Aug 23 2009

Spinster aunt’s adopted hometown lives up to reptilian moniker

Spinster aunts, at midnight after a half a bot of rosé, are often inclined to sluice out to the back porch, wearing attractive headlamps, to find Western diamondback rattlesnakes hanging out by the door. The serpents wait like patience on a statue, apparently imagining that mice or hunks of filet mignon are about to come flying out of the house.

The situation is perturbing in the extreme, since the Western diamondback is, according to Texas Snakes, a Field Guide, responsible for “the majority of serious envenomations and most of the fatalities” incurred by snake-encountering Texans. Its status as the most frakkin dangerous snake in the state results from its vigorously high self-esteem, giant fangs, and gargantuan venom capacity.

I gazed about me, giving the air a hopeful sniff. Nope, just my luck. Why the snake-handling Pentecostals should have chosen this of all moments to make themselves scarce, I’ll never know.

Faced with an inconvenient paucity of deluded Christians, it was clear that I was on my own. So I enjoined the 3 1/2-foot specimen to move along by menacing it with a broom. I believe I also yelled, “Hey. Git along, now.”

The Western diamondback rattlesnake just laughed and cranked up the rattling to eleven.

I then got the bright idea of turning a water hose on it. When this tactic merely induced the snake to slither a few feet thither, then to coil up against a drainpipe from which tactically advantageous position it adamantly refused to budge, I gave up and went to bed. It appears that reptiles, unlike cats and forest fires, like water.

Speaking of brooms, have you seen that repellent TV commercial where the smiling blonde hottie dances around her sparkling kitchen making love to her Swiffer mop, while her old mop, cast in the role of jilted lover, mopes around stalking her? Women and their romantic, intimate relationships with cleaning supplies!

Excuse me, I’ve got a hot date with an old dishrag.


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  1. nails

    There is a target women about this, that mop isn’t the only romantic cleaning product.

  2. Deanna Zandt

    You might enjoy Sarah Haskins in “Target Women: Cleaning.”


  3. Jill

    You’re right, Deanna! I did enjoy that video. Thanks! I’d never seen that purple Latin lover sponge ad before. Ay yi yi.

  4. Orange

    Ever since I saw that Haskins video, I can’t scrub the bathtub faucet without checking out my handjob technique. It might frighten the fellas. I’d never get cast in one of them TV ads.

    Jill, I was just telling my mom about you. She’s going for a repeat “extra views” mammogram tomorrow and is highly suspicious that the 2 cm doodad they saw is going to require surgery. I was reading to her from the mayoclinic.com page with mastectomy pros and cons. One of the cons is that either a prosthetic or reconstruction WILL BE REQUIRED. Hah! No mention of the “or…just leave things as is” third option, which she’s inclined toward.

    Also? Holy shit, rattlesnakes! Am remaining in big city with cold, cold winters for the rest of my life.

  5. Lauren O

    Its status as the most frakkin dangerous snake in the state results from its vigorously high self-esteem

    Quick! Draw up a bunch of underwear ads with impossibly skinny, naked, airbrushed rattlesnakes and tell them they’re too fat to ever land a man unless they fix themselves with all these beauty products. Then, uh, I guess, set up a cosmetics kiosk opposite your house, and all the snakes will go over there.

  6. Jill

    @ Orange: Dammit! There is of course room for optimism, but dammit anyway. Here’s hoping it’s just a doo-dad. But if it’s not, life without a boob or two is still life. As I am here, four years later, to tell ya.

    I don’t judge women who go for it, but I personally couldn’t imagine reconstruction surgery. For one thing, it’s not “reconstruction” at all, since the result is not a reconstructed breast, but a lump of fat from your abdomen sewn on to your chest — with optional nipple tattoo — as a facsimile of a male fetish object.

    Post-m, it’s a little harder to buy clothes, but then it’s always hard to buy clothes, breasts or no breasts. Shit don’t ever fit nohow.

  7. incognotter

    Ho boy I am I glad all dog and I risk running into at night is skunks and raccoons. I suspect YOUR self esteem must be as good as the rattlesnakes’, though. You certainly have earned your “coping with reptiles” feminist merit badge. Are the dogs going to have to develop an indoor potty solution for after dark?

  8. BadKitty

    Alas, Steve Irwin is dead due to doing things like wrestling sting rays and such so you’re out of luck seeking his assistance.

  9. Notorious Ph.D.

    Shit. I haven’t given any of my faucets a good hand-job in months. Do you think they’re going to leave me?

  10. Comrade PhysioProf

    What do snake-handling Pentecostals smell like?

  11. Jill

    What do snake-handling Pentecostals smell like?

    Snake oil.

  12. pheenobarbidoll

    Bwahaa! Snake oil!!

    Unless you want to chop the head off with a shovel, I haven’t the faintest idea how to get one off the porch.

