Friday, May 25, 2012

A Week of Critters

Yes, that's what it has been around here lately. Last weekend after a heavy rain, I came home to find a box turtle meandering across the road. I parked the car and donned my garden gloves. He drew in his hind legs as I approached, but turned his head to peer at me. I stepped closer and he drew in his forelegs. As I reached to pick him up (my hands well back from his front parts just in case I had misidentified his species), his head disappeared into the armored shell. I carried him into the back yard, down the steps to the creek and set him down on the creek bank. He shot into the water at a speed any hare would be proud to claim. I forgot to get his picture, but this is what he looked like.

Near my house there's a wonderful city park with a two-mile walking trail around the lake (reservoir). It's about a three block walk to a patch of woods where a trail cuts through into the back side of the park. I was coming up the trail to head back home, my mind doing all the meandering it does when I walk, and I nearly stepped on this guy.
I sent the picture to my science teacher friend who identified it as a gray rat snake. So after regaining my breath, I stood there for a while trying to decide what to do. There is a second path that I could take to the main road if I backtracked a few feet and detoured around him. But that seemed a silly thing to do. We had a staring match for a few minutes. I didn't think I could safely step over him, even though he's not poisonous, he could still be aggressive. I looked around and found a stick. A very long stick. And I prodded him gently. He didn't move, just sat there and looked at me. So I prodded a bit harder and finally, he turned around and wound himself back into the undergrowth. And I came home. 

Then my husband found this hole with cracked open egg shells by the walkway in our back yard. 

My friend said, "I guess it could be anything from a chipmunk to a if you stick your hand down it..." 

I didn't. 

So, Happy Poetry Friday! After my week of critters, I definitely needed a critter poem. 

Stop over at TeacherDance where Linda is hosting the roundup for more poetry. 


by D.H. Lawrence

A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before me.

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of
the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.

And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

Read the rest here.


  1. I'm glad you didn't stick your hand down that hole! Either way, that probably wouldn't have been fun. Thanks for sharing your critters! I do love spring. xo

    1. I thought about poking a stick down it, but decided that might not be wise either!

  2. Splendid poem -- I've never been a fan of snakes but Lawrence has me rethinking them. We have both snakes and box turtles in our woods and while I like seeing the turtles, I'm very skittish around snakes -- once I thought I saw a long black stick in the driveway, and when I got out of the car to move it out of the way, it slithered off. He was probably more frightened than I was, but still . . .

    1. It is a wonderfully honest poem, isn't it? And yes, those moving sticks can be scary.

  3. Love reading about your wildlife adventures, Doraine! At the risk of causing the walls to cave in, my husband and I made it to Sunday School last weekend where a woman in the class boasted how she killed a 6-foot black snake on her driveway to protect her grandchildren. Sigh. I told her I'd love to have a big black snake in the yard (we've had copperhead issues in past years). I'm working on a little snake writing project now, and it amazes me the responses people have to them - the Lawrence poem captures that so well. Thanks for sharing!

    1. You and Heather M., along with my teacher friend, might be some of the few people who don't have that initial startle response, rapid breathing and surge in heart rate, etc.

  4. Elegant, lovely poem. Thanks for sharing that and all your critter adventures. Snakes don't bother me too much, though I admit seeing one as big as that might give me pause. Had it been a gigantic spider, well...there's no telling what chaos I would have wrought. :)

    1. Isn't it crazy the things we react to? I rather like spiders, though I have to admit I've not been around the nasty venomous kind.

  5. My neighbor in NC came out of her house to find that a huge black rat snake had climbed up the grape vine around her door, gotten into the bird nest, eaten all the baby robins, and was lying on her welcome mat enjoying the sun. I had to come over and shoo it away... it didn't want to leave it was so happy and full after it's feast.

  6. Oh my, all the snake stories are coming out. I want to tell you that I loved hearing about all your discoveries around your home. I miss seeing those box turtles from when I grew up in Missouri. We don't see them often at all in Colorado-not moist enough I think. I also was taught early to leave the black snakes alone; they are good to have around for mice removal, etc. The poem was interesting, an approach to expectations that long ago that I find still here with us today. Thanks Doraine.

    1. I think we all have snake stories and rat stories. And here in the South, we probably all have roach stories, too!

  7. What a great post, and I love that Lawrence poem.