Dino Digs and Tall Grass

Our youngest loves dinosaurs. For his birthday party in the spring, he had a dino excavation party. We gathered horse and cow bones from a friend’s pasture to replicate the dinosaurs. (Ssshh. The party guests had no idea I faked it!) I placed them in the field to look like the dinosaurs had died naturally or as a result of a battle with another dinosaur.

Let's find some dinosaur bones!

Let’s find some dinosaur bones!

They began in the treehouse with toy binoculars to look for dig sites.

Dig site, ho!

Dig site, ho!

Then they boarded the hay ride for the tour. As tour guide, I described the excavation sites and how the dinosaurs likely died. I loved the look of awe on their faces.

This is the stillest my boys have ever been.

This is the stillest my boys have ever been.

The finale was digging in sand buckets for toy dinosaur skeletons.

Dig for your party favors! Mwahahaha!

Dig for your party favors! Mwahahaha!

Some guests were unable to make it to the party, so I promised them a private tour. We were only able to give one before the pasture got overgrown. (Those goats are NOT earning their keep!) So we had to mow it. Bye bye, dino dig!

My father-in-law mowed around the dinosaur bones the first time. We got lots of cute little hay bales from it. The pasture got really overgrown again, so my dad decided to mow. This time I had to pick up the dinosaur bones.

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The grass was really tall!

I use my hayride setup for these things. It’s an old lawnmower without the mowing deck hooked up to a trailer.

After airing up the tire with a portable air compressor, I drove  through the jungle to gather the bones.

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Katie came to help.

While driving through the tall grass, a snake slithered out of the way. I only saw its dust-colored tail and couldn’t identify it, I stopped and tried to look for it. (It was probably a copperhead.) I didn’t look too hard. The grass was really tall, and copperheads are good at hiding. So I moseyed on.

When I was leaving the pasture, I turned too sharply and lost the trailer. It was too heavy to lift and put back on the ball hitch, so I improvised.

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Redneck lever and fulcrum. Y’all thought I was kidding when I admitted to doing this in my last post.

I unloaded the bones and branches into the burn pile just as Dad arrived with the tractor.

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Farewell, dinos. We shall cremate you soon.

The pasture is being mowed as I type. It’ll look so much better, but I’ll miss the dig sites.

The dino party was a lot of fun. I love to see awe and wonder on children’s faces. That alone made all of the work worth it. But how am I going to top that next year?

Hide and Seek

It has been unseasonably cool, lately. I heard that we haven’t reached 100 degrees this month. That’s a very unusual August for Oklahoma. I like it! Unfortunately, so do the snakes. When the temperature is high, they come out at night when it’s cooler. In weather like this, they could be out any time.

The boys and I were leaving the house this morning after 10:00. My youngest yelled, “Snake!” just as he stepped off the porch. I ran to look. Sure enough, a black and brown snake raced from in front of him to side of the house. It slithered along the concrete foundation and behind a rose bush. Our Rottweiler, Katie, sniffed after it.

“Stay away from it!” I yelled to my youngest as I ran inside to get my gun.

My oldest followed me inside to grab his new weapon. He bought his first BB gun for his birthday.

An elderly man said as we were leaving the store, "You're going to shoot your eye out."

An elderly man said as we were leaving the store, “You’re going to shoot your eye out.” I laughed for a long time.

 

“Don’t let it in the house!” I yelled.

Gun in hand, I ran back out the wide-open front door. You’d think my boys would listen better to a mother who sometimes carries a gun and machete. But no. He left the front door open, inviting the snake to enter. It’s cool inside, creep. Come on in!

Katie was still sniffing around the same area, so I thought the snake was hiding in the iris leaves that Katie had flattened for a bed. It looked like a good place for a snake to crawl under and hide.

"Guard the snake, Katie!"

“Guard the snake, Katie!”

“Cover your ears, boys.”

BANG!

The shotgun shell peppered a 2 1/2 inch pattern in the underbrush. I dug through the leaves with a stick. Nothing. My oldest kept shooting the area with BBs, just in case.

The youngest had no idea where it was. I figured he would have been watching it for me. Nope. But I trusted Katie more than him. (She minds a lot better.) She had still been sniffing around the spot where I shot. Right above that spot is a vent. There’s an inch gap where the snake could have slithered through. Maybe it crawled under the house?

“Let’s go under the house looking for it,” my oldest said.

“Not a chance.” I’m not that brave, so I kept looking in the relative safely of the open air.

A few feet farther where the foundation met the porch, there is another hole. This one is a good 2-3 inches and barely covered up with rocks. Another way for it to get under the house. Near that is a ramp to the porch. Maybe it was hiding under there?

I jabbed a stick under the ramp to see if anything would bolt out at me. Nothing.

Maybe it IS in the house!

The boys and I searched the internet trying to identify the snake. We could tell immediately that it wasn’t a copperhead. It was black with brown spots. I didn’t stick around long enough to look at its head and eyes, so I can’t positively ID it. We’ve narrowed it down to a black ratsnake (nonvenomous) or a cottonmouth (venomous). Honestly, I think it looks like the scarier option.

Black Ratsnake

Black Ratsnake

Western Cottonmouth

Western Cottonmouth

So, where’s the snake? And is it poisonous? It’s still a mystery.

Years ago, my great grandmother stepped out her front door and was bitten by a copperhead hiding under the threshold. So, no one’s allowed outside without boots and jeans for the time being.

I just hope it doesn’t turn up in the house! The game warden will be getting a phone call. I don’t want to shoot a hole in my floor, and I’m not going to drag it out by the tail. Maybe I should get an animal trap. Hmmmm.

And I thought I was creeped out putting my toes under the couch before!

I’ll keep you posted. Prayers are appreciated.