    Maybe use a large, very long handled shop broom and just SHOVE? From a window possible? Them suckers can grow over 5 feet so beware that striking distance.

  13. Friend of Snakes

    First, some gentle correction:

    “I’ve got this rattlesnake…”
    Mmmmm, actually, you’ve undoubtedly got *lots* of rattlesnakes. And other kinds too. Lucky you.

    “…and it’s in my yard.” When viewed from the grand sweep of time, you’re in *its* yard.

    Next, a supposition:

    If you’ve been living there since 2004, had those dogs since 2004, and have been letting them run loose during that time, then those dogs seem to have made a pretty good adjustment to their venomous neighbors. Or maybe they’ve just been lucky so far. Who knows?

    My suggestion:

    Let the dogs outside via a different door and try not to worry.

    p.s., as far as humans go, you know who mostly gets bit by venomous snakes, don’t you. Yeah, that’s right, teh boys. Take your rattler, add testosterone and a few beers to the mix, and you’re almost guaranteed a trip to the ER. Right after the one who sees the snake says to his buddy, “hey, watch this.”

  14. Jill

    Shooing’em away is the best approach when dealing with the deadly species. They are more than happy to oblige an invitation to vamoose. When you attack’em with shovels you have to get in kind of close and they just get pissed off. The garden hose gambit is usually successful, but only if the snake hasn’t found a convenient drain pipe to hide behind, at which point the ball’s in your court. Last night’s specimen demonstrated a marked ambivalence toward either killing me or waiting me out, whichever I chose. Being a sensible spinster aunt, I elected to stand down, and am here today to tell the tale. But I’d be lying if I said I don’t continue to suffer isolated spasms of the heebie-jeebie variety even now. I mean, yikes.

  15. slythwolf

    That headlamp is top notch.

    The animal cop shows have led me to believe that one can call one’s local animal control or equivalent and they will send a snake expert out to catch and relocate the rattler. I don’t know how accurate that is, or who would fill its place in the local food chain thereafter.

  16. preying mantis

    Keep a nice, wide, sturdy rake handy? That’s been my grandfather’s trusty standby since he saw the light about venomous-snake-murder. Though I can’t really recommend his follow-through of, figuratively speaking, dropping them off at the bus station with a twenty in their pocket, since it’s a bit of fuss for what sounds like, in this situation, not a lot of gain.

  17. pheenobarbidoll

    Google King snakes and see if you can buy some. That should solve the problem before you even have one.

  18. Blair

    Hi, Jill.

    Long-time reader here, generally too intimidated to comment. :)

    I’ve had some serious snake issues before, and I’ve found that half a dozen free-range chickens really make a dent in the next-to-the-casa snake population. If you don’t mind chicken shit splats here and there, and free eggs, that is.

    Best of luck to you!

  19. Kwailin

    Savage Death Island: Sign me up right now, rattlesnakes and all. That is the way things are going these days. (But good luck with them suckers, truly!)

  20. Mo

    I had just today been musing on those commercials and the oddness of them, especially after reading this article on objectum sexuals: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/family-and-relationships/love-objects/article1259075/

    What a sadomasochistic relationship it must have been, too. I mean, they spent the whole relationship together with her locking him in a closet or putting him down on the floor to rub his face in the dirt.

    Apparently the patriarchy’s bad for spongemops, too.

  21. virago

    That video is hilarious. Makes me almost want to clean-almost! My place is pretty untidy right now, and I don’t care. OTOH, I love it when the lady reaches for the Lysol instead of a condom. That was the funniest part of the video. I love Sarah Haskins!

  22. j0lt

    My mom got bit by a rattler ’bout 20 years ago, stepping outside because the dog was barking at something. In short, always peek out the door to make sure the dog hasn’t cornered a rattler by your door who will be super-juiced up from all the excitement. After receiving the largest dose of anti-venin in county history and a few days in the hospital, she was fine, but boy, I’ll remember that scream for the rest of my days.

    Be careful out there.

  23. Larkspur

    Once when I was out running on a narrow rocky trail, I rounded a curve and saw a ginormous rattlesnake as big around as my admittedly slightly puny bicep. I think it had felt the vibration of my thundering Nikes, because it was beginning to slither off the trail and down into the chapparal, but I do not know if it slithered completely, because I stopped on a dime, levitated – turning about-face in mid-air – and scampered back home as fast as I could, squeaking with terror every time I heard a rustle.

    Another time I surprised a flock of wild turkeys. Their sudden cacaphony was scream-worthy, but then highlarious. Although when you are out there with a flock of wild turkeys, and they are not bottled whiskey, or wrapped and frozen, or browned and fragrant, you really do not know what they are going to do, or if, when they are done doing it, there will be anything left for your next-of-kin to ID. There is a lot of savage heartwarming death nature island crap out there. It’s fun. In theory.

