Posts Tagged With: animals

Flowers, Forest and Fauna: Spring time in West Virginia

As many of you already know I love to take photos,I almost always have a camera with me. So I seem to find all kinds of wonderful things to take photos of. This spring has been so busy, I am surprised, that I have even found time for short bursts of creativity where I take photos. So today I just wanted to share with all of you some of the things I have been seeing in my little corner of the world here in West Virginia this spring.

close up of a fresh Rhododendron bloom

close up of a fresh Rhododendron bloom

This is one of the views I wake up to every morning for the month of May.

Tom blending into the tree line as we turkey hunt

Tom blending into the tree line as we turkey hunt

We did some Turkey hunting early in the month of May but we struck out. No fresh turkey for dinner this year. Tom and I heard a few gobbles but nothing close enough to think about. The weather was unusually warm and dry and this may have effected the turkeys.

Pheasant tail mushrooms AKA Dryad saddle mushrooms

Pheasant tail mushrooms AKA Dryad saddle mushrooms

This meant that the weather was great for mushrooms. We found a bounty of these Pheasant Tail mushrooms while out turkey hunting. They are an easy to find, spring edible mushroom, we found many in the woods that day.

Pheasant tail mushroom on tree stump

Pheasant tail mushroom on tree stump

The first bloom of spring at the new house

The first bloom of spring at the new house

I tired of  all the snow, cold and wet of winter this year and was over joyed to see this. When this sign of spring finally opened, I felt as if I took a long deep breath, knowing winter was really over.

Spring Stream in Pendelton County WV

We did get a day to hike and fish before the spring weather got to hot( by May 23 the temps had already hit 94 degrees F) this stream was a great place to rest and fish on our day long adventure.

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Boundary marker for public land

 

Moss covered stones along the river at Ten Mile WV

Moss covered stones along the river at Ten Mile WV

We have also had a very popular back yard this year, with lots of wild baby animals roaming around. This spring Tom and I have found Toads, baby rabbits, baby squirrels, baby Doves and Robbins and a Box Turtle so far. It makes for a very educational trip out side. Now if we can just get Christopher over his fear of frogs and toads.

meet Chipper and Splinter the Barnwood builder Babies

meet Chipper and Splinter the Barn Wood Builder Babies

Red Eyed Box turtle walking across the back yard

Red Eyed Box turtle walking across the back yard

Then of course we have a photo of Christopher’s favorite wild animal… Jinn the photo bomber.

Jinn the photo bombing cat

Jinn the photo bombing cat

So thing here are busy, the house remodel is just about finished. Summer is taking hold and the heat is on. The last four days have been in the upper 80’s and 90’s. School will be over in about a week and Christopher will be starting summer swimming lessons. Most of the spring flowers are already gone for the year (I already miss them). The garden got planted but we are so late that it will be a month before I see any real growth . So Summer will be a time to hunt mushrooms in the cool shade of the dark hard woods and maybe even a weekend trip of camping. I will be ready for it sooner than it will happen but until them I keep my eyes open for more beauty that I see every day.

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Baby Animals, Easter, flowers, Hardwood forest, Mushrooms, photo review, Photos, Turkey season, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Shelter Adoption and A New Friend for Christopher

It has been 5 of years since we have had a cat and It has been even longer ( 20 years) since we have had a house cat. On the farm outdoor cats are good because they do a nice job of keeping mice out of the barn. Mice chew the baling twine that keeps bales of hay together making every cat a welcome guest if you want nice rows of hay all winter. But house cats are usually a luxury on a farm. They really serve no purpose other than companionship and that is usually the dogs roll beyond the other jobs they perform. So when we moved off the farm and into a subdivision we  had no inside animals at all, a cat seemed like a perfect choice for Christopher. We still have our bunnies but this pet can sleep and play with Christopher now that Tom is away more these days.

