Snakes. Why Did It Have To Be Snakes?

Some of you may remember my serpent-related panic the first year we moved to Florida.  You can read all about it at http://www.terrilabonte.com/2016/07/the-great-snake-chase/

Time passes.  I have seen a snake here and there over the past several years and we have firmly dispatched all of them- one way or another- to a place (either physical or metaphysical) far away from our house.  Since that first snake, none have made it inside any location within my residence.  They have all been tiny and, I believe, non-venomous.  In fact, they have been basically harmless except for severely increasing the amount of cortisol in my bloodstream.

This all changed the other day when I was out spraying Round-up on the weeds around the house.   Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a colorful strip of evil incarnate poised at the doorway to our lanai.  It was about 16 inches long and made up of bands of red, black, and yellow.  When it realized I was close by, it slithered away towards the wetland behind our house.  I was relieved to see the back end of him without having to actually confront him.  The thing is that this snake was either a coral snake or a king snake.  Both are similarly colored.  Both are found in Florida.  The difference is… wait for it… the king snake is harmless and the coral snake is deadly. 

Since moving to Florida, I have heard all kinds of adorable rhymes composed to help hapless souls like myself know the difference between king snakes and coral snakes.  One popular one is “Red on black, okay for Jack.  Red on yellow, kill a fellow.”  I remembered that one when I spotted the alarming serpent, but I have to admit that I didn’t really understand to what it referred.  I have since learned that the colors mentioned in the rhyme refer to how the colored bands on the snake are arranged. If the red bands touch only black bands, it is a king snake and harmless.  On the other hand, if the red bands touch yellow bands, it is a coral snake and is extremely poisonous. 

It didn’t really matter that I didn’t understand the context of the snake mnemonic rhyme.  I wasn’t getting close enough to analyze the bands of color.  I also didn’t have the presence of mind to process exactly what I was seeing. Also, I don’t think I would have trusted the rhyme anyway. Who relies on something that sounds suspiciously like a nursery rhyme for their personal snake safety?  All I knew was that I had a visceral, loathsome reaction to the beast.  I made a very odd, guttural sound the second my brain registered the fact that I was standing less than 2 feet from a snake.  It was something between a gurgle, scream, and hiccup.  

Later in the day, after I stopped shaking, I consulted Google to try to identify the snake.  Unfortunately, I had not thought to take my phone out of my pocket and take a picture when I saw the snake.  I think I was too intent on not taking my eyes off it for even the instant it would have taken me to fumble around with the phone.  Still, I thought if I saw pictures of king snakes and coral snakes, I might recognize the band pattern on the sinister reptile by my lanai.  Unfortunately, my mind must have been so frozen by fear that it turned off automatically. I had no powers of recall. I did learn that coral snakes have extremely poisonous venom, but they also have an extremely inefficient venom delivery system.  Apparently, a coral snake doesn’t inject venom with its bite in the same way most snakes do.  One source indicated that a coral snake would basically have to gnaw on me like a dog with a bone to kill me.  That was a little bit comforting, but it also left me with a disturbing image burned into my brain. 

In my research about coral snakes, I learned that they are very solitary and reclusive creatures.  I learned that, far from wanting to gnaw me to death, they want nothing so much as to get away from me.  It is the old “they are more afraid of you than you are of them” axiom.  I seriously doubt that, but I get the idea.  The venom can kill a person, but nobody has died from a coral snake bite in the United States since the development of the anti-venom many decades ago.  Many hospitals don’t actually have the anti-venom on hand, but it apparently takes about two hours for the poison to get into a person’s bloodstream.  I guess that is why God invented helicopter medivacs. 

All in all, it isn’t a great idea to get bitten by a coral snake.  Still, I learned that it is unlikely that I will get bitten by a coral snake if I keep my eyes open and don’t go around stepping on them.  Should I suffer a coral snake bite, it is even less likely that I will die of it unless I ignore the whole incident.  I’m pretty certain I would not be ignoring a coral snake bite.  Or any snakebite, for that matter. I tend to be a bit dramatic about such things. 

I don’t know why I have the reaction I do to snakes.  This is an argument I have had with myself frequently. I love animals.  I love interacting with domestic animals.  I even love observing and interacting with wild animals, in a respectful and safe way.  There just seem to be certain animals that I can’t help but loathe.  Snakes, rats, and mice are at the top of that list.  So, basically, snakes and snake food.  I know it makes no sense whatsoever to discriminate between animal species in my level of attachment.   

I know I can’t be the only one who animal loves with such irrationality.  I used to listen to a radio talk show in California that featured two hosts who frequently discussed various absurdities of life, politics, and human nature.  This question of why we react much more sympathetically to some species of animals than others came up now and again on the show.  The hosts agreed that there is definitely a hierarchy of animals, though no one can really give any logical basis for it.  I tend to agree.  The snakes, rats, and mice have to be pretty low on that particular totem pole.

Maybe it all boils down from that fall from grace in Eden.  Genesis 3:15 tells us God said to the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

I’m a pretty passive, nonconfrontational person for the most part.  I’m not usually known for having enemies or crushing heads.  However, when I see a snake, I’m afraid I definitely feel the enmity.

How about you?  Are there any animals that you make your skin crawl?  Why do you think it is that we can coo over a bunny, yet shrink from a rat?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a cuddly day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Fresh Blood?

