the dark.  My dad was a mighty fearless guy but  got the heck out of dodge if there was a snake around.  I’ve been told of my uncle who was so afraid to sleep outdoors one night that he kept a firm grip on a knife while in his bedroll, only to roll over and stab himself in the gut.  We all know the types:  the fearless or the afraid of their own shadow kind.

Franklin Roosevelt told us there is nothing to fear, but fear itself.  But really?  The world is full of rapists, ax murderers, and scientists attempting to recreate the dinosaurs.  I’d say there’s plenty to fear.

I am a “what if” person.  I wish I wasn’t, but something crazy will come into my head, and before I can stop myself, a whole scenario has played out.  What if I received a call that my husband had died.  What if I contracted mad cow disease.  What if Sara Lee stopped making pound cake.

My former boss once told me I had an “adversarial relationship with the fates.”

In other words, If I can imagine it, then by just imagining it will stop it from happening.  I think she nailed it.  I also think by imagining things, we can  overcome our fears.  To say I have no fears would be crazy, I have a few, but I certainly don’t dwell on them, that would be crazy.

I  do have a real fear of snakes.  At least I did.   I don’t like them.  I don’t want to watch them on the Discovery Channel striking at the camera, I don’t really mind them if they’re in a cage at the zoo, but I certainly don’t want to coil one around my arm and I definitely don’t want to be bitten.  My first real encounter with a snake was traumatic.  We lived in our little trailer house on the prairie, it was spring, and there was a snake in my dirt driveway.  I was panic-stricken.  Because it was spring, it hadn’t shaken all the cold out of it’s belly yet, and was moving slowly.  I didn’t know what to do.  Panic overtook me.  My thoughts raced.  I paced the drive.  I called my husband.  I stewed.  I fretted. Knowing I couldn’t rest until something was done, I built up the courage of David the little shepherd boy and with a shovel, I whacked that baby snake to death.  Yes, I said baby snake.  Baby bull snake at that.  Not even a danger to me.  It didn’t go as I thought.  Instead of one good whack and a lost head resulting, my shovel bounced off that snake like a game of wall ball.  I had to remove myself from within myself, and go all ax murderish on that bad boy.  I became one with an ax murderer.   It was not pleasant, but I knew I could do it.

Afterwards, my fear and the reoccurrence of snakes in the driveway and front yard caused me to learn to differentiate between good snakes and poisonous snakes. I googled pictures, I read articles, I researched what to do in case of a poisonous bite.  I learned to ignore the good snakes.   Eventually to overcome my fear, I had to play out the entire scenario of being bitten by a rattlesnake, if I were 3 miles from home on a walk, 10 miles from a hospital, without my cell phone, pushing my baby in a stroller.  I envisioned it all.  Would I run and risk the venom cursing faster through my bloodstream, would I slowly walk to preserve my life.  What if I passed out on a dirt road and nobody came by for one hour, 3 hours, 12 days?  What would become of my baby?  It sounds crazy, but if I imagine the worse case, then it’s not as frightening and I face it.

Right up there with fear of snakes is my fear of water and my fear of illness. I don’t like the deep water.  I think the ocean is a beautiful, miraculous, intriguing place, but I would be scared to death to be in it.  Give me a kiddie pool please and I’ll use my imagination.  I also fear a long, drawn out illness befalling me.  I fear losing my health.  I don’t want to be remembered as someone who was strong through the suffering.

Most mothers fear something might happen to their children, but I don’t allow myself to go there.   I won’t allow myself to play out the possibilities.  They are too vast and not to be toyed with.

There’s a fine line really.  We can’t live in fear, yet we can’t be so fearless that we become foolish.

A person can drive themselves crazy with fear.  When I have the kind of experience when I’m afraid to be home alone at night and begin imagining all the episodes I’ve seen on America’s Most Wanted happening to me, I hold tight to the promise of God who says to Fear Not for He is with me.

 Sidenote:  Did you know, 365 times the Bible tells us not to fear.  One for every day of the year.  The most frequent Biblical command.  So, yeah, stop fearing!

