Atime2write - Fiona Tarr

Living A Creative Life

The Farmer’s Wife – Snakes Alive

Staring into the eyes of a brown snake isn’t really my idea of fun but it was exactly what happened one summer morning; right inside my own home.

As if my irrational dislike of snakes wasn’t already out of hand before this day, it was far worse afterwards. I was about six months pregnant with our first son and we were full throttle into our hay-making season. We were not only making hay for ourselves, we were trying hard to get ahead before our baby was born so we had taken on hay making for a neighbouring farm. We, well I really, had bitten off more than George could chew and he was working nights to finish the job. The summer had turned out to be very hot and the best time to make hay was at night, or it would have turned to chaff and be difficult to bale.

George was sleeping in; a rare occasion but we did get a relief milker in from time to time, especially during hay making time. I was pottering around the place, doing some office type work and keeping myself busy. I took some paperwork to my ‘office’ which was the back room full of everything from knitting, sewing to filing. As I reached up to my wire draw stack to pop my filing in the bottom draw I heard a rustling sound. I took a step back and could see George’s leather woven stock whip sitting curled up on the top of the tray. He didn’t use it all that often but he still had one for herding up the cows from the swampy areas on horseback.

The rustling sound came again and I took a closer look at the whip. It had eyes and its tongue was flicking in and out of its mouth rhythmically trying to work out what I was. The brown snake had been sunning itself on the top of my desk right in front of the window and I had disturbed it from its rest. I quickly stepped back a number of paces and froze. I hated snakes; they really freaked me out. It was a phobia I had inherited from my mother.

I didn’t stay staring for long. The snake was still sitting quietly on top of the desk as though I had not even been in the room. I jumped out the bedroom and closed the door very carefully behind me. My head was racing; how on earth did a snake get in the house? George had promised me when we built our home that it would be vermin proof; snakes included.

I ran to the bedroom and called to George on the way. ‘There is a snake in the back bedroom’. He sat up in bed looking dazed. He was often slow to come alert and he rubbed his eyes trying to comprehend my words.

‘There can’t be’, he finally answered.

‘There is, in the back room, I just saw it. Right on top of the desk, near my filing.’ I almost shouted and he frowned suspiciously at me.

He thought I was out of my mind, but he got out of bed anyway. He pulled on his clothes and went to the back room; opening the door a little so he could peak in. ‘How the hell’, was all he said as he closed the door and headed outside. I knew what he was doing; he was getting his rubber boots and a shovel. The snake was about to have a really bad day.

‘What about the carpet?’ We had just had new ‘Stainmaster’ carpet put down ready for the baby and killing a snake was bound to make a mess. ‘Stainmaster’ only goes so far when all said and done. He stopped for a second, dropped the shovel and headed back to the shed to grab his axe. How on earth an axe would be better I couldn’t decide. I wanted to follow him, to make sure my carpet would be ok but I remembered; I hate snakes!

I stood in the hallway, waiting apprehensively; the sounds from the back room were suspicious. It was a cross between rummaging and light banging and it went on for quite a while before George emerged, snake in hand. Or should I say, dead snake in hand. This was before snake catchers and to be perfectly honest, I am pretty certain farmers still don’t use snake catchers especially when the snake is in their house.

He told me the snake had heard him enter and slid off the desk, down the back and onto the floor. It had found itself in my knitting bag; plastic, nothing fancy. It had tried very hard to strike at my husband through the bag while George had slowly and very, very carefully—so as not to spill blood on my carpet—bludgeoned it to death. The snake was dead, but my knitting was ruined. It was a six-foot brown and if it had bitten me while pregnant I hate to think what might have happened.

You might wonder how a snake had made its way into our house. Well we were mystified for a time too until we started to put the pieces together. My young nieces had visited a few weeks earlier. The weather had been hot and we had a rather unreliable latch on the front door. It had not been shut properly and when we got back from visiting the dairy, we noticed the door was ajar. Later, while I was cleaning my bedroom (a rare event; the hormone induced nesting bug had hit), I noticed what looked like a fur ball under my bed. It wasn’t until we put all this together that we realised it was actually a regurgitated mouse skin ooooh!

The snake must have been in the house for at least two weeks. It had obviously found our room too noisy and headed for a quieter part of the house; our spare room. When you build a house in the middle of a grass paddock in one of the driest state in the driest continent in the world, what else can you expect?

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