I was in my backyard last evening, tearing down the pampas grass. I'd been wanting to do it for some weeks, but was nervous. Lots of ground cover plants surrounded it, and I wasn't sure when the garter snakes might be there. And, if I came across one, from one side of my brain I'd be screaming and jumping and running... and the other side of my brain telling me that they are good and helpful and harmless, so what in the heck are you doing?
I know, I know. I've tried for many, many years to get this past, but it hasn't worked. When in Uganda I saw pythons and a puff adder, green mamba and a cobra; the good part for me is that they were already dead or being killed. And I heard so many stories at the orphanage of the cobras on a porch or under a blanket, etc. I don't know whether I'd ever have been bitten if not paying enough attention, BUT, even if bitten, I'd most likely die from a heart attack.
See, I was 5 years old when snakes entered my life. Rattlesnakes. My parents, sister Niki [a couple months old], and I [5 years old] moved to Klickitat, a small lumber town in southern Washington. We ended up renters in what was called "the Birdhouse" about a mile outside of town. The reason for it's name? The front part was on poles dug into the dirt and rocks. The back was against the hill about a foot from the wall. It was surrounded by rocks and wild grass.
When we first moved there, to get from the road to the boardwalk there was just a path. Shortly afterward, my dad built some steps, which helped. Oh, and no hot water and no bathroom. The boardwalk led from the single house door to the outhouse. It was, overall, a notch better than a shack.
On the hill, leading up to the railroad tracks, was an empty little railroad workers shack that had been abandoned. It was turned into a play house, of sorts, for me. Since the Birdhouse was so small, and there wasn't anywhere to play in the surrounding hilly and wild area, I used my playhouse often.
When I was 4, while in the Portland area, visiting my grandma, my half-brother and his friends caught a bunch of garter snakes, and killed them, and cut their heads off, and put the heads on a flat wood plank, and chased me with it. Such nice guys. That had scared me a bit, but nothing like was happening here. For instance, in the eating area, while sitting at the table and looking out the window, occasionally watching rattlesnakes curling around and going in and out of the rocks below us, was a pretty scary sight. Of course.
One day I was leaving the play house, and reached down to pick up a brown stick. The stick moved it's body and stuck it's head up at me. I ran down the hill to the house, hollering. Mom came out, and when she did, the snake had coiled, ready to strike. Mom grabbed a rifle and she shot at the snake. It was wounded, but managed to reach the wild grass that surrounded the boardwalk. That was the last we saw of it.
IF I had never been afraid of snakes, that did it. I've been involved with them--poisonous and otherwise-- in so many situations over the years, but have almost never ever been able to avoid screaming and running. Even when small children are standing nearby and enjoying the garter snakes, and I've tried to not become a crazy-acting grandma-style lady, it hasn't worked.
Now, yesterday, I was a free woman. The pampas grass portion and other areas of our backyard that used to have a LOT of garter snakes is now nearly completely free of them. Don't know why, but just like to be a happy, happy gardener.
I may still be considered a crazy-acting grandma... but the "snake" element is losing it's share of the aspect.