Sidenote #2:  I’m not afraid of belly buttons, but I’m afraid of not being able to find mine real soon.

This is # 2 on a list of 30 things.  list 3 legitimate fears.

Peace, Quiet, Serenity, and other lies of Living in the Country


 We’ve all seen the magazine pictures.  The quaint farmhouse set on a hill with rolling green meadows and white rail fencing.  We imagine the serenity, the peace that we could experience if we could just get away from the city.  The hustle and bustle, the horns and sirens. 

But put a trailer house out in the middle of the windy, hot, dusty, dry Texas Panhandle and you get a whole ‘nother atmosphere.

Yesterday Manic Depression plagued me.  My neurosis of the day for June 7 is Fear and Anxiety.  Really I was doing just fine until the snake incident a couple of days ago.  Now I tiptoe gingerly everywhere I go.  If a feather breezes across my path,  I jump a foot.  And then there was the fire today which set me into a nervous dither.

  I was piddling about the house this morning wearing an apron.  Well not JUST an apron, but an apron over my clothes (hoping that would inspire me to clean) when I began to hear sirens.  Weird with a capital W.  I glanced out the window and saw a couple of firetrucks whiz by which caused an elevation in heart rate due to the fact that we are in a major drought with wind gusts upwards of 40 mph.

More sirens, more window peeking.  I then decide to go outside so I can see what is happening on the highway that runs parallel to my house.  The sky is dirty. It could be dust or it could be smoke.  The traffic slows and then stops from both directions.  A highway patrol passes.  A Department of Transportation vehicle passes.  It could be a wreck or it could be a fire.   I make a few phone calls, to my Sister-in-law who has a scanner but knows nothing, to the Sheriff’s office which confirms a fire, but mostly panicked pleas to my husband’s voicemail.  In a matter of a very few minutes I contemplate how I’m going to get my dogs and my chickens evacuated, checking off a list of important items to grab:   i.e. computer hard drive, a few photos, my wedding ring, and my husband’s handmade cowboy boots.   And then decide in order to quit worrying, I’ll just go right to the source, so I walk across the road to where the nearest fire truck is parked and question the fireman if I indeed need to be calling my insurance company within the next half hour.  I was reassured that everything was under control and my biggest problem would be getting back across the highway since they have now released the traffic.  So I did just that.  I darted across the highway and thanked God for his mercy.

Fast forward 10 hours. 

I’m piddling around the house, this time without an apron, when my husband says, “I’m going to do chores.”

“I’m going with you.”  I announce.

Chores around here consist of feeding and watering horses and dogs.  I’ve got the chickens set up to only need care about once a week. 

