Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Driving With Miss Sara N. Dipity

When I was a federal law enforcement officer, there was this legal concept called "exigent circumstances". Essentially, it allowed us to circumvent SOP if immediate action was required to save lives and any delay would put innocents at risk. If you did use it, you'd better be able to articulate your reasons in court or you were toast.
I never had to use it during my time in the blue brotherhood (well, green and grey for me). All my LE adventures fell into the pretty normal enforcement categories and even the unpleasant contacts were not of an exigent nature. But yesterday, as a plain ol' civilian, I felt the need to do exactly that.
To make a short story long and almost totally unbearable ...
Yesterday evening, we were about to have this amazing Cuban meal that Mrs. FC had created when we realized there were no pepperoncini peppers for the Greek salad.
I know Greek salad is not Cuban, but Greece has islands and Cuba is an island, AND it's all one ocean so they are practically neighbors.
Anyway ...
As you know a Greek salad really has to have pepperoncini peppers in it, so since we needed milk anyway, I volunteered to run into town for a few things.
This is how Miss Sara N. Dipity came to ride with me. In the grocery store parking lot, an elderly (way more elderly than me) lady was wrestling a cart full of big Rubbermaid tubs and she was getting no where. They were stuck in her cart and too heavy to wrangle out of there.
I offered to help her and she breathed a sigh of relief and accepted my offer. So I loaded her white minivan, bid her adieu and went in the store. I only had a few items to purchase so it wasn't long before I was back on the road.
Apparently Miss Sara slipped into the JEEP as I loaded my grocery bags ... I just didn't notice.
I cruised toward home, kicking myself for not bringing the camera. Not because I saw anything amazing, but what if I did? I never leave the house without the camera and yet here I was ... megapixelless.
I stared straight ahead as I drove, hoping not to see something amazing that would cause me to kick myself even harder for not bringing the camera along.
I almost made it.
Just as I got to my driveway entrance, I noticed a long black streak on the pavement in front of my mailbox. I stopped in the middle of the road and gawked.
It was a huge indigo snake, basking on the sun warmed asphalt, but pointed towards my acreage.
There was a pickup coming towards me from the opposite direction and another farther back behind me, but approaching at a high speed.
Now, out here in the sticks, there is a prevailing notion that snakes are bad and big snakes are really bad. I know this is true because I battle this notion every year in my classroom. "Bubba" seems to ingrain this idea in his spawn at an early age and it is difficult to combat. Toss in the testosterone factor of the probable young adult males driving those approaching pickups and this big lazy HARMLESS snake was probably toast if I left her there.
(Everything beautiful is female to me if the gender is unknown ... it's the sexist pig in me)
Indigo snakes are a protected species and as such, they are a "hands off" species, but this seemed like exigent circumstances to me. I've seen too many of these beauties dead on the road to let this one join that club.
So I jumped out, caught her, and jumped back in the JEEP with two hands of enormous snake.
Did I mention the JEEP has a manual (MANLY!) transmission and you really need two hands to drive it?
I managed to release the emergency brake, shift into first gear, and do a U-turn back into the driveway with two hands of snake. The two pickups passed harmlessly by, mudtires whining on the asphalt.
I walked up onto the porch and tapped on the window to get Katie's attention so she could come out and get a picture. She looked up from the computer and I heard her say, " Mom, Dad's back and he's got a big snake ... again."
She made no attempt to get up.
I put my lips to the window glass, "GET - THE -CAMERA!"
She came out and we took two quick photos, before I released the indigo into a gopher burrow in the center of my property.

The indigo is our greatest North American snake. There is simply nothing else that comes close in size, temperament, or beauty. Their incredibly docile nature made them very popular as pets when I was a kid, but that popularity and the (not common anymore) southern tradition of gassing gopher burrows to capture gopher tortoises and rattlesnakes caused their numbers in the wild to drop enough that they warranted legal protection.
The real threat to indigo snakes today is habitat loss. A snake like this will use a territory that covers perhaps a couple of hundred acres. She'll hunt this territory for the small mammals and snakes (even rattlesnakes) that she feeds upon. She's diurnal, unlike most snakes and when she needs a place to hide and rest, her first choice is the gopher tortoise burrow where she cohabits with a host of other animals that live with the gophers.
She's not mine of course, but between my many brush piles and my thriving gopher tortoise colonies, I'm hoping that she'll stay safe here at Pure Florida HQ and stay off that road.
Events like this always make me think about timing. A few minutes later and I might have found a dead indigo squashed in front of my mailbox. As it turned out, the slight delay in my journey due to helping the older lady load her van probably allowed me to arrive at just the moment this snake was in danger.
Timing is everything.
Maybe Miss Sara wasn't in the JEEP after all,
... maybe she was in a white minivan in the grocery store parking lot.
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roger said...

aah yes. snake hatred. sshhh. don't tell anyone, but i have relocated even rattlesnakes off roads. that is a beautiful snake.

Mark said...

