The Rattlesnake under the Shed

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An old nasty couch with matching loveseat, an old nasty very leaky dismantled plastic shed, and a few other odds and ends loaded and tied down for the trip to the dump.

A trip to the dump should be simple, right? We recently purchased, for the first time in our 29-year marriage, a new couch. It is a sectional, actually, and replaces a hand-me-down sofa-and-loveseat set from my parents that did not really survive our four children. (Well, I think they survived our three daughters just fine, but not our son.) They were nasty and needed to go to the dump.

In our side yard, we have a big Rubbermaid shed. Ours was an older version of this that had a curved roof. I don’t know whether they redesigned it because the older versions were all as worthless as ours. Or perhaps ours only became worthless because it wasn’t designed to have children climb on it. (Yes, there is a theme here—stuff that our now-grown children trashed was headed to the dump today.) Whatever the cause, our shed did not deserve the name. In fact, it had become more of a funnel that would collect rainwater running off of the roof and deposit it for safekeeping in whatever plastic bins, tubs, and buckets were in the shed, filled with the sorts of things that you store in sheds, hoping to keep them dry. All in all, more of a watershed than a shed.

Assembling one of these sheds is pretty straightforward and involves sticking dovetailed tabs in dovetailed slots and banging them until they are well and truly dovetailed together. Disassembly is simple: inspect the dovetailed tabs and dovetailed grooves carefully and decide which way to whack what with a sledgehammer until everything is well and truly undovetailed. The whole thing is made up of hollow plastic panels that are roughly 3′ by 4′. As you separate these, you can just toss them over the gate to collect later.

In addition to just fitting together, the floor of the shed actually has some big screws recessed into holes—the proper term is counterbored—that help hold the two pieces together into one big rigid panel about 4′ by 6′ total. At some point about 15 years ago I had obviously screwed them together, but that was before the aforementioned counterbores were full of nasty muddy filth that the funnel-of-a-shed-with-no-self-respect had deposited on its own floor. Rather than clean something that was headed to the dump anyway—and heck, I was holding a sledgehammer after all, not a mop—I decided to see if I just picked up the whole floor whether I could smash it in twain with my trusty warhammer. So I flipped up the whole floor sideways, planning to keep careful watch for scorpions to stomp on. Pretty good chance of there being scorpions under the shed.

Maybe there were.

I found this rattlesnake ready for winter—under my shed!

I put the floor back down.

This was, ironically, the second time that I had been confronted with the need to deal with a rattlesnake when I had a sledgehammer in my hand. The first time, I held the sledgehammer in one hand and used it to just smash a soda can flat on the concrete (by just raising it up and bringing it down, all with the handle vertical, not by swinging it) and when I did the rattlesnake that had sneaked into my garage and was resting about four feet away got very upset. They are, after all, very sensitive to vibrations and take a dim view of people banging sledgehammers on their nice cool concrete mattress. But that’s another story.

First rule of rattlesnake removal: do not, under any circumstances, lose track of that snake. Second rule: holler for your wife. Not so she can deal with the snake (which costs the loss of one man-card) but so that she can fetch you the tools to do so while you diligently mind rule #1. My recommended tools are a garden rake and a big plastic trash can. Lay the trash can down and drag/flip/toss the snake inside. Then stand the can up, and you are done. Well, you still need to get rid of the snake, but that is relatively easy: just decide which neighbor’s dog barks the most late at night and dump it over their fence. If you don’t want to do that, just put the garbage can with snake in the back of your pickup and take it for a drive and dump it somewhere not too close to anyone’s house. That’s what I did. Oh, and bring the rake with you, just in case you need it, say, if the garbage can tips over in your pickup bed. This did NOT happen to me (I secured it in place) but you can’t be too careful. Also a good reason to not put it on the back seat of your car if you don’t happen to have a pickup.

Evicted to Temporary Housing—I used a rake to capture this rattlesnake in a big plastic garbage can. Nikon Z7 with Nikon 300mm f/4E PF at 1/45 sec, f/8.0, ISO 1600.

I will admit that this snake had found an exceptionally cozy spot to settle down for the coming winter, such as it is in southern Arizona, but he had not been paying his rent. Just this week, I had to trap two rodents of some kind in my back yard. One would have thought with a resident rattlesnake that this would not have been a problem. Not only did my shed have no self respect, the rattlesnake living under the shed had no self respect, either. I do not know for sure whether the snake had been more industrious before it moved under my shed, but this is likely another instance that proves the old maxim that bad company brings about bad morals.

So, while I admittedly did not give the snake 30 days eviction notice, I did transport him to new housing that should suit him fine, assuming he can find a hole to hole up in on short notice. While he was safely stuck in the garbage can, I gathered up my 500mm lens and took it with me to get some portraits of my new friend in a more natural habitat. I got this nice shot of his rattle:

Namesake Rattle—here is a detailed look at the sound system of my former backyard tenant. Nikon Z7 with Nikon 500mm f/5.6E PF at 1/500 sec, f/8.0, ISO 1250.

My favorite portrait of my new friend, though, is this one:

Portrait of a Viper as a Young Snake—my former tenant in his new home. Nikon Z7 with Nikon 500mm f/5.6E PF at 1/500 sec, f/8.0, ISO 1250.

These last two photographs were taken with the Nikon Z7 with the Nikon 500mm f/5.6E PF lens at its minimum focus distance of about 10 feet. It’s a fine snake lens, as is the Nikon 300mm f/4E PF (minimum focus distance of 4.6 feet) that I used for the earlier photograph in the garbage can.

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