Jinn and Bear Bear at the Animal Shleter

Jinn and Bear Bear at the Animal shelter

I spent off and on about two months looking at different ideas about what kind of cat to get and where to get it from. Not a surprise to my husband,that I always seemed to come back to the idea of adoption of an unwanted pet. I could have gotten Christopher a kitten or a fancy pure bred but the cost was high and I really didn’t want a tiny baby that Christopher would not be able to care for on his own. I am hoping that having a cat will teach some responsibility lessons to him also.

So I found myself looking again and again at kittens on the local animal shelter sites. So the weekend that Tom had to leave town he said it would be fine to go look at cats at the shelter and we found that perfect kitty for Christopher. The front one in the photo is the one Christopher choose from about 10 cats and kittens that day. She is soooo friendly and curious.After School Jinn and Christpher

So over the next day I got supplies and food for a nice female Domestic Short hair that Christopher named Jinn or Jinni depending on the day.  He was so excited when he got home from school to find her waiting for him. If I did not know better, I would have thought that this cat had another “boy” at her old home. Their interaction was amazing to watch. It was as if she had not seen him in days and wanted nothing more than to spend time with her long-lost “boy”. She would not leave his side from the minute he got home to the time he went to bed. She loves him and he loves her and they seem to bring out the best in each other.

Jinn on my sofa pillow

Jinn on my sofa pillow

Jinn just turned a year old on St Patrick’s day  so she is still very young and playful. She reminds me of my child hood cat who I had the pleasure of spending 13 long years with at my child hood home.

We all have had a pet in our lives that we loved, mine was a tiny long-haired tabby cat, named Princess. She was loyal and loving through every stage of my young life and I can only hope that Jinn can give Christopher the same experience of love I got when I was 6 and my mother brought home my first kitten.My husband has the same feeling about a farm Collie that he named King. He lived 15 wonderful years on the farm and was my husbands best friend.

Do any of you have pet memories that have lasted a life time? Were they with Dogs, Cats or other pets? Let me know I would love to write more about our pet memories one day.

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Categories: cats and kittens, childhood memories, Christopher | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Our Bunnies and a Easter wish to you

As you already know one of the many things we have decided to do in an effort  to become more self-reliant  is to raise rabbits. I have been a  rabbit lover since my folks let me have them as a kid and have been known to have up to 18 at a time. With our recent move a couple of years ago the only thing I wanted from our farm of animals was my rabbits. I had visions of raising, selling, showing and eating my farm raised rabbits. Well over the first year here at the OLD house on the edge of town two things happened that I could have never foreseen. First was the sickness and later death of my large brood Doe… after about 8 years she caught a cold after our move and died before the antibiotics took effect. Second was the loss of my little Doe that was Christopher’s show bunny. She escaped her cage and we spent days trying to recapture her in our large yard. This was a major set back for me as I had planned to raise a litter of Kits for sale at Easter and/or to show this year at the 4-H shows and State Fair.

Sable rabbit Ratchet as a baby

Sable rabbit Ratchet as a baby

So we started the long process of starting over. I wanted a rabbit that was a multi-purpose breed, that could be sold for pets,shown or used as food if I ended up with more than my fair share of off spring. So I found that perfect combination of traits in the Sable Rabbit. We were off and running when a local woman offered to give Christopher a Sable that was not pure bred as a gift. I thought that this would set us up with a nice pet and get my then 4-year-old interested in animals and their care.  So we were up and running with this little guy.

Well this  wonderful and clam rabbit has won our hearts and has been traveling with us as we take him to local pet shows and 4- H gatherings. By Fall Christopher and Ratchet became a team and we discovered that we had gotten a great starter show bunny for him even if he was not pure bred.

Ratchet and Christopher with trophy at pet show 8 2013

Ratchet and Christopher with trophy at pet show 8 2013

I then started a conversion with some of the local kids and competitors at our local 4-H and many of them suggested that I think seriously about Christopher’s future with rabbits as show animals and how hard some kids work at breeding and showing them. At last count one of our high school girls showed and won multiple  trophies with about 28 rabbits last year at state fair. She sold most of them before leaving and come home with enough money to put around 2500.00 dollars in her college fund.