Lots of otherwise sane people go out of their way to run over snakes. I'm with Roger on this, although I haven't actually moved a rattler of the road.

With my slow dialup at home I'll have to wait till I get back to work to see the snake's picture.

Anonymous said...

Is that FC in those foster grants? :)

Seriously, people think you're nuts if you help snakes or turtles or possums out of harm's way, or even if you brake for squirrels. Glad to know I'll have company when the guys in white coats catch up with me.

As for your encounter with Miss Sara, I've always believed that increasing the amount of positive karma in the world can only be a good thing. Glad Sara sent yours back around to you so quickly.

robin andrea said...

Good job, FC. That's such a beautiful snake. I'm glad that Ms. Sara showed up at just the right time, but that's what Ms. Sara always does! I like that you call all beautiful creatures of unknown gender female. I think I'll start doing that as well. Good idea.

Katie's comment made me laugh out loud.

pissed off patricia said...

Good Man! I'm giving you a big atta boy for saving one of the most beautiful snakes we have. The goddess of snakes will most likely be sending some good Karma your way.

ImagineMel said...

no need for me to speak...

scott said...

...and thereby hangs the tale.

Having begun to go green at a rather advanced age, I might have "herded" a snake off the highway. Handling (him? her? hit!)is another thing all together.

I will salute you for helping the lady who is probably somebody's mom. Considerate behavior toward other human beings seems to be endangered as we live more and more anonymously. That is probably why I surf by Pure Florida and Morning Martini. As Clarie said “You were brought up right.”

rick said...

i still remember the large garder snake attatched to your hand many moons ago---

Alan said...

Finest kind.

I like indigos though I haven't been fortunate enough to see one on the propery yet. Plenty of black racers and yellow rat snakes though.

We encourage all non-venomous snakes around here unless they become repeat egg eaters whereupon they get a quick trip up the road. Venomous snakes anywhere near the house though are history. I won't put my children or livestock at risk.


Floridacracker said...

In from mowing to cool off and guzzle some icewater ...

i hear ya man. ditto.

Oh boy, I thought I was the last dialup dinosaur. I feel your pain.

It's FC, but those are $14.95 El Cheapos :)
Glad to know you are out there rescueing, aiding, and abetting the wild innocents.
I think, Aesop said it best.

Oh hey, you're right ... that's what makes Sara Sara.
Glad to know I won't be alone in my sexist pig ways ;)
That Katie is pretty funny ... acts like she knows me or something.

Thanks! Maybe she could send some more rain too! You need one of these indigos to go with your yard gopher!

You just need to be around them more. I'll go catch a big ratsnake and bring it over.

I could have done that if there had not been two approaching trucks. I wasn't sure what direction he might choose.
I have been handling snakes since I was about 9 so I'm pretty comfortable with grabbing them for a visit.

LOL! I bet Aunt Shelba does too!
Those were the days!

Very similar to my philosophy. If you searched this blog for rattlesnakes, you'd find that I have had to dispatch 3 in almost 20 years on the property. Never enjoyed it, just was afraid to take the chance, even tho I admire the diamondback very much.
I did move a docile coral snake to the deep woods down the road a bit, so that was a positive poisonous encounter.

... and now back to mowing.

Laura said...

I'm surprised you were able to catch her! I thought they were super fast.
My hub would have been out of the jeep lighting fast to try to catch her as well. He just loves to pick up snakes and show them off. Always lets them go, too.

ImagineMel said...

Gainesville Sun, 6/6/07

Levy County teacher suspended earlier this year for using "insensitive words in poetry lesson" was arrested for using inappropriate language while running from evil science teacher. The science teacher was harmed in the incident.

Floridacracker said...

Fast, but not black racer fast ... or coachwhip. Yowza, that's a fast snake.
I'm just glad this one is alive and free. I've seen them on the property over the years,but it has been a couple of years since the last encounter, so I'm especially happy to see an indigo again.

LOL! No really, outloud LOLing here.
Tell your musically retro son that "Tommy" has arrived from netflix and I won't send it back until he gets to experience THE rock opera.

threecollie said...

Good for you, helping old ladies and saving gorgeous snakes all in one trip!
And buying milk too! Man that one is close to my heart. Seriously, that is one lovely snake.

Leslie said...

I've been busy with the garden and other stuff and not had time to visit my favorite blogs. It's NICE to see you're still posting your quality posts.

When I lived in GA a guy actually told us "I kill any snake I see" and that was not an uncommon attitude.

We've seen black rat snakes (one in the bathroom), a red bellied snake, and a garter snake this year so far. Boo Yah!

SophieMae said...

I'm so jealous! Mine almost always turn out to be racers. I've rescued my share of snakes on this forest road, but I don't handle them. Running over them is just another sport for the mailbox-bashers. >8\ I share the no venom allowed philosophy, as well. The only snake I've had to kill since we've lived here is a cottonmouth. I tried to run him off, but he wouldn't go, so I had to shoot him.

SophieMae said...

