Spring has not yet sprung, but that hasn't stopped us from starting our Spring Fund Drive.
And as we look ahead to the season of rebirth and renewal, Staunton farmer, writer and chef Tom Sarvay is thinking about the coming season of…… snake mating.
Josie came running in the house, all out of breath. "There's a snake in the chicken house! Come quick!" I sighed, put my book down, and got up to follow her. .
I knew we had blacksnakes on the farm. The previous owner told me there were snakes, and I had seen a 4 footer by our big oak tree. "Blacksnakes are your friend" everyone told me. "They keep away the poisonous snakes, they eat pests. You want blacksnakes on your property." So intellectually, if not so much emotionally, I embraced the blacksnakes on the farm. This was part of my new life, and when I saw the 4 footer a few days later I was all "Hello, snake friend. Welcome to my farm. So good to see you. You are so not creeping me out!" I even gave him a name: Samuel L Jackson, and Samuel L was who I expected to see when I followed Josie into the chicken house.
This snake looked a little bigger, but it was curled up in a ball on a corner rafter. I grabbed a pitchfork and banged it on the ceiling and yelled to try to scare it away. The snake, I am fairly certain, chuckled. He then picked up his head and started slithering down the wall in my general direction. That's when I saw how big he was. He was a solid 8 feet long, and his body was as big around as my thigh. O.K., maybe my thigh when I was 7 months old, but still. I was totally freaked out by its size, but I had to keep a brave face in front of Josie, so I kept lunging at it with the pitchfork until it finally turned around and crawled out some hole near the roof. We ran outside to try to find it, and while we were looking my wife Tessa pulled in the driveway. We pow-wowed, and Tessa said we should capture (?!) the snake and relocate it. We changed into full snake battling regalia: knee-high muck boots, leather work gloves, and I had a long piece of thick, stiff wire that I twisted the end into a hook. I had no real plan, but something about muck boots and leather gloves make a person brave.
We walked into the chicken house, and I told Tessa we last saw it in the corner. "WOW!" she said. We both saw it at the same time. "He is big!" Unfortunately, she was looking at a different corner than I was. There were 2 giant snakes. And, as we watched, snake #1 crawled along the rafters to snake #2 and they started to intertwine their bodies. "Oh my God" Tessa whispered, "I think they're mating!"
They wrapped around each other, they curled into a ball, and they kept weaving their bodies together. It was riveting and raw and and really creepy- like watching Madonna and Lady Gaga kiss, but less contrived. We watched in silence for several minutes. Finally I broke the spell and yelled "Not on my watch, fornicators!" and I started poking them with my long wire hook. This totally killed the mood for them and they separated quickly.
An epic battle ensued, most of which is a blur. I, with my wire hook, and Tessa with the pitchfork, harassed and poked and jostled and yelled and after about 20 minutes both snakes left through a hole on the other side of the chickenhouse. We never saw them again.
I have seen some blacksnakes since since then, Samuel L and some of his friends, and we're still cool. I keep an eye out for that 8 footer, though. I'm pretty sure he remembers me. I know that if I was about to get my coil on and got snake-blocked like he was I would not soon forget the blocker's face. And, just in case he remembers voices, I've forced myself to stop shouting "Fornicators!" at the teenagers who drive past the farm.