Sunday, May 31, 2009

Spoke to soon.....

Well, it looks like I may have spoken just a bit to soon about being thankful for a snake-free weekend. I stepped out onto the porch this evening for a smoke, and to clean up the toys in the front yard, when what do I espy stretched out on the front porch, about fifteen feet to my left. Ayep, you guessed it, young snake looking to relax at my house. Freak out....ON!!!

Of course, I'm not wearing my snake boots, or my pistol, or heck, much of anything. I've been working in the yard today, so after my shower, I've got on a t-shirt, a pair of comfortable shorts, and flip-flops. Also, of course, the Wife is just a few feet away inside the house, so even though I know that she knows, that poisonous snakes give me the willies, I still can't cut loose with a good freak-out yell or anything, one of those image things I guess. SO I step back into the house, swearing under my breath and getting my revolver out.

I step back out onto the porch, and there he is, plain as day, about fourteen or fifteen inches long, mottled in color. It's dark outside, and the porch lights aren't hitting him well, so I can't tell what color he is, just that he's two-toned, with darker splotches along his back. He's young enough, and thin enough, that I'm pretty sure he was a juvenile version of whatever his species is.

That's a problem for me. You see, Juvenile snake species, often don't have the same coloration, or even the same patterns as the adults of the species. Being as how I'm not a herpetologist, I'm not that familiar with what juvenile snakes look like compared to their grown up selves. I look for black snake, king snake, garter snake, copperhead, etc.. If I can't immediately identify what family the snake belongs to, then I'm sorry, I just have to assume the worst. With two little ones that play in that yard, I can't afford to be wrong about a venomous snake. So I hunkered down about four feet from him, thumbed the hammer back, drew a bead on him, and let fly with my rat shot. He's dead, and tossed into the woods, and will probably make a meal for some other critter I'd rather not know about.

I swear, I don't know if it's the rain or what, but I'm suddenly killing way more snakes than I've ever seen in this area. I mean, usually, I don't even see snakes around the house. I used to see the skin of a humongous rat snake that lived out back years ago, but I think I only ever actually saw it once. Now in the last year and a half, I've killed five snakes, all of them poisonous. It's weird. Anyway I can blame this on something or someone, and get relief from the current administration???


Weed-Whacker part II

So, those of you who read my previous post about the weed-whacker might remember that I promised that the next time I went out back to whack more weeds, I would be wearing my snake boots, as well as my .22 LR revolver, loaded with shot shells. Saturday morning, there I was, snake boots on, revolver strapped to my hip, safety glasses and gloves on, and weed whacking away. I did the front yard just fine, and then the regular areas of the back yard just fine. However, when I started to move into the overgrown areas which I'm trying to reclaim, the old saying "as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs" most certainly applied.

I'm not sure why, I had on my snake boots that come up over my calf and are supposed to stop a snake bite. I've also got my trusty .22 LR strapped on, a Heritage Arms Rough Rider(I grew up watching cowboy flicks and can't afford a Colt :p) so I'm armed and ready, but still nervous as all get out. Anyway, I head back into danger-land, and I'm seeing stuff everywhere. Every leaf that moves, which by the way, is a lot when you're weed-whacking through underbrush, catches my eye, and I'm looking for snake. So here I am, whacking along, when some sort of movement off to my left, catches the corner of my eye. I turn my head to see if I can figure out what I just saw move, when all of the sudden, something yanks hard on the weed whacker.

Now when I say yanks, I means yanks it hard enough that if I didn't have a good grip on it, it would have gone flying out of my hand. Which by the way, is about what happened because as soon as I felt that tug, I let go of that thing like it was on fire, and jumped back. Of course, when I say jumped back, I assume that everyone understands the implied..