So this sent me on the hunt for a pure bred version of a Sable rabbit. Taking my family on a car trip to southern Pennsylvania .On Christopher’s birthday we purchased another Buck and attended our first rabbit show. I had a wonderful time and could hardly contain my happiness about seeing so many wonderful animals. We were able to pick up our new bunny who was huge at the same age as Ratchet. We named him Diesel.

Christopher with new bunny Diesel

Christopher with new bunny Diesel

Christopher has really enjoyed  playing with, feeding and holding his first real pets. It has been a good investment of time and money to teach him about the love of animals.

walking rabbits on leashes

walking rabbits on leashes

One of the ways we get to spend time with the rabbits and get them some exercise is to walk them around our yard on nice days. It is hard to believe that only 9 months ago the rabbit in the blue harness fit in the palm of my hand. Ratchet  is now about 6 pounds and Diesel in the red harness is about 8 pounds. Both are of breeding age and ready to move into the show ring and start paying their way in the homesteading world. We are now in the process of finding a nice Doe to add to our growing rabbitry. This may take another trip to Pennsylvania because we have found no breeders in our local area.  The next project on our property is to add a large out-door shelter that will house all of our adult rabbits and an areas for three sets of kits. This will be an addition to a shed that we already have and will be semi enclosed. I hope to get started on it within a month. In the mean time we entertain our neighbors and friends with our walks and we enjoy bringing the boys inside for fun and family time.

Christopher playing with Ratchet

Christopher playing with Ratchet

Sable rabbit Diesel on leash

Sable rabbit Diesel on leash.

There is a far amount or work keeping and raising any animal. Rabbits do have individual personalities and not every one is great for a young person like Christopher who is now 5. Ratchet is the type that loves attention and being held. He will fallow any one around the house from room to room wanting noting more than a rub or pat. He is also more active and loves to run and jump. Where as, his buddy who is a pure bred Sable is shy and lazy. Making him harder to handle but he would rather sit quietly when put down making a real nice confirmation  animal.I believe that Christopher will be more confident with Ratchet this year but in time will enjoy both.

We have our first ” Stock Man” class in a couple of weeks where the rules or care and showing animals at the fairs is gone over. It is an important step for both parents and children, sportsman ship is held to a higher standard than the quality of the animal at every 4-h event. This class covers cheating, animal abuse, animal neglect, feeding and health care and general sportsman ship. It is the basis for a wonderful future in 4-H. I am so lucky that Christopher will be learning these lessons so early and in such a supportive way. We can all agree that teaching a child about the needs of others, including animals, how to play fair and the importance of being a good loser are lessons that build a well-rounded child and a better adult.

But in the end their really is nothing quite as wonderful as an Easter bunny.

I hope that all of you have a wonderful holiday !

Happy Easter from Diesel the Sable Bunny

Happy Easter from Diesel the Sable Bunny

Categories: 4-H, bredding rabbits, Easter, rabbits, State Fair | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Summer and the Importance of Regular Hoof Care.

horse hoof in need of repair and trimming

horse hoof in need of repair and trimming

I understand that we all get very busy with summer but please let me remind everyone that we should have regular hoof care for our 4 legged friends. Sadly this summer some of our friends have forgotten or be lax about keeping their horses trimmed or shod and this is the result. Lighting is a 5-year-old Painted Quarter horse that is more of a pet then an actual ridding horse. Lighting is out on a large pasture and received no foot care or contact this summer. I just happened to call his owner and say “It has been about 6 months since we were out your way how is Lighting’s hooves doing”?  Well the owner responded “well he could use a trim”. We made the appointment and headed out the next evening.  

As you can see from the photo of his hooves they are over grown by inches, split and chipped. In this case the owner was lucky the horse was not lame and limping. All four feet were in this type of condition and this horse was not suffering from the condition if “Founder” this is simple neglect.

