He was harmless, in the way that they're all basically harmless as long as you're thinking of them abstractly. But when one of them is slithering in the place where you walk barefoot, it engages this innate fear that's hard to suppress no matter how many encyclopedic facts are at your disposal.
Fact: Garter snakes tend to be less than 4 feet long and very thin.
Fact: They're only "slightly venomous" , not usually dangerous for humans (bites just swell and itch).
Fact: They eat frogs (which we have in abundance) and are eaten by dogs (which we have in abundance).
Fact: I know that they are not "inherently evil", technically. Unless you're a Christian, I guess.
Fact: It still scared the fuck out of me.
He wasn't a total surprise. We've seen this fucker (or his brethren) before. We've also found his skins. But just catching a glimpse of this scaley motherfucker made my breathing come fast, unleashed my urge to flee, and stressed me right the fuck out. I don't want to coexist with this guy. I don't want to learn what it feels like to have him slime between my toes or grab me by the ankle. I don't want to reach for the "hose" and get a nasty surprise. I don't want to find Herbie with a snake hanging limply (or worse, not limply) from his mouth. I don't want to go for a swim and find an uninvited skinny dipper in the pool. So when I saw him, we were both startled, and we both took off, luckily not in the same direction. But when the dogs bounded over, he froze. He kept his head above the grass but did.not.move.a.muscle. Do snakes even have muscles?
Fact: Yes, they do. Strong ones. And a whooooole lotta bones.
Anyway, I told Sean about my reptilian encounter later that night, and he reported that he'd had a brush with him himself just a day or two before. He was weeding in my hydrangea beds and actually TOUCHED IT! Eep.
"O.M.G.O.S.H. Did you scream like a little girl?"
Yes, he did. And let forth "a stream of curses." Of course, this being my Seanathan, his string of curse words can comfortably be reproduced in almost any church bulletin without the slightest bit of censorship:
"Shit. Shit Shit SHIT."
Can you even believe I married a guy who doesn't swear?
Neither can the snake.
UPDATE ON THE SNAKE SITUATION:
There is not a snake living in our yard after all.
There's a whole damn family of them!
I was weeding when I encountered a wee little snake. Still not happy to see it. Let out a yell. The kind of yell that Sean, who was out in the woods operating a chain saw, heard and came running for.
He got a stick for "snake removal."
He chased the baby snake around quite a while. The snake was uncooperative or else just couldn't fathom the plan. Snakes are probably not big-picture thinkers. Anyway, whether the baby snake was secretly "yelling" for help or perhaps just all the movements and prodding startled her parents, two quite large snakes then slithered out of their hiding spot - get this - from underneath the day bed where I read and sun myself all day long!
There is a nest of snakes under my happy place!
Well, it's not my happy place any more.
What use is a backyard if I cannot bear to set foot in it?
Fact: the mommies can give birth from 3 to 98 babies in one go. So the one that we saw? Definitely just the tip of the iceberg. But how many are there? Where are they hiding? Can they get in the house?
Sean assures me there are no holes in our foundation. The house is about 3 years old, and I know Sean probably looks it over pretty thoroughly since I put a caveat on our living here: if I ever, EVER see a single mouse in my house, it's for sale the very next day and we're outta here. And I never have. Haven't even seen one in the yard or in the woods or anything. But now I'm going to amend that clause to include snakes.
Meanwhile, I'm googling frantically to find out how we can tell the snakes to fuck off. And don't give me any guff about how they're "ecologically necessary" and how they're more scared of me than I am of them. This all may be true, but they're absolutely ruining my enjoyment of my own backyard. I know it was technically theirs first, but as far as I'm aware, they don't have the shadow of a hefty mortgage to show for it.
So if you know of a repellent that's super effective on snakes but not also poisonous to small, curious dogs, let me know. So far I've been told to sprinkle the borders of my yard with fox urine and\or human hair, neither of which I have on hand, and neither of which are listed on the Home Depot website. Personally, I'm leaning toward a well-sharpened garden hoe. Not that I'm brave enough to do the hoeing.