Of course, even all sorts of freaked out, as I'm wondering how big the snake must be that is coming back for revenge on me for killing it's sibling/offspring, that it can yank a 10 pound weed whacker out of my hands, I'm still drawing, and thumbing the hammer back as I'm touching down again, and presenting to the target. I have to admit, I was already easing my finger onto that hair trigger before I'd even figured out where my target was. I just knew, that whatever it was yanking that thing out of my hands, I definitely wanted lead between myself and it.

I came this close | |.....This Close || to firing, and taking out a particularly ornery species of........sticker vine....also known as briars, brambles, what have you. Seems that in my inattention, I'd come down on one with the head of the whacker, instead of the trimming line, so instead of whacking it, it wound up around the head. That tug I felt was just that, the vine winding up on the head, and the head trying to keep going and wind up more of that thorny vine.

Ah well, no snakes to interrupt the day, and I got to attend a friends wedding, and drink pretty decent scotch for free. So all in all, a pretty good day.

Here's to outdoor adventures!


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Peer Pressure

I was discussing the previous post regarding copperhead snakes and the wild weed whacker dance with my wife last night. She jokingly said that I've killed enough of them over the last couple of years that had we saved the skins, she could have a purse by now. Then she got an odd sort of gleam in her eye, and started looking very serious, asking how difficult it would be to skin the next one. I responded that it would all depend on how the snake died. A couple of them have been disposed of with rat shot, which does a number on the skin for any sort of tanning purposes.

That started me thinking about the previous kills. This latest kill, I was all alone out back, and free to let me inner case of the willies take over when I first saw the snake. However, not the last one I killed, but the one before that, which was about this time last year, we had visitors. My in-laws were down to celebrate the birth of my youngest, Mother-, Father- and Brother-in-law. They were helping me with a little clean up from where I had put in some hardwood flooring a week or two prior to their visit. The detritus, empty flooring boxes, cut-off ends of wood strips and molding, etc., had been piled in the corner of the driveway until I could secure the use of a truck to haul it to the dump. (I gave my truck up for a nice, sensible, used, 4-door sedan with child-seat anchors, and side-impact airbags, it was a sad, sad day, and now I dream of affording a 4-door truck with the above mentioned amenities )

So we're going to load this stuff up into Brother-in-law's truck, and as the last piece of cardboard box is lifted, who should say howdy-do, but a young copperhead.(probably no more than 16 or 17 inches long) Though of course, the willies immediately grab a hold of my spine and start doing the crab dance on it, I can't get all weird in front of the In-Laws. I reach over to the truck and grab a discarded piece of two by four, and promptly crush the snakes head with the end, very nonchalantly, as if I do this every day, all the whiles my spine is doing the mamba.(hehe, get it, Mamba, poisonous snake...seriously LOLing right now) Scoop up the carcass, once it stops flopping around of course, and toss it out into the woods for whatever night-time critter gets to it first.

Thinking about that episode, as compared to the most recent episode, got me to thinking about other things, and reactions to them, based on who else is around. Both episodes ended the same way, with the snake dead and me with my spine doing the mamba(hehe). The only difference is that in one episode, without watchers, I was able to let the willies out, while in the other, I kept it all inside. That got me to thinking about other episodes where I might have reacted differently to a similar situation, based solely on who else was present at the time.

One particular comparison that sticks out in my mind occurred when I did a stint with the local county Crime Scene guys. It involved two different scenes with de-comps. (Yeah, I know, there are guys who go twenty years working crime scenes and don't see two decomps, yet I get two in five months) Anyway, at the first one, I'm with a Sergeant, so everything is very straight-laced and by the book. You just muscle down the bile in your throat, and try not to think about it as you get green around the gills. You probably end up doing not quite as good a job, because you end up rushing through your work, to try and get back out into fresh air. The first decomp had died inside a climate-controlled environment(i.e. air conditioned house) and was actually sort of dried out, almost like the beginnings of mummification, this being my first experience with decomps, I found it to be very rough, and had problems eating things like cheese or sausage afterwards. Now that I think about it, that may have been because of how it was handled.