Every now and again, someone contacts me to ask if I am interested in featuring guest bloggers on www.terrilabonte.com.  I always agonize over these requests.  Sometimes, I am guilty of procrastinating because I don’t know how to respond.  The thing is, I recognize that there might be value in having guest bloggers at www.terrilabonte.com.  I even recognize that at least some of these volunteers may be able to offer more valuable content than I provide.  The problem is that the blog is so personal that I have not been able to release that kind of control over it. 

Still, as I enter my fourth year of writing the Terri LaBonte blog, I wonder if it is time to reassess my position.  Here are some benefits of accepting guest post submissions:

  • If I included guest bloggers, I would not have to worry so much about making sure I had a new article every week.  Not that I worry too much about that.  Being who I am, I almost always have a month or more of posts ready to go at any given time.
  • Most of the people who have contacted me have specific fields of expertise.  Unlike me, they are experts at something.  Maybe you all would appreciate hearing from someone who actually knows what he or she is talking about instead of simply relying on the inner workings of my mind for entertainment.     
  • If I had guest bloggers, I could probably increase my readership with cross promotion.  If they have a core group of readers of their own who follow them to my blog, perhaps those folks will stick around and read my content. 

There is one more serious aspect to consider in deciding whether to accept guest bloggers.  I might be boring myself out of existence.

When I first started writing the blog, a dear friend of mine asked what I would do if I did not attract the number of readers that my research suggested would indicate “success.”  I told him that Terri LaBonte would keep writing as long as she had something to say.  I can’t believe she has been talking for three years.  You would think that I surely would have run out of things to say by now.  Perhaps I have and just don’t realize it.

I need your help to recognize the truth and face it square in the eye.  I am asking for genuine feedback.  Please tell me if you think I am getting stale or repetitive.  Please be honest, but not brutal.  Is it time for the blog to go to bloggy heaven?  Or is it just time for the occasional new voice to infuse the content with fresh ideas? Should www.terrilabonte.com become a chorus instead of a solo act? Or are you content knowing that I am still the one spinning yarns and telling tales?

Thank you!

Okay, time for your thoughts.  Please share your perspective on whether the blog should continue as it is, continue with occasional guest bloggers, or simply fade away.  You can provide your feedback by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.   

Have a thoughtful day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Lessons From The Elf

Max and I played Elf On The Shelf this holiday season.  Every morning, he hid my elf, Kringle, somewhere in our great room.  We usually wake up at about the same time, but I take much longer to actually get out of bed so he had plenty of time to find ingenious hiding places for Kringle.  To increase the degree of difficulty, I don’t even have a standard, full-size shelf elf.  Most of the elves sold in retail outlets are about a foot tall, with long squishy legs.  I have the Elf on the Shelf miniature figurine.  Kringle is made entirely of plastic and is about as big as my thumb. 

Every morning, I went on the hunt to figure out where that mischievous elf was lurking.  Given his size and the excessive number of nooks and crannies in our great room, this was not an easy task.  Kringle was an uncommonly good hider. Max proved that he has exceptional elf-whispering skills.  Some days, I found Kringle pretty easily.  Most days, I needed a hint.  On a few days, I needed multiple, fairly pointed hints.  We had a good time and I usually finished each day’s search by giggling and marveling over Kringle’s silliness.  Pot calling the kettle black, anyone?

Yes, it was a silly game, but I learned several valuable life lessons from the Elf on the Shelf.  In this season of giving, let me share my higher elfucation. 

Use all your senses to perceive.

When we search for things, we say we are “looking for” them.  Still, searching is about using all the senses, not just sight.  There were some mornings when Kringle was hiding someplace where I just could not see him.  I had to “see” him with my ears by listening to the clues and with my hands by feeling around on a shelf high above my head.  Sometimes, I even had to use my sixth sense.  One morning, Max completed his elf duty and then went to get his car serviced.  When I got up and began roaming around the living room, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe Kringle didn’t want to get out of bed, either.  I looked in his little velvet pouch and there he was, snug as a bug in a rug. 

We all need smart friends.

My friends may be the best thing about me.  As I have navigated the perilous waters of changing my life, my friends have kept me afloat.  Keeping me afloat has involved a great deal of emotional support, but I’ve also needed all kinds of practical advice and assistance.  Also, without regular reality checks, I would have descended down my own private rabbit hole long before now, never to be heard from again. Who has provided the practical advice and reality checks?  My very smart friends, of course.  Yes, Google is a wonderful resource, but it just can’t provide the warm fuzzies that my friends lavish extravagantly on me. Kringle reminded me of the benefits of smart friends.  He’s pretty smart, too.  He knows the difference between a smart aleck and a wise man. 

Sometimes, you have to take a step back.

The answer can be right in front of our face, but our point of view may be preventing us from seeing it.  One morning, Kringle was hiding effectively between the front legs of the welsh corgi figurine that sits under the vanity my father made me.  I looked all over the vanity and all around it, but still could not see it.  Even after Max gave me some clues that all but pointed me to the elf, I could not see him.  Finally, I realized that perspective was making all the difference.  If I stood directly in front of the corgi. Kringle was obscured by the barrel chest of the figurine.  However, when I stood about four feet away, Kringle was in plain sight!  I wonder how many other problems in my life I could solve if I just let myself wander a bit away from them until the answer is clear. 

The best place to be is close to Jesus.

I don’t really need to say anything more.  Even a plastic elf knows the best place to be is close to Jesus. 

I just couldn’t help adding one more holiday post!  I hope you don’t mind.  I put away all the Christmas decorations and was a bit sad that all the ho-ho- holidays were done.  What do you miss most about Christmas?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a jolly day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