PS - I totally agree re Johnny W. He was THE Tarzan then and forever.
*insert Tarzan yell here* 8-]

Deb said...

That is one gorgeous snake! Thank you for taking her out of the path of doom. And, as always, you make the story so fun and engaging to read.

50 degrees, damp cloudy and windy here in MNarctica.

misti said...

No, they don't gas gopher tortoise holes, they just fill them in and suffocate them instead. Hrm.

I love indigo's! I ran into a few cottonmouth's in Big Cypress these past few weekends. Cute but I'm not getting too close. Also ran into a rough green which was gorgeous!

OldHorsetailSnake said...


I know you aren't looking for pats on the back, but you deserve 'em and so you get 'em.

You're a peach, Cracker.

Floridacracker said...

Always multitasking :)
Hey milk is quick to go in this house. Jr and I hit the whey protein too, so we're keeping cows busy somewhere.

Thanks for the kind comment. Good to hear from you. I've heard that exact quote too many times for kids I teach.
I just keep working on them.

Mine are usually racers too and I can easily picture a cottonmouth standing his ground. They are tought guys.
Ahhhheeeeaahhhhhhhhh! That's my J.W. Tarzan yell.

Thanks! :)
Gee, MNarctica weather is just a little changeable aint it?
Weren't you just swimming in the pond?
Now it's 50?

You're right. It's not Bubba that's killing gophers anymore, it's development corporations and their bulldozers.
Green snakes are beautiful, I had one drop on my head once from a live oak branch above.

Just spreading that good caramel.

Cathy S. said...

Just a couple of nights ago, I was sound asleep when my youngest came in from an evening of fishing. He kept hollering for me to come outside but I refused to get out of bed. So, next thing I know, he is standing in my bedroom saying, "Mom, Mom, open your eyes." I opened them just a crack to find myself face to face with a yellow rat snake. AGHGHGHGH! I doubt my son will do that again, but he was tickled with himself. You have a couple of clones down here in west Florida.

Doug Taron said...

So glad you got pictures. What a gorgeous ctitter. Great story. The snake up here that's generating a lot of conservation concern is the massasauga. People are always amazed to learn that there's a native rattler from right here in the Chicago metro area.

Cathy said...

Can't believe I'm about to use the word 'heart-warming' in reference to a post about a BIG snake. Hmmm. OK. How about just plain 'neat'?

My husband loves his JEEP and I'm going to read this to him. That's Indiana Jones action.

TUFFENUF said...

Love this story! Especially being "megapixeless" - don't let that happen again!

Floridacracker said...

Cathy S,
heehee, yes the parallels just keep popping up. It's good to know Florida kids (some of them) are still being raised in the real Florida.
Nothing like the smell of ratsnake musk to wake somebody up.
Of course the real question is ... did he catch any FISH?

Thanks! What a great name for that snake.

Ahem,... that would be FLORIDA Jones action ;)
Glad you liked it.

Thanks! Megapixelless is a rare state for me ... one I try to avoid.

Sandy said...

What a beautiful snake!!! And I didn't realize that they needed a couple of hundred acres as their hunting ground.

Here where I live the word snake uttered outload means get the shotgun, hoe or big stick to kill the snake with. I'm laughed at because I'll make an effort to relocate any snake to a safe place. It's so nice to hear of others who do the same to protect our wildlife.

Your timing was perfect and you have such an interesting way of telling your stories...You make them so much fun to read. I think you've come up with a new word too, 'megapixelless.' Cute.

Jenn said...

Hmm. Seems like you need a nice black patio in your backyard. Something a girl can really lay her belly on.

She's a beaut!

Floridacracker said...

I know what you mean, that's an attitude ingrained deep in the rural psyche. We just need to keep educating and bit by bit we'll get there.
As for megapixelless, I confess I do like manufacturing words.

Welcome to Pure Florida!
That's a great idea, a nice black patch with no truck traffic.

edifice rex said...

Hey! I see 2 handsome specimens there! Maybe I'm a sexist pig (sow?)too.? Allen brought home a snake the other day too and we thought if you had time to stop by you would probably know what kind it was. I try to help out the non-poisionous ones too but they still give me the willies.

Stacey063 said...

I just "found" your blog tonight and really enjoyed your snake adventure and plan to keep on reading!

Floridacracker said...

Okay, brownie points for you!

As for helping snakes,it's even finer if you still help out snakes when they give you the "willies". It's easy for someone like me who loves to hold a snake whenever possible, your helping them is more impressive.

Welcome to Pure Florida!
Glad you enjoyed your visit and I really appreciate the comment.

Wayne said...

I'm way late on commenting but I read it when it was first posted.

First question - does the JEEP have power steering? If so, I'm afraid it's not as MANLY as it could be.

Second - fantastic snake, fantastic photos. We don't have indigos this far north (yet) but I see there's also an enclave in Texas. It's great that this one has the opportunity for a protected habitat.

I also noticed that one of the reasons that indigos are threatened is that (some) people poison gopher burrows, and the snakes are killed as a result. Depressing on both counts.