  24. intransigentia

    Hey, it really has been four years, hasn’t it – I raise my coffee mug in celebration of your continuing mortal coil retention.

  25. Val

    What is this scrubbing of bathtub faucets you mention? Maybe I’d better not go look too closely at mine…
    The 1st year we moved onto the farm (’93), we disturbed a large Canebrake rattler – personally I was tickled bcz they’re becoming a rare species! We relocated him about 15 mi away to the Trinity River bottoms – the figurative “bus stop” option – & wished him a long & happy life, far away from civilization.

  26. bellacoker

    Have you seen the commercial where the woman in being held captive in a glass box until she cleans all of the stuff? That one really skeezes me out, who thought that was a good idea?!

    Also, as a wee child in Norther, Texas we used to ride our bikes around, near, and over snakes that came out onto the blacktop to sun themselves. I felt bad about this activity later, when I grew a conscience. They were mostly copperheads, the shy, retiring, wallflower of Texas’ poison snake population.

    Rattlesnakes on the other hand are notorious bastards, once when I was driving on a state highway one that was on the road tried to strike MY CAR!

  27. givesgoodemail

    Yipes! Centipedes, recluses, scorpions, and now diamondbacks.
    You just *love* to live in the envenomation fast lane, dontcha?

  28. Cute Bruiser

    Pfft, after her mastectomy my mum just knit up a little plush boob to stuff in her bra. Granted, there’s always the tattoo option as well! http://quigleyscabinet.blogspot.com/2009/04/mastectomy-tattoos.html No comment about the snake except, aaaaargh!!

  29. Nepenthe

    Bruiser, wow, that’s awesome. I’m almost looking forward to a double mastectomy now. (With my family history, it’s pretty much a guarantee that I’ll have breast cancer some day, if I don’t get hit by a bus.)

  30. Gertrude Strine

    Nice viper.
    Don’t they have more than one way out of houses in Rattlesnake?
    This is not a fake new genus of snail. Qld zoologists are as bone-headed as their dead snake-molesters.
    I think it’s being unkind to snails, just quietly.

  31. Orange

    Yay! My mom’s repeat mammogram today was unable to locate what they thought they might’ve seen last week. They did turn up a cyst on ultrasound, but sucked out some brown goo and called it a day. I always figured cysts contained something closer to water, but apparently brown goo can be not-alarming. She goes back in 6 months for follow-up, but no reason to suspect cancer now. Whew!

  32. Jill

    I’m well aware that for millions of years rattlesnakes have been rattling around all over what we now call Rattlesnake, Texas, and that from the snake’s point of view, I am an interloper. As much as I enjoy a good snake, however, I do not enjoy diamondbacks making like coked-up maraca players on my personal back porch. That’s my point of view, and it’s just as valid as the snake’s.

    I haven’t ever seen one this close to the house before, because Texas is big, dammit, and there’s usually plenty of elbow room for everybody, but apparently this sort of thing is becoming more common; local snakesperts are postulating that the ongoing drought conditions are driving them closer to human settlements where water and mice and juicy spinster aunts can be found.

  33. ambivalent academic

    there’s usually plenty of elbow room for everybody

    Yeah, but your snake doesn’t have any elbows so he figgers he can scoot in a little closer.

  34. Larkspur

    Hmm. I wonder if there is some safe way of creating an attractive rattler “habitat” well away from you and your loved ones, with some old dilapidated boards for shelter, and a daily splash of water, and some method to inform people and dogs to stay the fuck away, ’cause Snakes Only.

    I just hope there’s never some kind of detente between brown recluse spiders and rattlers, with a subsequent proliferation and mutual aid treaty. OMG feet don’t fail me now. But hey, perhaps a film? A film in which, at the end, a new treaty is forged, with the new signatory being spinsters and their allies. There goes the patriarchy.

    Sorry. That’s too horrifyin’. My sinuses are making me miserable, my car keeps failing to start (but intermittently, and not in front of the mechanic), I have been losing money because I’ve had to miss some assignments, and surprise, it seems my cholesterol is through the fucking roof. But I am pleased to report that my beloved boobs are free of weird lumps and shadows again this year – btw, yay for your mom, Orange!

  35. Amnesiac

    That guy who says ‘Oi! What a beauty!’ was in fact Steve “Conservationist” Irwin who died when a good stingray turned bad. Perhaps your sidekick was the cause for so much Australian rejoicing?! How we loathed him.

    I have to ask, are the rattle sounds real?

