Friday, November 9, 2012

The Snake Chain

This evening I arrived home to a present on my dining room table and a note from my Mum.
"Sarah - for your use. Please return box and tool. X Mum."

It's a snake deterrent and it looks like one of those solar garden lights. Apparently you dig it into the ground (hence the tool) and it sends out vibrations that will keep the critters away. Mum's been on about a particular tiger snake for a week now. She wants gaiters while she's hanging out the washing. I don't blame her.
"It's five foot long. The first time I saw it, it saw me first, on the back verandah. It was watching me. I threw a brick at it and it went away but it came back the same day."
I'm writing this snake as 'it' but both of us automatically referred to it as a 'he' because such a deadly thing surely couldn't be a 'she' now, could it? Ha.
Today Mum threw a shovel at the snake and hit it and the snake came back in the afternoon.
"It's probably got plenty of frogs for food down in the swamp," I said. "Maybe he's coming up to the house to bask in the sun and warm up."

This swamp. We live on the primary dune back from the inlet. Originally the whole area would have been a waterway from the hill to the briny but over the last century the swamp has had the life drained and cultivated and fertilized the hell out of it. The swamp just below our cluster of abodes is the last bit so it has become a concentration of tiger snakes. On growing up, the swamp was the place to chuck our secrets into because no one would ever find them in there. Back then the boronia grew in scented clusters before the blackberries got in and
... far out Sarah, this is a whole new post ... forgive my bullrushes stream of consciousness and let's get back to the snakes, shall we?

Spending time in New Zealand was great for a few snake reasons: one can stumble into a ditch barefooted looking for cress with not a worry in the world. Plus you can tell kick ass snake stories and people will listen open mouthed, whereas in Australia, everyone has a better snake story than the one you have just told.

The thing about where I live now is that snakes come into the house. I nearly stepped on one recently, coming out of the bathroom with not much on. Snakes are no fun in the house. I usually end up on the table. Hopefully there is a phone up there. When there is, I ring my Dad to come around and shoot it. (Bless him. He'll come around in his shorts and thongs and pull aside cardboard boxes and furniture until he sees the baby tiger, cock the .22, sigh 'poor little bugger' and pull the trigger.)

No, I'm not like my Mum, who will try to shoo them away, nor like my Dad, who will pull apart wood heaps with his bare hands looking for the tiger who is seeking refuge in there. When I was a kid on this same property I was over where that same snake was today and I saw a sleeping dugite, beautifully coiled like a dust bin lid. Mum said to me, "Get the snake chain, Sarah."

The snake chain was an axe handle with three foot of heavy chain attached to it with fencing wire. It hung next to our back door underneath the raincoats. It was the only tool I've ever come across that is specifically designed to kill snakes.

Reading back on this, I realise I may sound a bit hysterical. Hell yes, I've felt hysterical when sitting on a table for hours on end. I've looked at my feelings about venomous snakes; the sex/death/teenage dream sequence stuff and then I think, 'Nah, I still don't like the fuckers in my house.'


  1. I remember my Mum killing a tiger snake with the pointy end of a broom while the rest of us were eating dinner ...

  2. That last sentence made me laugh (out loud)

  3. Sharks and snakes keep me from there.

  4. I actually like snakes but I think your reaction to them is absolutely appropriate. Certian primal responses ARE intended to keep us alive after all. The reality is that a tiger will rear up like a cobra when it's cornered so a house ain't no place for a snake. I have come across an angry tiger standing up like that and backed away very slowly and quickly. The buggers are territorial too so unfortunately when they start living in your house they do need to be despatched.

  5. Love that image of your dad.
    GAH, in the house!!??
    Over the weekend saw my first snakes for the season, a red-belly black and an eastern brown (camping at Croajingalong). The browns are such educated things, the way they initiate their attacks with non-fatal bites, don't you think? :-)

  6. Ew! I didn't know that about the browns. I've never seen a red belly over here in the west. They are very beautiful.

  7. While there are rattlesnakes up North here in Ontario, the only snake we see is a harmless garter snake. No-one in Canada would ever have a snake story. Terrifying.

    1. I think it is just me ... and a few others, Raz. Other folk seem to think snakes are cool. Not me. Not when they are in my house. When I see them in the bush, it is a happy moment but as soon as they disappear under the couch, I'm, yes, hysterical.

  8. Re red belly snakes being beautiful: this one must have just shed its skin (spring and all) because it was beautiful and glossy, really jet black

  9. This post brings back so many memories! There always seem to be snakes at home in the summer and I love what you said about snake stories - everyone has a better one, unless you are in a another country, where you can be the queen snake storyteller!

    Love it Toa sister xx

    1. Hey! Toa sis in Ireland! What a lovely surprise!