Snakes on a Trail!

Rattlesnakes, mostly. Western diamondbacks, mostly.

We’ve been in Texas for YEARS now and I have rarely encountered snakes. Usually they are stretched out on the road as I whizz by in my trusty Honda.

Hubs has seen more than me, and his encounters are more with live snakes – he’s usually working at dawn or dusk (the most active times) and he has more occasion to be outside in fields and whatnot.

But one thing I’ve been hearing a lot of lately, now that we live in the foothills of a mountain range, with a great trail system right around the corner from our house, is watch out for snakes. Since the pups and I try to get out to walk regularly, this is useful information.

I do not take this warning lightly, because I know next to nothing about how to spot snakes, and generally I tend to be attentive to dangerous things I know little about. However, I also take this advice with several grains of salt depending on who is offering it. When my spouse tells me to be on the lookout for snakes, especially around dawn, I wake up a little earlier (pre-dawn) and start using a flashlight for better visibility.

When the dog-mother whose precious baby dogs get their own live-in babysitter and birthday parties tells me that snakes are around every bend… okay maybe.

This area of the southwest is tree-less so guess what kind of snakes we have? PIT VIPERS. I love how ridiculously scary that classification term sounds: PIT viper. Not just a regular viper, but one that hangs out in shallow, hard to spot pits of doom.

Interesting factoid: pit vipers are named for heat-sensing pits in their heads, not because they live in pits (which is also generally true).

I looked up native Texas snakes because, well, why not? There are four in the state, three are pit vipers: copperheads, cottonmouths, and the most common and prolific in our neck of the woods, the rattlesnake. Western diamondback, to be precise, although we have a whole bevy of rattly-beauties.

by jeanette m otis on flickr
{image by Jeanette M. Otis on Flickr}

There’s also the colorful and elusive coral snake, which is a cobra, rather than a pit viper. The main differences are the type of venom and how they deliver poison (foldable teeth vs. non-foldable). Coral snakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths aren’t huge in our neck of the woods. Apparently they all like trees and water. Wusses.

I haven’t seen any snakes on walkies yet, nor heard any (Rattlesnakes blend in really well in grassless brown desert, so they are not very visible. But they are very hear-able). I hope it stays that way.

However, if I do encounter a snake I will stay calm and still, back away slowly, and then run home and write about it here.

Adventure Cat

The cat, who has been a family member for almost 8 years, has always been an indoor cat. She rarely ventures near DOORS, nevermind outside.

At least, until we moved to this city. NOW the cat has decided, at eight years old, that she belongs outside.

adventure cat | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com

We’re still figuring it out. She’s not actually great at doing anything outside other than rolling on hot cement and hiding out under the one bush in the front yard.

One Month Walks and Whistles

We are one month into our new adventure in El Paso, Texas. It feels like we’ve been here for a lot longer, mainly because we both started work a week in and have been working full time ever since. Hubs has already been out of town for work once, with a few upcoming trips already planned. We’ve settled into a weekday routine and have done a pretty good job of planning our weekend like normal people.

For a while back in The Middle of Nowhere, we both had wildly different schedules from the norm, so if we did anything for fun it was any night of the week. It’s kind of weird to be back on a schedule that involves waking up at the SAME TIME every day and going to bed early on week nights.

One interesting discovery is that the small dog can whistle. At first it was a whine. But, as each day went by with us waking up at pretty much the exact same time and me taking them out for a good long walk, it developed into a full blown whistle. Now, if I hit the snooze button EVEN ONCE I can hear the whistle wafting up from downstairs, on the other side of the house. It’s obscene.

She really likes those walks.

one month walks | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com one month walks | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com one month walks | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com one month walks | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com

Dags

There’s this great line in the Guy Ritchie film Snatch where a bunch of gypsies ask one of the regular characters, “dee yee lak dags?” and the response is one of confusion.

They finally realize the question was about dogs and we go from there. It’s an interesting little scene and one that I quote relatively often. That’s mainly because I have dogs, and I like them.

Been road-trippin’ lately, and covering some serious miles on some excellent interstate highways. I will love I-10 for life simply because of it’s 80mph speed limit.

My dags have come with me on this one, and it’s interesting how much more I like driving huge long distances when they’re in the car with me. I’ve spent my fair share of man hours alone in cars for days at a time – it’s not tons of fun. Something about having some beings along for the ride that makes the whole process kind of adventure-y and less ordeal-y.

