Monday, June 13, 2016

Too many snakes

I started to write this story a few days ago. It was so good in my head….but it never got down on paper. As it turns out, there was more to add to it, so God saved me the time of rewriting it and let me just sit down once.  It’s another snake story, like the one that made me famous, and spoiler alert- it all ends well.

Last Friday morning, around 6:45, I put my purse on my shoulder and grabbed my water. I was headed to work for the day. Some of you may not know this about me, but I have been an Occupational Therapist for 16 years, and I love helping the elderly along their road to recovery back home after rehab.  I was heading to the nursing home and saying goodbye to my 3 early-bird sons. Stephen said “Oh, the dogs are home!” right as I was about to walk out the door. We have 2 Blue Heelers, 1 year old. A male, Cody, and a female, Teagan. They are adorable together and they love to explore the farm each morning. But they usually stay gone for at least  2 hours…sometimes swimming in our pond, sometimes just seeing the woods for the hundredth time. It was unusual for them to be home so soon, after only being out about 20 minutes. As soon as Cody ran in, we knew something was wrong. He was whining and laying down. Stephen bent down to pet him, to see what was wrong, and a drop of blood hit his hand from Cody’s nose. He said two words that made me immediately put down my purse and water and simultaneously start shaking- “Snake bite”. Stephen grew up on this farm, and had several dogs. He knew immediately, from past experience, that this drop of blood from his nose along with his obvious pain he was in, was most likely from a snake fang. Cody was loaded up in the truck within minutes and headed to the vet’s office. I had to ask Stephen one question before he left. I’m a cut-to-the-chase type of gal, so I didn’t mind asking the hard question: “Will they have to put him down?” Stephen is a man of few words, and I trust his judgement completely. He said calmly, “No.”   But he isn’t a vet, and I knew the final answer would come later.  Because the dogs love to swim and they were both wet that morning, we assumed it was a water moccasin that bit Cody.  I knew there was nothing I could do but pray. We’ve had so many animals here in the 10 years we’ve lived back on the farm. We’ve had fun with them and learned so much from them. But we’ve had pain, too. We’ve had loss, we’ve had heartbreak, and honestly…I really didn’t think we would go through a tragedy again.  This snake bite couldn’t kill him, could it? Certainly, Stephen would tell me the truth if he knew it was possible. I waited for the phone call- every minute seemed like an eternity. By the time Cody got to the office, his head was swollen. His neck was swollen. He was very uncomfortable.  All the necessary and available medications were administered, and Cody responded very well. He came home to rest, and we all took good care of him. Every day he got stronger, and every day, the swelling went down more. It was about 5 days post-bite and he was back to his energetic self again. 
Today marks 1 week since the bite, and just like any traumatic experience, time seems to dull your memory of what it felt like to go through it.  I kept reliving each moment today, of last Friday, remembering how grateful I was to finally find out that he would most likely survive, and how grateful I was for fast acting medical care for Cody.  But I didn’t relive the scared, shaking, sinking feeling….until about 2:00 this afternoon.
So many people have asked me, “When are you going to start writing again?” and commenting “We miss your stories!” and I usually just say, “Thank you so much, I appreciate that. I’m glad you liked them” But really inside I’m thinking Crazy, funny, random things don’t happen much around here anymore…I just don’t have that much to write about other than my adorable kids saying adorable things! 

Back to 2:00 this afternoon! I was 95% ready to take 2 of my kids swimming. Everything was packed up inside the house and needed to be carried outside. My 6 year old asked, “Can we take the flippers?” He has become an excellent snorkeler, and even though the addition of the mask/snorkel/flippers to our already loaded down selves makes us even more of a Jeff Foxworthy  quote than we already are, I said “Sure! They are out in the garage closet.” Out ran the 4 and 6 year old to get their flippers through the garage door. As I’m gathering up the bags, here they run back in the front door, both crying and screaming, and out of breath. I’ve never seen them so scared, poor babies. “There’s a SNAKE!!!HE’S IN THE GARAGE!!!”  We’ve lived in this farm house for 10 years. I’ve seen one tiny white oak snake near our garage in that entire time. And of course, those snakes from ye olden days when I had chickens, but those weren’t anywhere close to my door. And because all things scary and dangerous and difficult MUST happen when I am alone with the kids, Stephen wasn’t home, so I called downstairs the next best thing: my 10-year-old son. Never having brothers, I had no clue how valuable these 3 boys would end up being to the ever present Florida problems of bugs, critters, and dirt. I rely heavily on their knowledge and skill when Dad isn’t home. The 2 little boys were still jittery as I sat them down, so I told them to take deep breaths, and headed out with my 10-year-old to inspect this situation. We got as close as we could to the garage snake and yet far enough away that I could run to safety if he moved a muscle. I was making a lot of assumptions at this moment in time, one of which was that snakes are too dumb to follow you to “safety”- (note to self: find out if snakes are smart enough to follow you as you run to safety). The snake was coiled up with his head cocked back. My son and I both felt like we weren’t 100% sure about these markings. It was not a rattlesnake, that was confirmed by my information loving child next to me. But was it a white oak? I kept saying, “Doesn’t it look like a white oak who has been drug through mud?” The markings were just not familiar to me. Son decides to slowly roll a skateboard toward the snake. Just because? Remember, he’s 10 and I’m a city girl. I have no way of knowing what is standard protocol for unfamiliar snake examination when you aren’t in eminent danger. The skateboard seemed like a good idea. As soon as it touched the snake, he slithered away further into the closet. PERFECT! Out of sight, POOL TIME! (Now that I think about it, I really can’t believe I killed that snake in ye olden days without 100% confirmation via photo text that it wasn’t poisonous. I didn’t have photo text capability then. I just remember describing it to Stephen over the phone. Those were different times!) I dried the remaining tears of the little boys, loaded up everything but the flippers- Mr. Snake can hold on to those a little while longer, thank you-and we headed to the pool. I called Stephen, told the story, and he made me keep going back to this “mud” that was covering the snake. I could tell he didn’t like what I was saying but I kept insisting it looked pretty much like a white oak, but with mud- like I said! No way was it a poisonous snake: no rattle, it wasn’t black, and it wasn’t a coral snake for sure. Several hours pass. Pulling into the driveway tonight, the kids happily shout “Daddy’s home!” This is a familiar cheer to moms everywhere because it means your valuable teammate is back! Or in this case, the snake slayer is home. As we get closer to him, I notice he has a look on his face of concern. One child comments, “He has a gun!” Another child comments, “No, that’s his phone!” (it really was his phone), and yet still another child, “Why is he holding a hoe?” (I roll down the window instead of getting out, because, well maybe I will need to speed off to safety from this snake ridden land that I call my home. And thankfully I have pizza in the car, so I could just eat in the car somewhere safe. Without snakes.) Remember, Stephen likes to keep it simple: “It was a moccasin”. My jaw drops. My babies were getting flippers out of the garage and they were literally brushing their hand and feet next to a venomous snake. At our house. At 2pm on a normal Friday afternoon.

The moccasin’s life had passed on to wherever venomous snakes go when they are no longer needed on planet Earth, yet his body remained on my driveway. We all stood around and got a proper lesson from Stephen on colorings, markings, head shape and size, and snake anatomy. Fascinating stuff, people. I sat later on the couch with my kids watching a movie. In the end, life is good, God is good, last Friday and this Friday we were spared tragedy…and I am grateful. I think next Friday we all just may stay inside!