Tom has removed the excess length of hoof and shapes what is left

Tom has removed the excess length of hoof and shapes what is left

 As you can see from this photo the extra length is removed and the hoof is being shaped. This foot will still have a large chip in the toe that will have to grow back out to make the foot look normal, also their maybe an issue with the bottom of this foot, it appears a crack forming on the bottom left, between the hoof wall and soul. After Tom finished the trim  Tom warned the Customer of the soul issue. These cracks often lead to abscess forming inside the hoof wall as sand and small stones get worked into the crack.

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  This is what Lightings’ feet looked like after a normal trim. Hoof care is normally done every 7 to 8 weeks or every other month.  In our state ( West Virginia) it is illegal to keep a equine animal with feet in poor repair. My husband has been on many animal cruelty calls from local sheriff’s departments where it was just a case of poor hoof care that caused a complaint. Having a good farrier is part of equine management and the cost for farrier care is part of the over all cost of owning any animal. The average horse needs  trimmed more often in the summer and spring as they eat more fresh grass. The extra nutrition in the fresh grass encourages hoof growth and longer feet.

We did encourage Lighting’s owner to call us sooner and more often but seeing that the owner is 79 years old the whole future for Lighting is up in the air. I think that he loves his horse but is also getting to a place where he is not able successfully take care of him and over the next two years he will be in a new home.

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In most cases it is possible to find a farrier through other horse owners, feed stores, and veterinarians who all see and deal with horses on a regular basis. Their goal is to keep you friend and companion healthy and happy so please remember to make your appointments regularly before you equines feet looking healthy.

Categories: blacksmith work, equine health, Farrier work., hoof care, horse health | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Horse Farm Labor is Our Second Job, Finding the help you Need.

     Tom and I  travel to so many farms during the year that we hear some of the same complaints at every stop. Frist there are not enough well-trained Farriers and second that finding farm workers, caretakers and horse handlers is almost impossible. Thiers reasons for both of these problems and some of it has to do with economics. Frist, Low pay for the hard work  sends many into town and second, farmers are not  good at  letting people know that they need or want help. 

Tom leading horse to pasture

Tom leading horse to pasture

Tom putting shoes on Oat

Tom putting shoes on Oat

 If you have a problem on a horse farm the best two things you can do is let your farm community know what kind of  help you are looking for. Farm stores have bulletin boards, clubs have news letters, and friends have kids these are all great ways to get the word out the you need a helping hand around the farm.  Pay well and often, everyone loves payday and even the kid who cleans out the barn needs paid before he leaves for the day.  

 Over the years of showing, raising and training horse I have worked for several farms in my area. Yes, I shoveled horse poop for a living. Not glamorous work but it beat the rat race any day. I received fair pay, always about double what minimum wage was at the time.  Farm work is hard, dirty and at times stressful. To modern kids Micky D’s is a lot easier and pays better than most farm jobs. Keep this in mind when you are looking to put up hay in 90 degree weather with a 5 am in starting time and that kid at Micky D’s is making 9 dollars and hour.If you want them you will have to pay them.

      This also is true for your Farrier, if you own a horse part of owning that animal is occasional foot care. Most farriers charge a standard rate for trims/ shoe/or resets. Pay your bill promptly and you will have a good relationship with him, wait to long or try to haggle the price and you will be looking for a new one very quickly. If you are not able to afford to pay everyone cash remember that some people are open to barter for services. I have  mucked stalls for riding lessons and Tom has trimmed horses  for hay. Just be clear about what you need and what you have to offer. We have always been happen when we worked out a deal.

 I also do sitting for several horse farms. We all need a vacation now and then. Sometimes families  just go to the fair and other times families need to head out for an emergency, it is this short periods of time that I help out on the farm.