Copperheads and Showdowns

My husband found the first copperhead snake when he mowed our new property. It was huge. He freaked out a little, since it was right by his feet.  Our neighbors drove by at the right time and still laugh about him dancing around in the ditch.

He went after it with the push mower, but it got away. He now calls that mower The Snake Charmer.

Isn't it gorgeous! My hubs wants to make boots out of 'em.

Isn’t it gorgeous! My hubs wants to make boots out of ’em.

Since then, there have been more sightings. Mostly young ones.

Better be careful gathering eggs in the future!

Better be careful gathering eggs in the future!

The first one was hiding under a door removed during chicken house renovations. Mr. Rains picked it up, saw the snake, and slowly lowered it. Then he came to get me.

“Get the flat-bottom shovel,” I suggested.

He found it and gingerly moved the door. He struck with the shovel while the snake was still coiled. He hopped around and struck again. I guess he figured a moving target would be harder to hit. (Why don’t I record these things on video?)

DISCLAIMER: Normally, I don’t condone killing a wild animal that isn’t trying to kill me. But I’ve ruined my kids in the “beware of dangerous creatures” department. All wildlife is fascinating to me, and I’ve taught this to my boys. We have captured and released scorpions, spiders, snakes, lizards, turtles, and insects of every kind. I’ve accidentally eradicated a healthy fear of dangerous animals. Shame on me.

So anytime I find copperheads, black widows, or brown recluse spiders, they’re toast. (Once, we watched a tarantula hawk wasp drag an enormous spider to its burrow. We got too close several times and got chased away. It was awesome.)

They paralyze the spider with a sting and lay eggs in it. The babies hatch and eat the spider! What a way to go.

They paralyze the spider with a sting and lay eggs in it. The babies hatch and eat the spider alive! What a way to go.

We brought the boys out to show them what a copperhead looks like and said to STAY AWAY from them at all costs. They listen to us so well. (<—MAJOR sarcasm)

Mr. Rains laid the snake in the feed trough, and in the morning it was gone. Coyotes? Foxes? Wild pigs? Somebody had a dangerous meal!

Then my husband left town for work. For a long time. That’s when exciting things happen around here.

One evening around sunset, I went to put the hens away for the night. Standing two feet from the coop door, a copperhead slithered between the toes of my boots and the henhouse. I stood still, watching in fascination as it curled up behind a loose board. (We left it loose to later install an electric line.)

Crap, I thought. I have to kill it.

I sprinted to the house to arm up. I put on my holster with revolver and earplugs. (I’ll NEVER forget earplugs again after my post-snake-shooting day-and-a-half spell of near deafness.) Grabbed my impossibly-dull machete and impossibly-dim flashlight. And sprinted back.

I pulled the board away to reveal the 4-inch gap. The snake was coiled beneath a 2×4 that held the wall and the cement foundation. A couple of chickens were sleeping on top of that 2×4. They huddle up for security in the corner against the door. They’re still too young to roost.

Crime scene diagram

Crime scene diagram

I stood there for a while pondering how to kill it. Jabbing with the machete would just annoy it. Buckshot could hit a bird. And it would probably finish off their hearing after the last snake shooting. I was roused from my thoughts when I noticed the snake’s head poking out a few inches from the gap, staring. The little creep had been watching me with its beady little black eyes for some time. Crap.

I quickly aimed my gun where the buckshot would stay below the 2×4.

BANG!

When I opened my eyes, the chickens were gone. The snake’s head had been nearly severed. I drug it from its hiding place with the machete.

Creep minus head

Creep stew

My girls!

All of my birds were fine, huddled in the far corner. Well, I can’t say fine about their ears. Occasionally, I give them hearing tests. Standing very still, I make quiet chirping noises to see if they react. They always pass. Chicken ears must be very resilient.

Funeral services were held the following day.

A few days later, it happened again.

At dusk, I walked into the coop and almost stepped on a copperhead. I sprinted to the house, grabbed my weapons, and sprinted back.

Flashlight in mouth, revolver in my right hand, machete in my left. I crept slowly into the henhouse. Sweeping the dim beam of light across the hay-covered floor.

Remembering the rat snake had slithered from the ceiling, I snapped my beam of light overhead. Phew. No snake. Of course it wouldn’t be in the rafters, but I was jumpy! I flipped around backwards, realizing it could be against the wall behind me. Phew. Nothing.

I need tactical training for this crap! 

The protective gear would be a nice touch.

Freeze, creeps!

I peered under the brooder box. Nothing. In the corner, something looked long, but I decided it was just a dark piece of straw. Kept searching. I looked back to the corner. That was not straw! It had backed itself into the corner, watching me. Ready to strike.

I walked backwards, watching it, and shooed my chickens out the door to save their poor ears. (My earplugs were already in. All I could hear was my heartbeat and breathing.) One hen wouldn’t budge and stayed on my boot. I shook her off and faced the snake. Maybe 5 feet between us, we stared each other down. (Insert wild west showdown music.)

Showdown Girls

That’s totally what I was wearing.

BANG!

Hay exploded and I ran for the door. I had no idea if I had hit it or had sent it after me in retaliation. I crept back in, sweeping the flashlight beam across the hay.

DIRECT HIT!

Isn't it beautiful!

Isn’t it beautiful!

Now for removal.

Like I’ve said, these tubes of evil refuse to die after you kill them. I picked it up with my machete, trying to balance it on the blade as it continued to inch forward. *shudder*

He got deposited in a painting tray and covered with a large plastic container. In the morning, we had a funeral.

I’ve been accused of being brave, but it’s just a tough-gal act to psych out the snakes. Now I get creeped out when my toes are under the couch while closing the curtains. And the boys’ wooden snake has me doing double takes.

It gets me every time! Especially in the house.

It gets me every time!

The hubby misses all the fun.