Not sure why, but my dogs pretty much avoid going to the bathroom for however long we are in a car. If it’s 12 hours, they wait 12 hours. Also, they mostly sleep. There’s no puking, whining, window scratching, and they don’t feel the need to sit on my lap. They’re just THERE. It’s really nice.

They also play well with others. In our journey they’ve bunked with a cranky old Corgi, a sedate Golden Retriever, a wild and crazy Boxer, and two mutt puppies who match the energy level nicely. Not one issue, no injuries, fights, or even much growling. (The cranky Corgi does snuffle a bit when anyone gets too close but who can blame her? She’s old and her hips hurt.)

I sincerely doubt the cat would travel as well.

Mental Health Day (e.g. Cat GIFs)

Today is the fourth days of a self-prescribed four day recovery weekend, taken after a terrifically challenging month at work. A month that involved a LOT of writing and very little positive energy or good vibes. At day four the cup is beginning to refill.

You know what has gotten me through the last few weeks? Cat GIFs. I share them with you now, just in case you’re also in need of some good cat GIFs for a quick pick-me-up.

cats8 cat3 cat6 cats7 cat5 cat4 cat2 cat1

Ashes to Ashes

The last time I encountered a bat in a house was 1988. I may be off by a year in either direction but that’s pretty close because my family was living in a particular house (a duplex from the 1800s) in a little ol’ town in South Jersey.

ashes to ashes | a post from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
The 1988 (bat) house was like this, but with less wood and more brick. [image by xzmattzx via skyscrapercity.com]
We noticed the bat hanging from some curtains in the front room. Mom hurried my sister Z and I into the middle room (it was one of those long, narrow places with many stories of three rooms, arranged front-to-back), called one of her brothers since Dad was unavailable, and then we waited. Mom and her bro used a broom and a trashcan to take care of the bat. I have no memory of whether it was killed or released. Just that this was a chase fraught with tension and a significant level of fear. Bats are tricky.

ashes to ashes | a post from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
Almost exactly what we saw – we may have even had lace curtains at the time. [photo from health.mcleancountyil.gov]
Last night I had my second bat-in-the-house experience, this time at a friend’s house out in the boonies. We’re sitting at her dining room table, working on some web stuff. Her youngest boy is watching HIS shows – blissfully unhampered by his older brother who is away with dad. Friend and I are chatting away when suddenly she stops, grabs my arm firmly and states,

There’s a bat in my house.

I look around and, sure enough, catch a glimpse of a bat circling into the next room. I turn back to my friend and say, “I need a broom and a trashcan.”

ashes to ashes | a post from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
Too good not to share, even with the Shutterstock watermark.

She starts to rise but stops midway up and commands me, with the kind of presence and authority only a terrified mother can muster, “You have to kill it.”

She then rushes into the farthest room in the house, bringing her son with her. I get a broom, a trashcan, and eventually a sheet to block off one doorway that has no door. Then I go to work.

I took a life.

ashes to ashes | a post from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
There it is, up in a corner. I took this picture with my phone, to document my second ever bat-in-house encounter.

I’m not going to go into details other than to mention that I said, “I’m sorry” to the bat about 15 times. It was traumatic – bats are noisy creatures even in the best of times, and this was not a good night for the bat.

My final notes on the subject are as follows:

  • the broom was necessary
  • the trashcan was not necessary
  • a tennis racquet might be less traumatic (for me)
  • this was a terrible week at work and beating something to death, though traumatic, was highly cathartic

A Girl and her Cat

20140206-052930.jpgThis is my sister and her cat, Scout. I have my own cat at home, Kitty. While I was up in New Jersey I tried to get Scout to become my adopt-a-cat with only mild success. She belongs to Prose, without question. Scout was only interested in me if my sister was at work.

It was delightful for me to see Prose and Scout interact together. There’s so many feelings attached to it.

Prose is 10 years younger than me, and she was my special project for a bit after she was born. At ten years old I was convinced I would teach her about the world. She turned out awesome despite my ministrations, and I get a giant kick out of how alike we (accidentally) are. I was pretty much out of her daily life by the time SHE was 10 years old, so any similarities we share at this point make me feel like a long-lost twin.

Watching Prose and Scout was somehow personally satisfying, kind of like seeing myself and Kitty in a (younger) mirror.

I need an adopt-a-sister out here in Texas. I miss her.