R called me one day to the lanai to see that a 3-ft snake had gotten in and was frantically throwing itself against the screen, trying to get out. It was a hot day and the snake was fairly distressed.
I leaned over the snake to see what kind it was. It calmed down just a bit in my shadow, making me think of the end of "Life and Death of a Western Gladiator," which I read in high school and evidently
"Go back in the house with your bare feet!" R said.
"I'm not going back in the house with my bare feet!" I said.
There are four kinds of poisonous snakes that live in North America: copperheads, rattlesnakes, and water moccasins, which are all pit vipers, and coral snakes. Coral snakes have color bands, which this snake did not. No rattle, no real pattern to its coloration which was pretty much black. The snake could still have been a moccasin, but I looked at the snake's head and it did not appear to me to be the head of a viper.
So R used the pool net to kind of hold the snake in place while I picked it up. I meant to pick it up right behind the head, and thought I did, but while I was carrying it to the door it wiggled forward and started striking, and biting the crap out of my hand. Seriously, blood appeared. Also, I could see the inside of its mouth, which was white.
Another name for water moccasins is "cottonmouths".
I wondered if I had exhibited an error in judgment. Vipers' bites are not always envenomed, I told myself, especially if they are not hunting. But this snake probably was hunting, hence its entering the lanai. If the snake was a viper, and its bite was venomous, my hand would have started swelling and hurting right away. As I walked to the door, enduring the indignant striking and biting, and opened the door to toss the snake out onto the grass, I was asking myself, "Does my hand hurt?" And it never did.
Understand that all of this took place in a matter of seconds.
When I told my friend Kristina about this, she asked if I had told R of my concern about the snake possibly being a moccasin after all. "No," I said, "because I thought I might need him later." For some reason she found this really funny.
R was concerned about infection, and as we know, reptiles can carry salmonella and possibly some other unpleasant microorganisms, so I washed my bites really well with antibacterial soap. And then went to the wonderful internet to figure out what kind of snake I had. It was most likely a black racer. I imagined it scurrying away in the grass, thinking about its narrow escape and convinced that only its brave attack saved it because I certainly would have eaten it otherwise.
I guess next time I'll take the time to fetch my gardening gloves.