I have this neighbor couple, elderly, who don’t speak a whole lot of English. Most foreign families here have that system where their children/grandchildren interpret or converse for them. Well this isn’t so easy when they live some distance from each other and maybe the elderly couple needs something. So my Mrs. neighbor and I have worked out a kind of communication with a few words that she knows and many gestures. Sometimes we look at each other blankly and shake our heads, but we begin again and usually get the point across.
For instance, this afternoon the phone rang and it was she. As I answered I wondered what sumptious delicacy she had for me as usually she calls when she is sharing some of their interesting foods. But no. Her voice was a little on the thin side as she said, “Please, come for garden” (trans.- come out to the backyard fence). This was followed with even thinner voice saying, “Snake”. So I said “Ok”, and went right out the door.
When I was very young, maybe 9 or 10, my mom and her Junior League friends were quite proud of a Nature Museum they’d raised money for and got built at a rather large neighborhood park. Each summer this place which was a combination sort of mini-zoo and exhibit hall with stuffed animals, raptors and other fowl, and a planetarium, would offer astronomy lectures and Saturday morning classes for young people. One of these classes was on snakes. I doubt my mother who was deathly afraid of snakes knew that this would include our being taught how to identify the local snakes, capture and handle the reptiles which I used to great advantage many years later, but I was dropped off at this class on that Saturday morning and thoroughly enjoyed it. So I have no natural fear of snakes. Respect, yes. Fear, no.
My neighbor was already standing by the fence when I went outside and as I walked over to her she pointed to the ground to the left of where I was. Being barefoot I immediately stopped walking and stood to look for the snake. My neighbor kept repeating, “Big, big,” and I did finally see it. A full 6-feet long, shining black with its head a good 4-5 inches off the ground. A beautiful black snake. So I told her, “Good snake, eat many bad snake, many mice,” and gave a thumbs-up which she may or may not know means ok. She looked doubtful so I repeated my accolade of this creature as it stayed still on my lawn, gleaming in the sun as though listening to somebody actually praising it. I told my neighbor it was ok, I was happy about the snake so, relieved, she said “Bye,” and went back to her house.
I walked over to the snake which eyed me cautiously as it slithered slowly toward a juniper bush, maybe 3 inches of its slender tail exposed which I leaned over and gently touched. With a loud rustle through the leaves it disappeared.
I hope and trust to clear my yard of the hundreds of moles that have aerated it this entire summer.