Barn Snakes – Everyone Should Have One

Our chicken snake - WillyOn the EWWW! scale (ha ha), this one is way up there.

So, one of our sudden thunderstorms was brewing and since our horses think they will melt in the rain, I went up to the barn to let them in. By the time I got there, it was really coming down – a real gullywasher, as we call it in the desert, or as they call it here, a frog strangler. Since we had put off cleaning out the stalls until right before bedtime, as usual, it wasn’t done. I decided to let them in anyway, since it wasn’t too bad in there and I figured they’d rather be in a dirty stall than out in a downpour. So I opened the mare’s stall and the gate, and she came on in but veered off to the hay. Fine. I let him into his stall with no problem and turned my attention back to the mare. She would not go into her stall. Then I noticed a pile of poo right in the entryway. “How on earth did she get that there?” I wondered, peering at it closely. Then suddenly the pile of poo uncoiled and slithered across her stall, under the wall into the adjoining stall (not Valentine’s, thank goodness, or we’d still be repairing it). Ew, ew, ew!!! Of course, the mare agreed with me, and still wouldn’t go in there. I finally ended up cleaning out the stall and coaxing her in with food. She very reluctantly entered. Between the thunderstorm and the serpent, she was a bit twitchy.

Then I tried to find the snake. It was nowhere to be found. Well, out of sight, out of mind, right? It was still raining to beat the band, but the horses needed water too, so I ran out into the rain, around the side of the barn where their windows are and the buckets are hung…and stopped short. There, on the barn “veranda,” all stretched out watching the rainstorm, was our snake. Ew, ew, ew again!! He didn’t seem to notice me so I took a good look, so I could research the thing and find out what kind of snake he was. He was black and grey and knobby, very thin, and did not have a “viper” head. So I tapped his tail with my shoe and he slithered under a nearby woodpile. I then, very quickly and keeping a close eye on said woodpile, filled the buckets and ran back to the house.

That evening we had a church supper, so we asked our preacher and the gentleman he was talking to about our snake. We were assured that he is a harmless chicken snake and we should let him be because he’ll eat vermin. (I personally think he’s vermin too, but whatever.) We could have accepted this if Mr. Watson hadn’t gone on to tell us tales of 7-foot long chicken snakes, and snakes in beds, and other bone-tingling snake stories. When we got home, I did some internet research and discovered that what the people around here call a chicken snake is actually a rat snake, and can indeed reach the 7-foot mark. Here’s what our barn visitor looks like:

The Common Rat Snake

We call him Willy, because he gives us the willies. Bill thought a silly name would make the snake less scary.

A week after the first and only sighting, and with silly name dispensed, Bill can still barely set foot in the barn.

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