Squaw and dancer

Squaw and dancer

I find that there is a real need for farm families to leave  a few head of horses, a couple of dogs and cat alone for a few days. The horses really need people who understand them if you are going watch them and the time to care for them is pretty labor intensive. I find the best way to find some one who can help, is asking your other horse friends, farriers and farm stores. I get asked all the time because my husbands farrier business. We both are willing  and able to help with animal care. The rate that we get  to come to your farm and care for your horses is not  much less then you would pay to a stable them while you are away. So with each additional horse we charge an additional fee. I find this the fairest way to charge for my time and gas. This way I can keep my rate the same from farm to farm. This makes everyone pay the same and no one gets up set over changes in pricing. The biggest difference is that the horses are at home in their own stalls with their feed and water and no hauling needed. It’s to the advantage of my clients that they do not have to stress the animal while they are away. 

  No matter what type of labor you need for  your farm, remember to just get the word out that you need a farrier, a farm sitter, a person to help string fence. They are their and if you pay them fairly they will be willing to come back and work for you over and over. It is worth building these kinds of relationships because over time you never know who it will be to help out. I never thought that Tom being a farrier would over flow to farm sitting and that I would be working with some many wonderful families and their animals.

Farm that I sit for while the owners are out of town and one of their walking horses

Farm that I sit for while the owners are out-of-town and one of their walking horses

 I hope that my friends Ron and Marylyn have had a great trip and that they feel confident that their horses were in good care while they were away. It is always fun to spend time on their farm and we love doing it.

Categories: Farm work, Farming, Farrier work., Friendship, horse health, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Springtime and the Danger for Your Pony

WELSH PONY

 Welsh Pony

   Everyone looks forward to spring time and animals like horses and cows rejoice in being able to get out and eat the fresh green grass. With cows we all look forward to spending less on hay and grain but in the case of your pony, ( Donkey, Miniature Horse) danger comes with each acre of fresh grass. The problem is “Founder” and how unmanaged diet of fresh green grass can end up looking like this. As you can see in the following photo this pony is actually in the process of having the excess( Horn) hoof removed. Tom has removed the toe of the front foot and reshaped it to look normal. The hind hooves show the typical slipper and curled growth of  Founder.

Founder in a welsh pony

Founder in a Welsh pony

   “Founder or Laminitis, has been a problem associated with Equine mismanagement for Centuries.” [Founder]… “is commonly caused by over feeding, feeding large amounts of rich feed to inactive horses.” Diets high in carbohydrates including spring grass and treats like marshmallows, white bread, apples, all are too rich for the equine diet. ” Many horses fed this way only need a small amount of stress to cause an attack, over working for the condition of the horse, a case of colic or a fever.” states Don Baskin author of the Western Horseman’s book “Well-Shod”.

The onset of Founder is easy to spot as the pony becomes sick and is listless and lazy not wanting to stand and seems in pain as it walks. At times the animal may appear  very ill from other conditions like colic or a fever and will have heat in the hoof. Most animals will go off feed and will remain sick for several days. By the time many owners react it is too late for the ponies feet. The hoof is already damaged and bones inside the hoof begins the process of rotation. Because of the bone rotation the hoof will grow deformed and the process continues.The condition never ceases and the foot grows uncontrollably and in a matter of months looks like Midnights’ feet above. Sadly the animal that is not managed carefully can have more attacks and cause more damage to the hoof making management of the hoof  impossible and may lead to having the animal put down.

  This story gets even sadder as we will see in the following photos as Midnights’ barn mate and best friend is a Jenny donkey who is also foundered. At the time of our visit Jenny was experiencing Colic again from the lack of diet restriction. She was unwilling to stand and was weak in all four limbs at our arrival. Her feet were on average 3 to four inches to long and curved and twisted. While waiting for additional help to arrive Tom began to trim some of the toe off her feet without much reaction.

