That evening a lady from church came over to have Reid help her with taxes. She is a sweet lady who has many struggles, disabilities and fears. While they were at the table I picked up our dust mop only to find a third snake, nesting happily in all the treasures that I hadn't properly swept up earlier that day. This sweet lady started truly hyperventilating. And since Reid was there, I figured I'd let him, as the man of the house, grab and deal with the snake, while I tried to calm her down and tell her that this is normal, in fact it's the third snake we'd had in our house just today! That oughtta do the trick.
To Reid, I calmly whispered, "It might be the baby's mom. Don't throw it outside, put it in the bucket with the baby." Well, I now know that Reid is not the go-to person in the family for snake disposal. He freaked out more than the lady at the table, and completely disregarded my instructions. He threw it outside. I then quietly questioned him, "why didn't you just put it in the bucket?" to which he replied "I don't know. I panicked!" And somehow, in the moments that followed, that panic resulted in him taking the trapped baby snake out of the bucket, throwing him on the walkway out front and chopping its head off with a shovel. Again, I emphasize that Reid, who handles many stressful situations very well, is apparently not a serpentine guy. I did not understand this at the time, however, and just watched the beheading with my jaw dropped. "The girls are going to ask about the baby snake in the morning, what are you going to tell them?" He responded, "I'll just tell them I let it go. The chickens will probably eat it anyway."
As expected, the next morning was filled with questions about the whereabouts of the trapped snake. Reid told his rehearsed white (and red, and scaly) lie, and all was well.
Until Grace found it's head out in the pasture, just a few feet from it's body. The chickens had failed us. I guess they didn't trust the snake in the grass.
Grace burst through the door in tears, asking why Dad had lied to her. She vowed never to speak to him again. And by golly, she kept that vow for three whole days. Three days of not talking to one's father is no small feat. But she was determined to teach him a lesson--You don't kill baby snakes, and you don't lie to your kids about killing baby snakes.
Reid apologized profusely, admitted that he should've handled the situation differently, and after three days they were back on speaking terms.
We only caught two more snakes in our house over the next days that followed, and haven't seen any inside since. They say that garter snakes aren't bad to have around the house. They help home-gardeners with rodents and pests, and tend to keep the rattlers away, We don't have any cats, so we depend on these snakes for controlling the mice population.
Which is maybe a mistake.
The Sunday after the snake-beheading incident, we were sitting peacefully in church, when Eliza, the same child who spotted the snake, shout-whispered in her loudest church-voice, "Mom, there's a rat in our bag!" And sure enough, perched atop all of our quiet books and church magazines and bags of stale fishy crackers, there was a small little mouse, looking up at us with a hint of panic in her eyes. Hoping that Reid's disdain for snakes didn't carry over to all vermin, i quickly scooted the bag down the row to him, informed him that we'd brought a live mouse to church, and sent him out to deal with it. Looking back, I now wish I'd have said "Are you a man or a mouse?" but wit is never my strong point in moments of crisis. While awaiting his return, we stifled our giggles and tears of shame and after 5 long minutes he returned. Getting the mouse out of the bag hadn't been too hard, but keeping the mouse from running back into the church was quite the battle. One that several other ward members witnessed. That's not embarrassing at all.
Silly mouse, just make a new nest here at the church entryway. Every church needs a good mouse for the children to look to as an example of volume control, lest the old expression lose it's meaning altogether! Why are you trying to get back inside?
The next day, as I cleaned out the bag, I discovered why. You see, she already had made a nest. Inside of our church bag. And there, at the bottom of it, was a mostly-dead tiny baby mouse. I mean, it wasn't moving, but when I poked it with a pencil it squeaked. What do you do with a mostly-dead anything?? I tried to get my dog to eat it, and she wouldn't. I considered just throwing it in the garbage, which is probably what any sane person would do. And then I remember the chickens! Besides the snake, I've never seen them pass anything up! So i scooped up it's mostly-lifeless body with a coloring book and walked it over to the chicken coop. I didn't watch to see what happened, but when I came back later, it was gone. And my first thought was, "Well that oughtta save a little on feed."
And that's the moment I realized just how crazy this all is. Our life here. What it's done to me. What it's done to all of us. We're all completely off our rockers. The kids are naming vermin, Reid's killing vermin with his hands, I'm feeding vermin to slightly larger egg-laying vermin. We're all completely cuckoo.
And the thing is? We love it. We all love it here. The kids are thriving, we are working hard, learning things we never thought we'd need to know, and growing as a family. And we really couldn't be happier. Reid and I comment on a pretty regular basis just how charmed and wonderful and blessed this little life of ours is.
And if it comes with snakes in the house, a church-bag with a mouse, and a slightly crazy spouse, we'll take it.