  36. Larkspur

    Ooh, I forgot to ask: what are snakes scared of? Because we could build replicas of the feared item, and place them near porches and doors like scarecrows, only they’d be scaresnakes. But it’d have to be something more primeval-y scary, because I don’t think huge shovels and pick-up truck mock-ups and drunk cardboard cowboy figures would be very aesthetic. Plus if they’re motionless, the snakes are gonna be all “meh”. Maybe there is a device that can emit snake-scary vibrations that we can’t hear so much. Like maybe we could replicated brontosaurus footsteps, and surround the house with emitters.

    Or maybe we have to weave a ginormous rope to encircle the house, ’cause aren’t snakes supposed to dislike slithering over rope? Specially if it was electrified. But you could only arm it after the dogs were inside, and presumably snakes would already be inside the perimeter.

    I am trying to help, honest.

  37. slythwolf

    Have you seen the commercial where the woman in being held captive in a glass box until she cleans all of the stuff? That one really skeezes me out, who thought that was a good idea?!

    Shit yes, that commercial is fucked up. “We’ve trapped Linda* in a glass box for a week with no food or ventilation in evidence to see how little dust turns up on the side of the box where she used our product. That’s right, in addition to suffocating and/or starving to death, Linda will also be breathing the toxic fumes of our cleaning product for a week. Cheers, Linda!”

    * probably not her actual name

  38. Larkspur

    We need to re-do that commercial, adding in the strong running Apple woman carrying the mighty hammer (from that single-run Superbowl ad) who smashes Linda’s glass prison. Then Linda and Hammer Woman and all the secretaries and administrative assistants who had to work on Linda’s Glass Box even though they thought it was lame – well, they all chase down the executives and pummel them.

    Shutting up now.

  39. Jill

    “I have to ask, are the rattle sounds real?”

    Yup. These vipers are not misnomered.

    That loon Steve Irwin guy, Americans love him. I forgot he got stingrayed. Don’t FUCK with Mother Nature, yall.

  40. Ron Sullivan


    At least. Wow. Has it really been… Yeah, OK. Holy shit. Also: Good start.

    Also also: Impressive snake.

  41. Friend of Snakes

    As a friend of snakes, I’m always happy to hear of people who don’t automatically bludgeon a serpent to death (and in the case of my rattler friends, have the final indignity of having their elegant warning devices chopped off as trophies post mortem). Just thought I’d mention, though, that the “dropping them off at the bus station with a twenty in their pocket” solution is mostly doomed to failure, for them and us. Mark/recapture and radio telemetry studies have shown that they resolutely try to return to their home range, and if they can’t get back, may not find suitable new hibernacula when cold weather comes. Not to mention that the bus you try to put them on is already probably booked solid with passengers, so they’re forced to compete with those who got there first for food and significant others and such.

    About the only serious suggestion I have is keep the area clear of brush piles and other hiding places attractive to snakes and rodents. And turn on a nice bright light; they’d prefer to be in the dark at night, given the choice.

    By the way, I was crestfallen when I discovered that there is no town called Rattlesnake, nor county called Moccasin in Texas.

  42. Ayla

    Snakesperts is totally my new favorite word.

  43. madeleine

    Reading this blog has made my numerous hospital visits because of lumps in breasts a lot less scarier.
    Thank you for that, Jill.
    And for other sufferers of painful cysts: sage tea (salvia officinalis, not divinorum) really helps, at least against the pain.

  44. Liza

    All this snake talk reminds of the one time I was out west with some insane people who chased the rattlesnake whose territory we had invaded with our tents, killed it, skinned it, and toasted it up on the campfire. Then we ate it (yes, I had a bite). And no, it doesn’t taste like chicken. More like fish, with a lot of black pepper.

  45. Liza

    Oops, I didn’t mean to say that they chased the rattlesnake with our tents, they actually chased it with a big stick and a pistol. Sorry for any grammatically-induced confusion.

  46. Squiggy

    Thank you Friend of Snakes for your interesting and kindly information about snakes. I have always been scared of them but you gave such good insight that I have lowered my fear level to ‘yellow’. Yellow represents ‘scared with greater empathy.’

  47. blondie

    All this snake talk has induced more than one full-body-shudder from me. I’m near-phobic-enough about snakes that thin, short, little green garter snakes make me levitate and squeak. The idea that a great big, brown, bitey, poison-filled, big-toothed, chaser of a rattlesnake was within a broomstick of you makes me want to go sit down with my head between my knees for awhile.

    Since I am the opposite of a snakespert, how about some free-thinking, probably less-than-useless advice? Isn’t that who usually gives you advice?

    Would the slither-up of a snake turn on a motion-detector light? If so, would the turning-on of a motion-detector light scare a rattler away or make him say, “Oh, yum, a warm spot where I can wait and get all-comfy, before feasting upon the residents of this house.”

  48. pheenobarbidoll

    The only rattler I’ve ever killed was in my backyard. I did not take the rattle.

    Had it not found it’s way into my fenced yard, it would have been left alone.

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