Tom trimming to sick foot of a Jenny Donkey

Tom trimming to sick foot of a Jenny Donkey

Tom, the owner Bob and jeff looking over sick jennys feed

Tom, the owner Bob and jeff looking over sick jenny donkey

After The owner arrived at the barn Tom decides that Jenny’s situation is more serious than her barn mates. The plan is to cut Jenny’s feet with the help of power tools. He will use a grinder and saw to remove the 3 extra hard inches of hoof. As a team we begin to hold her legs and head as Tom begins the long process of removing the extra horn that has not worn off the hoof.  The frist step is to notch the hoof with a grinder so that the saw does not bounce loose and cut either the animal, the handlers or the Farrier.  At this point there are two of us holding her head and body and one holding her leg as Tom cuts. The animal fights slightly and we all try our best to keep everyone safe from the flying hooves. 

Grinding a notch in hoof

Grinding a notch in hoof

Like our finger nails, horse hooves have no nerve endings in the nail portion, and like humans the flesh that attach to the nail or hoof wall is very sensitive and full of soft tissues.  With a Founder issue, the soft tissues are so damaged that they die and the hoof wall grows so fast that there is nothing but dead tissue in the bottom portion of the hoof. No blood, no pain, no feeling, nothing but rotting tissue and nail. This is what Tom aims to remove without hitting anything that is alive and growing in a semi normal fashion.

In the picture above the hoof would normally trimmed to where you see the spilt start at the top of the hoof but the foot is so deformed that  he must leave several inches of extra hoof on the donkey so that the bone that has rotated is still safely inside the hoof wall and has some padding to protect it from the ground. The foot is trimmed, angled, dressed to make it look as normal as possible and give good support to the Donkeys legs.  This trim will last about 5 weeks and the hoof will grow at twice the rate of a normal hoof. If Jenny is left to eat as much green grass as she wants and  the owner continues giving treats like marsh mellows, white bread, doughnuts, apples, she may actually Colic or Founder to the point of losing her life.Marshmellow

    It is wise for the pony  owner to mow down spring hay,dry lot or stall keep their animals for the first few months of spring to prevent these painful situations. Tom also advises NO TREATS… just like you and I, Ponies do not need marshmallows, sugar cubes, or anything full of sugar. If you want to “treat” your donkey or pony spend time with a brush and groom them. They want the attention and love the feeling of being clean and you will  save them from years of pain. Also watch your small equine for signs that  green grass is a problem and remove them from the source if possible. A day in a stall with limited turn out is cheaper than the cost of a Farrier visit to care for your Pony.

Categories: blacksmith work, Farrier work., Founder in Horses, hoof care, horse health | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Shotgun VS. The Water Snake and other stories.

copperhead close up and personal

Copperhead close up and personal

    It is almost spring in the mountain state and with the warmth of the woods and spring flowers comes reminders from the old folks that it’s about snake time again. As a child who really never had a “bad” experience with snakes, I never really listened to the warnings. But after the last twenty years of life I have gained a respect for where and when to watch out for snakes. I have even had a couple of encounters that were shocking to say the least.I have found that snakes in spring and summer are a basic topic of conversation in these hills and everyone has a story to tell. Some are lucky enough to have photos of the serpents and others only long arm recollections of the animal. But  so far I have not met a farmer who does not have a snake store of some kind.

    Some of the stories that get passed around are as old as the hills and are full of insight into the fear of having snakes appear in places that they do not belong… like  inside your house, car or barn.They also add the mythical quality to the stories and make snakes something to fear no matter their role in nature.Then others are newer stories about the general surprise caused by actually seeing,touching or stepping on a snake. These tails don’t usually end with the death of the snake just a jolly laugh about how they scared you and your friends that day.

   So here is some of the folk-lore that I have found in my area about snakes. Frist and foremost… don’t harass a snake during “Dog Days”. Ok, for those of you who are unfamiliar the term, “Dog Days” it is an astrological event that lines up the Dog star and constellation close to the horizon in the last of Aug. There are visible changes to the environment during this time of the year like the covering of water with a thick bubbly, slimy film, hot humid days and snakes beginning to shed their skin. It is widely believed that at this time of year snakes can not see well and the will bite randomly if bothered or harassed.The shedding skin is believed to thick and opaque for them to see through. I am pretty sure that this is not true but I am not going to hunt out a snake and harass it to see if the prediction is true or not.

