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Prairie Ramblings Episode
Thu October 18, 2012
End of Summer Sunbathing
I remember college days . . . waiting for the first warm day of spring when my friends and I headed to a nearby lake . . . unveiling our winter-white bodies to piercing rays of pre-summer sun. It felt so good to lay my bathing suit clad body on the softness of a worn patchwork quilt. While vitamin D mixed with UV rays coursed through our sun-starved carcasses, my friends and I agreed that this was bliss. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the sharp edges of small stones pressing into my spine and the sensation of solar beams soaking into my belly and face.
I wonder why I never sought the last days of October heat with that same desire. Lately, I’ve lost count of the number of sunbathing snakes I’ve seen on caliche roads, asphalt, the interstate, or on my sandy drive. They are out in legions, collecting solar power. What do they know that I don’t?
Three nights ago, our terrier and I walked the path around the quarter when we accosted a slow-moving racer capturing the last rays of the day. His eyes were open and his tongue flicked, so he had to feel the vibrations of our steps. However, he didn’t slither out of our path. Apparently, he needed a few more degrees of heat to build enough energy to move. Buster and I detoured to allow this fellow his end of season pleasures.
The same thing happened the next day on my trip to our mailbox. Hiking through our grassy pasture, I spied a bull snake, too small to eat a mouse, lethargically gliding across my route. He, too, continued on his way unaware of potential danger. If I had been a hawk or owl, he’d have been on the menu.
Plenty of reptiles in our vicinity have met such a fate. Dozens lay flattened and belly up on surrounding roads. One snake, long enough to make a good size man’s belt, died near the turn to our drive where he became dinner for our resident turkey vultures. As I watched them snack on him one afternoon, I thought, there’s more than one way to continue the energy cycle.
In this same time span, a skinny garter bend discovered the heat-retaining properties of our front porch. Our dog stood by window nearly barking himself hoarse trying to scare the trespasser away from the warm cement. Despite Buster’s best big dog impersonation, the striped fellow dozed lazily for several hours.
My family lives in harmony with reptile neighbors. That doesn’t mean a rattlesnake in the yard or any serpent in the house is welcome . . . but I know how valuable reptiles are in terms of rodent and insect control. I accept them as temporary tenants on the veranda or move them to distant pasture if they are a nuisance. After all, we share a common delight—enthusiasm for the sun’s warmth.