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.
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.