Carolina rat snake -Elaphe obsoleta

20130601-135539.jpgThere are critters with whom we live in communion and then there are critters which elicit a shout of SCAT! from me – those are the groundhogs, rabbits, and wild turkeys that take advantage of my hard work in the garden.

The rat snakes ( Elaphe obsoleta) are critters with whom we live in peaceful communion.  They slither around the property, four, five, six feet long and every once in a while stop and seem to listen to what we say, usually something like “oh, no!” before we catch our breath and get out of their way.


Yesterday I watched this particular snake go the length of the flower bed I am re-vamping.  Generally it is full of plants, but last year I re-arranged things to such a degree that there are many empty spots giving me a good view of the snake which has chosen the old rail road tie wall as a  home.

I don’t think we have any rats, but the snakes don’t seem to mind that.  They are content to feast on the many mice that scurry around the property.  I suppose they eat lizards also –

Visitors are sometimes shocked that we don’t make the snakes feel unwelcome.  They are harmless and keep down the nice population.

A couple of years ago my Mexican helper and I were weeding and one of the snakes did not seem to like the fact that we were interrupting its nap.  I was inspired to write a poem – and since we were chatting in Spanish at the time I wrote it in Spanish.  Here it is, with its fanciful English translation:

                        LA VÍBORA EN MI HUERTO

En mi huerto hay una víbora,

larga, delgada, color añil.

Cuando me ve se para,

me mira, me saca la lengua.

— No es tan gentil.

Nunca se asusta

cuando me ve,

y yo en cambio, sí.

__Hola, le digo,

pasando el temor.

__¡Qué susto me diste!

Casi te piso porque

No te vi.


There is a snake in my garden

Long, thin, purplish black.

When it sees me it rises,

It looks at me, and sticks out its tongue.

— it is not very polite.

It is never afraid

When it sees me,

On the other hand, I am.

“Hello,” I say to it,

Once over the fright.

“You really scared me!

I almost stepped on you

Because I did not see you.

To print a copy of the poem, click here:  La víbora en mi huerto

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