This is an old walk-in cooler or something that was here on the place when we bought it.  Yes, it’s an eyesore, but so is everything else around here so we’ve come to love it.  Plus, it makes a very efficient feed room.  Rats and mice cannot enter and it’s just the right size to store all the sacks of feed and buckets necessary.
J-Dub and I go out and began our evening chores while our two dogs Drew and Grace follow along, searching and sniffing.
Suddenly, I notice Drew is very intent on smelling underneath the “feed room”.  I call to him and he ignores me.  I’ve seen him sniff out a possum from under a porch before and he is in exactly the same stance and frame of mind as the aforementioned possum massacre.  I call to him again.
“Leave him alone,” my husband tells me. 
“There’s something under there,” I answer.
By this time, our other dog Grace has joined Drew in the excited sniffing and smelling escapade that is taking place.
“It’s probably a rabbit,” says Jason, “Let them be dogs.”
When all of a sudden, the body of the something that is under the feedroom comes into view.  And once again, for the 3rd time in about 3 days I get to see yet another snake.  Only this one is a behemoth, a mammoth, curled under the “feed room”.  My husband begins his investigation of the kind of snake lurking and I begin my departure.  Slowly backing away and taking the extreme long way around.  After my husband throws a rock at it, to get it to move so he can see it better, I hear this sound that can only be a rattler to the untrained ear (mine). 
“It’s a rattlesnake!” I exclaim. 
“No it’s not.  It’s just a bull snake.  He’s opening his mouth and hissing as me,”  my husband informs as he is hunkered down peering under the feedroom.
And then it was over.  The dogs were called back into the yard, my husband continues his feeding, and I am about to crawl out of my skin.
My husband doesn’t kill bull snakes.  My husband only kills rattlers.  Bull snakes are “good” snakes if ever a snake were to be found.  They eat rodents.  They’ve been known to eat rattlesnakes.  They eat chicken eggs, but never mind that. 
Fear grips my body as the realization that I am living with a den of snakes, one of which is likely the mother to the other and has hatched a whole passel of eggs, and will continue to do so.  And there’s nothing I can do about it seeing as how hard a time I had killing a baby one. 
Acting as calmly as possible, I carry on a conversation with J-Dub as we water the yard.
“So, that snake bites, yes?”
“Yes, but it’s not poisonous and it won’t bite unless you’re provoking it.”
“So,”  I pause, “do you think the snake lives there permanently?”
“No, he’s probably just shading up.”
“Okay, so he’s just visiting.  So, how often does he need to eat?” Concern for my chickens erupts my thinking.
“I don’t know.”
“So, tomorrow morning, if I open the door and he’s curled up on the porch, I’m supposed to just step over him?”
“No, he might bite you if you step over him,” I’m calmly informed.  “Get a broom and push him off the porch.”
“Okay, what if he coils up and hisses at me like he just did you?”
“Just get something long enough and push on him, he’ll slither away.”
And then I got the Augustus McCrae quote from Lonesome Dove, “You’re  going to give yourself the drizzles if you don’t relax.”
Excuse me, but I have the sudden urge to go the bathroom.

The Villian Part 2

The Villian is dead.

He is no more.

My facebook friends already know part of this story for I had to brag immediately, but for my fellow bloggers and non-facebook friends, I could not leave you hanging on the snake saga.

Two days ago, I encountered a snake lurking ever too closely to my chicken coop.

After a 40 minute stand-off, the snake slithered away into a deep, dark hidey-hole.  My hopes were it was never to be seen again.

But alas, the following morning, after a nice little walk, I went to sit in my black and tan striped lawn chair to commune with my chickens only to find The Villian lying underneath my chair. 

After a quick scream, a high jump, a skit, and a scatter, I gathered myself, picked up the phone and called my husband to rush to my rescue.  He was 30 minutes away.

So, another stand-off began.  For about 10 minutes I stared at the snake as he did nothing but lifted his little serpent head and wiggled his tongue.  I then decided to abort this little game and go into the house for awhile to wait on my husband. 

And now friends, I fear you won’t believe the rest of the story, but if you could see me now, I’m holding up 3 fingers and swearing scout’s honor. 

After a brief break indoors, I walked back outside to check on the status of The Villian, when there by the corner of my house was another snake.  Yes, another one.  Two snakes, alive, at the same time.  In the same vicinity.  I just about died.  Died, I tell you.   The second snake was yellowish and I knew it was harmless, but still the idea of living with a den of snakes is a bit unsettling to me. 


He was a bit aggravated at this point and said he would get here as soon as he could.

So I waited and I watched.  The yellow snake slithered towards the first snake.  The first snake decided he wanted no part of meeting a new friend and slithered across my path.  And that’s when I had my chance.  Raising my shovel mid-air, with a hearty Tawanda yell (Fried Green Tomatoes reference) I gave that snake a good whack.  Unfortunately one whack barely did any damage.  It just kind of stunned the fellow.  So I kicked it into overkill and began madly whacking the snake repeatedly, issuing primal grunts the entire time.  I just couldn’t stop. 

After I caught my breath and allowed my heart rate to decline to at least 400 beats per minute, I glanced over to where Mr. Yellow was last seen.  He was gone.  Perhaps he witnessed the event and decided he better get the heck out of dodge if he knew what was good for him.

J-Dub arrived shortly after and confirmed that it was just a little old bull snake, completely harmless, perhaps even considered a good snake as far as good snakes go, and tossed it into the pasture where it is slowly rotting and crawling with ants as we speak.