My second decomp occurred outside, behind a small out-building. We attend the autopsy to try and get ID by various methods. Now if I thought the first one was bad, it was a breath of sweet heaven compared to this second one. It had been out in the weather and sun for somewhere between seven and ten days, and was disgustingly ripe. On this autopsy, I was with the guy who had become my partner for the time. We got on well, and tried to enjoy our work. Anyway, there I am, standing in the autopsy room holding severed digits in my hands while partner is mixing up some rubber epoxy to try and lift prints with, when the wavy feeling comes to my guts. I apparently let out some sort of sound, as partner looks back, and comments to how green I look, and maybe this will be the trip where I lose my autopsy-puking cherry. The Doc looks over and warns me about puking on his floor, or in his 'good' sink. The nurse, up to her armpits inside the chest cavity of the decomp, looks over and informs me that she won't be cleaning that mess up, so I'd better just keep it to myself. The stern look I get from the Doc and the Nurse, just set partner off, and next thing I know, we're both making fake puking noises to goad the medical professionals, and then laughing so hard, we've got tears streaming, and are about to puke for real because we can't get any air. Which of course, just makes us laugh all the harder.

Which is about the time the investigating Detective walks in, accompanied by a newly promoted Investigator. The Detective dismisses the giggling crime scene guys with a frown, and asks the Doc how things are going. I, still holding on to the severed digits, hold them up and inform the detective that the decomp "gave the Doc the Finger". Partner and I lose it at this point, holding on to the counter and gurney to remain standing, even the Nurse gave a chuckle at that well timed, and witty statement. At which point, the new Investigator, clamped his hand to his mouth, and fled the autopsy bay. This of course, sent us off into more gales of laughter, as the Detective rolled his eyes, muttered something about letting crime scene techs out of the nut-house before they were ready, and went to look for his investigator in training.

So, two different scenes(similar circumstances), and two totally different methods of dealing with it, based on who else was present. Someone who 'brooked no nonsense', and someone who was there to get the job done, and have a little fun at the same time. Gives a little food for thought on how much our daily actions are less a reflection of ourselves, and more a reflection of how we think others perceive us, or how we want them to perceive us. To be honest, I've reached a point now where I'd like to think that I don't really care what someone else thinks, as long as I know I'm getting it done. Of course, who knows for real, I guess I'll just have to look at the things I do, and see how much of my reaction is me, and how much of it is trying to project a certain image.


PS- As an aside to anyone who might take offense at laughing or practical joking going on at an autopsy, please understand that no disrespect is intended towards the deceased or surviving family members. It's a coping mechanism used by people who have to see sickening, disgusting, foul things on a regular basis. It's a way to survive without suffering a mental breakdown, or drinking yourself into oblivion.

Blushing Furiously

Well, I've been linked by the lovely Brigid, and consequently, have many new visitors. First, let me say welcome to any and all who stop by for a gander. I can't promise much of anything, but I'll take a stab at being entertaining for you. Secondly, a big thank you to Brigid. I don't know how my writing can entertain someone of her obvious talent, but I'm certainly glad that it does.

Though I'm not the most frequent poster, I do try to get a little something out every now and then, and will try and do so with a little more regularity, since more people are stopping by. I hope you enjoy your time here, I know I do, else I wouldn't be here :) I'll be relating stories from my work in law enforcement, past and present, the adventures of being the only man in the house and trying to help my wife raise my daughters, and whatever else happens to tickle my fancy at any given time. Beware the randomosity. (Hehe, I'm not even sure if that's a word, blogger doesn't think so, but I like it, so it stays :)


Monday, May 18, 2009

I am not a Manly Man

By manly man, I mean that guy who you see in movies, on TV, or in a favorite adventure novel, who takes everything in stride, and deals with everything like it's just another routine. The manly man who might be Brigid's ideal man, a la her post about the characteristics of a Home on the Range man.

