A learned behavior I suffer from is a terror of snakes. Ter! Ror!
I owe this to my beloved mom, who made it clear from the get-go that snakes of all kinds are disgusting, scream-inducing monsters that plotted humankind’s demise. Or at least that’s what I took her heebie jeebies to mean when a snake appeared on television during my childhood.
I think I’m unique among snake-a-phobes. I’m equally put off by the most dangerous serpent in the world as I am the most harmless. I’m not afraid of being killed by a snake’s venom; I’m afraid of seeing a snake of any sort and having a complete collapse of all my body’s systems. No more heartbeat, no more brain connectivity, no muscles able to function, just a bag of Tanya heaped limply on the ground.
This is not all that impractical most of the time because we don’t live in the desert or a snake vivarium (shuddering as I type this). But somehow, mountain snakes are now an issue.
I mean, maybe mountain snakes have always existed, but until a few years ago, I willfully believed that no snakes lived at the 6,500-elevation level because … snow! Everybody knows that snakes don’t live where there’s snow! Except the snakes.
So we have a family cabin in the Soda Springs area, and starting a few years ago, neighbors up there started sharing stories about rattlesnake sightings. My first thought was, “Nah. That’s not possible.” Or maybe, “Someone must have accidentally brought a rattlesnake with him from a trip to the desert.”
In no way did I think native rattlesnakes were living this far above the snow line. (Note: No need to send me links to stories about snakes in the Sierra. I won’t read them because I need to be in my fantasy world of a snake-free zone.)
Worse in my book, is that people reportedly sometimes see snakes swimming in the couple of small lakes near the cabin. “Oh, don’t worry,” they say when they see my horror, “they are the harmless kind.” Because non-snake-a-phobes seem to think it’s perfectly fine to be swimming in a lake alongside snakes as long as they aren’t poisonous. As if your heart attack isn’t as dangerous as venom.
Welp, a couple of weeks ago older son, D, called with a diabolical sounding glee in his voice. “Want to hear about how much fun we had using your paddle board?” he asked.
D explained how he and girlfriend, E, were able to share the paddle board, sometimes standing, sometimes sitting and paddling as if on a boat. They enjoyed using it as a floating dock in the middle of the lake to swim from, although they were a little creeped out having seen a snake swim by.
I grilled D for details. “Where were you when you saw the snake? How close was it? Were either of you afraid? Are you saying this to be mean?” He reported that it was kind of cute and it was just trying to get to land.
But wait! There’s more!
As D and E were both sitting on the board, E warned D to be a little careful because a snake had climbed up on the board between them and curled up. They were now separated on the paddle board by a sleeping snake that came up from the water. And the apocalypse is complete …
For the snake-lovers among you, D was gentle as he scooped up the snake with his paddle and flung it toward the shore.
And obviously, I have burned down the family cabin because there is no need to ever return now that snakes swim up from the lake and hitch rides on paddle boards.
— Tanya Perez lives in Davis with her family. Her column is published every other Sunday. Reach her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @californiatanya.ShareTweet