Inside Looking Out: A snake story
A few weeks ago I came home to a startling discovery. Our baseball batting cage net had killed a 3½-foot rattlesnake. Its entire body was entangled in the twine.
I know there are snake lovers who will feel bad about what happened, but don’t count me as one of them. Very little in the natural universe bothers me. Bears, bugs and just about everything else that crawls, flies or walks in the woods, I am perfectly fine with, but not with snakes. I know they help balance the ecosystem and in Native American lore, they have spiritual powers, but when it comes to an encounter with this serpent slithering in the grass or coiled on a rock, I’m moving as fast as I can in the other direction, thank you very much.
So now to what happened in my backyard. A few years ago, I put up a batting cage for my son who lives to play baseball and we’ve gotten good use out of it for four travel ball seasons.
The night before the event, it had rained so the net was very wet. Now I didn’t see how the snake approached the cage, but I can surmise how it was killed. Regular readers of this column know how I like to write an imaginative story, so here goes another to explain what had happened. The ending you already know, but I will begin with what I believe actually occurred, without the fictitious voices of the characters, of course.
The snake slithers to the side of the net. It stops for a moment and then goes to where its head touches the black twine.
“Stop right there, snake!” screamed the net.
“And who is going to make me stop, if I may ask?” replied the snake.
“I will. No living thing enters this cage except the boy and his dad.”
“Oh, really,” said the snake. “I see that they are not here now and by the way, how do you intend to stop me?”
“Beware of my power,” said the net. “I may seem harmless to you, but don’t test me because then you will meet your doom.”
“Ha!” said the snake. “I have a deadly bite so I can do whatever I please. I can slide right underneath you and go right through to the other side. Just watch me!”
The snake darted its tongue against the face of the net. Then it began to slither under the overlapping bunched netting that lay on the ground.
It made a critical mistake. The rain-soaked netting, now heavy in weight, collapsed on top of the snake as it tried to go underneath. Realizing the difficulty of moving under the burden of the net, the snake panicked and made its second and fatal mistake. It tried to squirm itself out, but each time it rolled and writhed, the net wound itself tighter and tighter around the snake’s midsection, strangling the creature from the middle up.
“Let me go!” it screamed.
“I cannot,” said the net. “I’m a baseball batting cage and I do what I was made to do.”
“What does that have to do with me?” asked the snake, struggling with its final breaths.
“The boy hits the balls,” said the net, “and I don’t let them get out.”
The batting cage was just doing what a cage does when the snake tried to get out of the net, a reverse of man vs. nature. Often human risk takers do not think of all the possible dangers when venturing out into the wild unknown and many succumb to the awesome power wielded by the earth and its primeval surroundings.
This time a man-made material got the better of a creature that took too big a risk.
Retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hatfield said, “Taking risks for risk’s sake, that doesn’t do it for me. I’m willing to take risks that I think are worth it, and I’ve worked so hard to make sure that I survive.”
The snake took a bold risk without trying to calculate the danger. It could have slithered around the batting cage to get to the other side as a better option.
People wonder where writers get their ideas. My story required an observant eye, a rattlesnake, and with pun intended, a “twisted” imagination.
The problem I now have is that every time I go into the batting cage, my mind sees the snake still there, alive and untangled from the net, coiled, rattling.
Halloween is coming. Sit around a jack-o’-lantern with me and I’ll tell you a scary story about a snake that returns from the dead to get its revenge.
Rich Strack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.