Tuesday, May 20, 2014

When "Critters" Attack!

I have debated about writing this post for a couple of reasons. First, after reviewing the "audience" of my previous posts, I noted that there are "readers" from approximately ten countries that have read my posts. What if, after reading this post, representatives from those countries, not to mention readers from other states, (Bob, I'm referring specifically to you here...), are scared off from visiting Texas? What would the State Tourism Bureau think? Secondly, what about readers who attend our annual July 4th picnic, might they be so frightened that they decide to forego our annual salute to sending the Brits packing? I mean, there are potentially serious repercussions to this post! Oh well, as you see, I decided to throw caution to the wind and write it anyway...

It all started innocently enough. I was at my mom's, mowing her yard and cutting shrubs etc. I had finished the front yard at her house without incident and moved to the back. I really don't mind mowing. It's the kind of mindless activity that allows one to ponder all manner of things at random. You know, important things like: "what do I want for lunch?" and "with over 175000 miles on my vehicle, how much longer can I expect it to last before I have to deal with 'Satan's spawn' aka "the car dealers"? (refer to my previous post if you don't recognize that reference). So, I had really just started mowing the back yard when I neared an intersection of two paved areas of the yard...a sidewalk intersecting a sort of patio when I noticed something slither under one of my mom's portable fire-pits. 

I should stop here for a bit of education. There are four types of poisonous snakes in the United States. These are divided into two categories: pit vipers and coral snakes. Rattlesnakes, copperheads and water moccasins are all pit vipers with the coral snake being in its own category. The pit vipers are generally considered "hemotoxic," meaning their venom causes local tissue damage, vascular endothelial damage and pulmonary, cardiac, renal and neurological effects (bad stuff!) Coral snakes' venom is more of a neurotoxin that can cause a presynaptic neuromuscular blockage which can lead to respiratory paralysis. These little guy are particularly nasty! Of these four types, Texas has..........all four! (We are extremely special!!) Anyway, having grown up in the house in which my mom still lives, we have seen 3 of the 4 types of snakes there over the years.

Now, back to my tale...I saw the snake slither under the fire pit, turned off the mower and whistled for mom, who was in the house...I can whistle VERY LOUDLY! Mom came out and I told her that I needed a hoe or a shovel. "Why?" she asked, "to kill a snake" I said. "What kind of snake?" she asked...(REALLY?!)..."a coral snake", I said...WOW, she moved fast to get the tools! I was afraid to leave the area because I didn't want the little critter to slither away. Coral snakes are really pretty snakes...especially once they are dead...They are relatively small snakes, our was only about 12 inches long, and their bands of color are actually stunning. Anyway, mom brought the tools and we dispensed with the snake in no uncertain terms!

After declaring victory over the snake, I finished mowing and put the mower away into mom's storage shed. I had used the "grass catcher" bag because she still has some oak leaves on the ground and they do not decompose well. I removed the bag from the mower and proceeded to leave the shed to dump the clippings. As I was exiting the shed, I accidently banged the bag against the shed's metal door. I hadn't taken more than two steps out when I suddenly felt like someone had pressed a lighted match to the back side of my left arm...YOWW it stung! I turned to see a red wasp making a quick retreat back to it's nest. I emptied the clippings into the trash can and returned to the shed with a giant-economy-sized can of wasp spray.  Let's just say that that wasp, and all of her sisters, stung their last arm.
I have been stung by "yellow-jackets" several times over the years, however, I had never been stung by a red wasp. Let me tell you, there is a difference! Mom has some "swabs" for stings that once you crush the inner glass tube of the plastic vial, the active ingredients soak a cotton fiber end that you rub onto the sting and they work pretty well in stopping the stinging/burning sensation. With the previous stings from yellow-jackets, that was the end of the story...not so with this little beastie! The pic shows my arm the following afternoon. I was swollen, hot to the touch and just plain uncomfortable!

Normally, I'm a live and let live kind of person when it comes to interacting with Mother Nature. However, if you are a poisonous snake in my territory or once "attacked, "I tend to go straight to "seek and destroy" mode. For this season, I'd say we've got a score of Lois 2, Mother Nature 1.

So, don't be afraid to join us in celebrating our independence. This was only the second coral snake we've seen in over 45 years of living in the same house, and I can promise there are NO red wasps there any longer.



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