   My personal favorite, “never burn a snake”. I am not actually sure where this one comes from but I am a believer in it. The saying goes that if you take a dead snake and burn it the next year you will see twice as many snakes on your property. My husband killed several black snakes one year in the barn. He dragged  them out to the burn pile and set the serpents a flame.My son and I warned him that was not the best idea but he continued his plan.The following summer was the frist time I got a close up look at a Copperhead as I walked my sons pony across the yard. I also found snakes in every out building on the farm, not a fun summer at all.

cooper head in the woods

cooper head in the woods

  Some of the other stories are about finding snakes eating things that seem impossible for a person to understand. People talk of snakes eating full-grown rabbits and chickens. But my favorite one is about how to catch at egg eating snake. We had chickens and at some point had a problem with a black snake eating our eggs. I started asking questions  about how to stop the invader with our neighbors and this is what I learned from Eugene Hicks the farmer next door. Eugene began with his thick southern accent,”place a glass egg at the entry hole where you think the snake is getting into the coop…and place another inside,on the other side of the hole and wait”. He went on to explain,”the snake seeing the outdoor egg will eat it swallowering it whole…as snakes do, he will then slither through the hole and find the second glass egg inside.He’ll then swallower the inside egg and with them deep in his belly will get stuck because neither egg with be crushed. He’s trapped by his own love of eating eggs and you can kill him at feeding time. He isn’t going far”. I never tried this to see if it actually worked,but we did let the dogs out to see if they could find the snake. The battle was over in few minutes as my dogs found and shuck the snake to death.

Don’t get me wrong I am not a snake hater, I find them fascinating and useful. Even my husband who used to  kill every snake that crossed his path is getting a bit more tolerant of the creatures. Mostly because the funniest snake story I know is all about him. I have relentlessly teased him into giving snakes a chance to fill their role after a hot summer day when a green water snake won the battle against him.

The property we lived on at the time was Seven acres of “L” shaped land in the rolling hill part of West Virgina. The “L” shape is divided almost into equal thirds by a creek and a run off  that would dry out in the late summer.One afternoon my husband walked from the middle of the property where the main house sat down the road to the lower right corner of the property.About half way down the road  he had to cross a culvert that housed our creek. The creek is only a couple of feet wide and at its deepest is around two feet deep. The little creek floods at times  and trash and debris float down the creek after a good storm. Well this day there was a shiny sliver tin pan in our creek a few feet from the culvert opening and on the pan was a very small delicate green snake sunning himself. Tom saw the snake from on top of the culvert and resigned himself to go back to the house and retrieve his shotgun to kill the beast before it  caused any serious damage to anyone.  He returned several minutes later with a fully loaded 12 gage shotgun and a pocket full of shells.

  I watched  him walking towards the culvert from his sisters front porch. We lived only a 50 yards apart on the farm. We could see  him slowly loading the shotgun and both of us wondered what in the world he was up to. Blam, went the first shot as Kathy and I  moved to the banister of the porch… Blam, went the second shot into the creek. Now we were really wondering what  he was killing  in the creek, then with in a half a second BLAM>>BLAM>>>BLAM…. something came flying back up out of the creek and landed within inches of my husbands feet. He jumped up and down, shooting the gravel road until the gun was out of shells. Finally he stopped shooting and started shaking out his shirt and twirling around in the road. By this time I was well on my way up the road to see what the hell was going on.

