By Joe Rector

I like the outside. Nothing depresses me more than being trapped in the house as the rain or snow falls. Working in the yard is a blessing to me, and I’d stay there all the time were I given the opportunity. The only drawbacks to being in the yard or the wooded areas at the side of our house are the critters and creatures that I’ve encountered.

The first spring after we moved into the house we’d built was spent getting the yard in shape. I threw out grass seed after one snow covered the land in February, and to my surprise, I had a thick, lush stand of grass out back. When enough time had passed to give the grass a chance to take root, I pulled out the lawn mower and prepared to complete my first mowing.

The grass was high, and the mowing was slow to prevent the mower from bogging down. I watched to make sure no roots or sticks were in the path. All of a sudden, I saw a wiggle in the grass. Such quick movement startled me, and I almost lost my left toes to the lawn mower blade. The movement continued for a couple more feet and left no doubt that a snake was the creator.

I hate snakes with a passion. In fact, the only good snake is a dead one that has been squished flat by the wheels of a semi-truck. My first act was retrieving a hoe from the shed, and I stalked that critter and chopped him into several pieces. Then I went inside and replaced flimsy shoes with work boots. A person can never tell when one of those giant snakes will try to take a bite out of a foot or leg.

One evening a few years later, I met up with another of God’s creatures. Our house has a one-car garage. My vehicle is parked under a carport at the end of a second driveway. I used to smoke but wanted to hide doing so from the children. (I convinced myself that the smell of smoke was easily hidden and that the kids would never know of my terrible smoking habit.) My favorite place to “burn one” was under that carport, and on a spring evening I exited the house to do that. Night had already arrived, and darkness swallowed up the carport and my car in which the cigarettes were placed.

I reached for the door of the car as my foot nudged something. I supposed it was a cat that cuddled around the car for warmth. Along with my cigarettes, I retrieved a flashlight and shined it on the creature below. Instead of a cat, a possum stood only a couple of feet from me, and it was not happy about being interrupted. I got a good look at those razor-sharp teeth and heard a warning hiss. I broke into a full run back to the house and suffered a nicotine fit the rest of the evening. There was no way I was going back out where that menacing little marsupial might attack.

Snoop was just a pup still, and he loved to go outside to walk the yard and protect his territory. On this occasion, he began yipping before I could get the door open. I told him to relax until the door opened. With just a slit to get through, he shot outside and tore around the corner. I was behind him when I heard a yelp, not an attack bark, and immediately smelled the fragrance of a skunk that had been annoyed.  I prayed that Snoop hadn’t been sprayed, but he met me quickly with his tail between his legs and a yellowish substance on his face and back.

The skunk hit the dog dead center, and for the next two or more hours, I washed Snoop in shampoo and tomato juice. By the way, it’s a lie that tomato juice kills skunk smell. Time does, not tomato juice. In about six weeks, my little dog was tolerable to be around.

My yard is my retreat. Evidently, it serves the same purpose for critters in the Ball Camp area. I’ll tolerate the four-legged ones, but snakes will have to find another place to nest unless they want me to cultivate them with a hoe.