I own a small swimming pool service. By “small”, I mean one guy: me. The work is tedious and mind-numbingly boring but it’s honest work and it pays the bills so…I keep showing up. Some pools have a protective barrier called a safety cover. It’s not the little, blue bubble-wrap thing you sometimes see. It’s the cover that runs on tracks, driven by a motor. I actually saw a person walk across one, once. (She was a little old lady and it was an accident. DO NOT try that trick at home…) Anyway, one opens the cover using a key switch and the key is located pretty much anywhere the pool builder wants it to be, often down in the box where the motor that runs the reel resides.
I live in Black Widow country so I never reach down into a cover box without giving it a good look first. (At NO point do I schedule ‘Get bitten by a Black Widow’ in my day…) So, I’m at this one pool and, after having checked the box and opened the cover, I did my thing. Time to close the pool back up. I have to keep a bit of an eye on the cover as it runs on and off the pool to make sure it doesn’t bind but I don’t have to focus too closely on it so while the covers open and close, it’s a nice opportunity to look around at the landscaping and such.
So I’m squatting down by the pool, holding the key, kind of half paying attention to the cover when my peripheral vision catches some dark object on the cover passing by right next to me. It wasn’t there when I opened the cover so it naturally drew my attention. “Hey, a snake,” I think to myself. “I wonder where he came from?”. I focus more closely. “Oh, shit, that’s a Rattlesnake!” My eyes lock with his and I realize the snake has focused in on me, too. That’s not a comforting feeling. I moved away…fast! The snake didn’t move at all…
Now I’m a little embarrassed. As the existential panic passed, reason returned. The snake had passed so closely to me that if I had known it was there and been ready for it, I could have reached out and touched it without stretching at all. Of course, had the snake known I was there and been ready for it, he could have reached out and “touched” me, too. But by the time I had done my little life-saving scramble/stumble, the cover had carried the snake away from me far enough that I was probably safe before I ever moved. Probably…
The snake never broke it’s gaze with me. I decided he was probably trying to figure out what had happened to his dark little safe spot and just where the hell I had come from. So, using the lid to the cover box as a shield, I finished closing the cover. The snake never moved, except for it’s head which bobbed a bit as it kept watch. Really, pretty gracious of the snake to allow me those few moments to regain my composure…
So now I’m done and I can leave, except…no. I decided it probably wasn’t cool to leave a Rattlesnake on the cover and NOT warn the homeowner, Dan. So, I set down my tele-pole and knocked on Dan’s door. I detailed the situation – leaving out my little scramble – and Dan and I went over to look at the snake. He and I began discussing possibilities. You can’t really attack the snake on the cover without damaging the cover. Do we think the snake can get off of the cover by itself? Is it better just to let it do so? What if it just goes back down into the cover box?
As we’re considering variables, another guy shows up in the backyard carrying some plants. It’s to my discredit that I never got his name. He’s an “action” kind of guy and moves the story along but because I never got his name, he’s going down in history as “Dude.” So, Dude shows up, says, hello, and then realizes what we’re looking at. We catch him up on events. Then the deep discussions begin. There’s some sharing of stories about other Rattlers. Some stories of mountain lion sightings. Some talk about trying to move the snake at hand. Zero action. I laugh and comment about the specter of three apex-predators being held at bay by a single Rattlesnake that has YET to move beyond lifting it’s head.
Dude decides the snake is sitting is a small pool of water. As such, he’s probably too cold to make any fast movements. Dan and I agree that’s possible but, in truth, I didn’t see any small puddles under the snake. Fortunately, no small puddles under any of the apex predators, either, so…even score so far. Dan asks me if I think he can use his pool net to move the snake. For those of you not familiar, pool nets come with a lowered front edge for scooping so I consider that it may be possible. Then again, there is a specific tool for catching snakes and it’s NOT a net. It seems, to me, if a net was a good snake catching tool, snake catchers would use them.
Dude decides he’s going to try anyway. He grabs my tele-pole and net and moves toward the terrifying, existential threat that is this snake – which has, surprisingly by now, STILL not moved…except it’s head. We KNOW he’s not dead because of that head and it seems sufficient to indicate extreme caution. As Dude approaches his quarry, questions enter his mind. How fast is a Rattler? How far can a Rattlesnake jump in a strike? How are we going to get our guest OUT of the net after we’ve gotten him in? Turns out, none of us had any of that information immediately at hand. But Dude, being a man of action, starts trying to scoop the snake.
You might not be surprised to find that the snake did NOT want to be in a net. So now we know: Rattlesnakes strike FAST! And they strike over and over and over again, given the chance. Fortunately, he was only killing hell out of my net…but then he kind of jumped away, down the cover, rattle rattling all the while. Dude wasn’t giving up, though. He moved closer and tried to net the snake again. Similar results. Worse, each time Dude tried, the snake was moving closer to the cover box, which would have made him inaccessible. Dude was in the fog of war, though, focused completely on the snake and preparing to make another run so Dan and I suggested he stop. That’s when I realized the error in Dude’s approach.
I asked Dude to give me the net and stood on the opposite side of the pool. Using the net, I was able to “help” the snake lift up over the edge and move away, across the deck. As the three of us stood there, victorious, watching the snake slither away, we realized that it had a large bulge in it’s middle. In fact, the snake wasn’t that big. It was just in the middle of lunch when all of this started. That explained the lethargic attitude. After all, who doesn’t feel that way after a large meal?
Still, I’m now solid on the concept of the ‘Band of Brothers.’ Dude, Dan, and I had faced our enemy together in a life or death struggle and we had won! We had fought bravely, if not decisively, and brought honor to ourselves and our families. The snake was off the cover. None of us ever thought to kill it. For some reason, victory, for us, was in getting the snake off the cover unharmed. It crawled across the deck and up a rock wall where it found itself a nice, little crevice and disappeared. As it disappeared, Dan said, “That’s the part of the yard I was planning on working in tomorrow…”