When I approached I found my husband with his eyes cast at the ground,confused and sweaty. I calmly looked at the bee bee pierce tin pan on the ground and asked what had happened. Thinking to myself,”a  tin pan was not really scary enough to shoot three times at close range”. He replied that” he had seen a water snake in the creek and went to shoot it so it would not bite the kids. Then… the damn thing had flipped up and landed on the road”. I took a moment to look for the dead snake and I began to laugh uncontrollably. Not only had he  missed the 5 inch green snake in the creek, he had scared himself so bad with the tin pan flying up from the creek, that he actually shot it three more times to make sure it was dead. Their was no sign of the little water snake anywhere, no blood, no guts, no green skin. Just a tin pan sitting alone on a gravel road full of holes. Tom was still visually shaken when I started to laugh,he really didn’t see the humor in the situation,  he was still sure that some how that damn snake had landed on him or near him. As my laughter grew I asked him, “was that little green snake was worth 5 shots and not killing it”. That was when he also saw the humor in what had happened and we talked the rest of the day of just leaving snakes where you find them, alive and safely away from him and his shotgun.

black racer hidding in the grass

black racer hidden in the grass

 I have also had my own frightened moments  from hidden snakes. In our barn they were constant visitors in the hay bales.So you learn to live with them, but I  have a problem if those same snakes wanting to go back to the house and hang over my front door.I am not accustom to having 6 foot snakes at or around the house.  This big boy was just lucky that I let him live the day I found him on our porch.

black snake at the barn

black snake at the barn

    This happened just about  3 years ago and I had already quit  my day job to stay home with my little Christopher who was about 2 at the time. I was preparing our lunch one afternoon and I saw something moving around on our front porch. Through the dinning room window I saw a black skinny thing waving around. That was nothing new, as I had placed an old water damaged buffet on the porch for my plants to sit on and a large bowl of cat food for my  black and white farm cat.I just thought it was the cat’s tail wiggling on the buffet while she eat. But something more caught my attention the tail was sliding up the window. ” Holy Crap”, was the frist words out of my mouth and Christopher wanted to know what was wrong. I made something up and continued to get him seated at the table to eat as I watched the big black snakes head disappear up over the top of the window and its body dangle below the frame somewhere on the buffet. As calm as I could, I told Chris that I needed to go out back for just one second and slipped out the door, around the back to the front porch. To my horror the snake had slithered across the top of the window frame across to our front door jamb and stopped to rest with about a foot of length hanging down the window frame. At this point I realised that he was around 6 feet long and about 5 inches around  the middle and didn’t seem likely to move. My heart was racing in my chest. I didn’t want Christopher to see this and was not going to remove it with him on the porch. I went inside to telephone my sister-in-law, who as you  already know lived across from me, on the farm. Her husband answered the phone and I asked him if he could help me remove the snake while I watched Christopher.In responce they were both out the door, down the road and up the drive in a matter of minutes.

 John carried a hoe up the drive and I put cartoons on the TV for Christopher and headed out the back again. The snake had moved some and was now hanging across the door like a wet noodle. The head hanging over a foot and tail hanging down the back about the same. John asked me from the ground in front of the porch” why haven’t you reached out grabbed that one” ( I have been known to pick up baby snakes) and I replied “that one is not a tame snake and I think I would just piss him off”. John stepped up on the porch with his hoe and I followed to “Help”. He reach out and tried to push the snake off the door frame. It just opened its huge white mouth and hissed at us… freaking me out, I stepped back to the edge of the porch. John reach up again, this time more aggressively twisted the hoe and hooked the snake, pulled him off the wall. The big black thing hit the porch with a thud of a 5 lb weight.The snake curled its self up lied still as we all leaped off the porch. I found this too funny, grown men and woman jumping off a porch away from a non-poisonous snake. As we talked and laughed on the stoop the snake hid himself away behind my wicker furniture. Before I could get back on the porch and open the front door to see Christopher sitting quietly on the floor watching cartoons the snake was gone. He lived around our house for several years taking up residence in our cellar house. We would see him and his shed skins off and on. I was glad when he finally found better hunting grounds and left, but I still have vivid memories of him.

Categories: Folk tails, snakes | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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