I apparently fall short when it comes to number 4. Now I mentioned last year, about dealing with a Copperhead snake who was too close to my children's play area. I was a little wierded out when I dealt with it, and had that same experience this past weekend.

I was out with the weed-whacker, trying to reclaim a part of the backyard that gone a bit wild over the last few years. Thick ivy, blackberry canes, brambles, and whatever else weeds turn into if they can survive the ivy blanket for a year or two. I'm working by myself, and on a slope, on about half an acre of crazy growth, so I'm not trying to do it all in one fell swoop or anything. Each time I do the regular yard, I take the weed-whacker and push a little bit into the overgrowth. Basically getting what I can get with it, and opening paths to things that will take something a little stronger to remove, such as a pruner, or hand saw, or bush axe.

Now the ivy has grown there for a year or three, so that means it has overgrown itself with all the leaf litter, and it's like walking on a four to six inch thick sponge. As I'm giving a fresh buzz-cut to some ivy I've already hit before, and pushing a little further back into canes and honey-suckle, what should I see but a nice-sized Copperhead, slithering his way along about five feet from me.

At this point in the story, the Manly Man would no doubt frown at the offending snake, reach down and grab a hold of it with his bare hand, pop it's head off, toss the carcass into the compost, and keep going. This is where my story, departs from that of the Manly Man, because I believe my approximate words were something along the lines of "YAAAEEIEIEIEEE!!!!!!! ZOMG !! ZOMG !! ZOMG !!" as I jump back and turn to face the nasty little thing. Now I have no problem with benign, harmless snakes, but poisonous snakes that aren't behind glass at the zoo, flat out give me the willies. So here I am, with a poisonous snake that turns out to be between twenty-eight and twenty-nine inches long, which is pretty good size for Copperheads around here, and my hands full of weed-whacker. So I figure that this thing will whack it's way through half inch thick woody stems, and two inch thick green, plant fiber stems, so it ought to do a decent job on a snake, and I rev the engine up, and take a whack at it.

No Joy :(

All it manages to do, is piss the snake off. So I start wailing on this thing like a farmer with a hoe, all the time chanting my mantra "ZOMG!!!!ZOMG!!!!ZOMG!!!!" The little orange line in the weed-whacker doesn't even break the skin on this snake, and it's getting angrier by the thwack. Finally, I get lucky, and when I hit it's back end, and it whips around to strike, one of the trimmer strings catches it in the head or something, because it stuns it, and it drops down hardly moving. I immediately stomp down on the head with my right foot. Now, if this were on concrete, or asphalt, or even just hard dirt, this would have probably crushed it's head, and been the end of things. However, since this is all overgrowth, the leaf litter and ivy roots have made that nice springy floor that my foot just sinks into for a couple of inches, with the snakes head underneath it.

ZOMG!!!ZOMG!!!ZOMG!!!!! Now the stun is starting to wear off, and mister snake is apparently unhappy to have me standing on his head, and the body starts flopping around even more. Luckily, for some reason, I had clipped my little two-inch, Stinger knife into my pocket that morning. I grabbed it, flipped it open, reached down, and ZOMG!!!ZOMG!!!ZOMG!!!........EEWWWWWW!!! cut it's head off.

Then of course, I had to dispose of the pieces of the carcass. Even though the body didn't have a head on it any longer, my full on case of the willies made it an experience to pick that up and toss it back into the woods.

I have since decided that future yardwork in that area of the back yard will be done while wearing my snake boots I have for hunting. Also, you better believe that my .22 revolver is now loaded with those CCI Rat Shot shells, and will be strapped on whenever venturing forth into the wilds of my untamed backyard.

So, while I was the man of the house, and disposed of the venomous critter, I certainly did not accomplish it a manly fashion. Unless of course, you find girlish shrieks, wild flailing with a weed-whacker, and chants of ZOMG!! to be manly that is :)

Keep your eyes open and stay safe!