Posted by: deadmousediaries | July 8, 2012

News from the Path Valley Hotel, Episode #11 – a Narrow Fellow in the Trash

Note to self: we need a better trash can here,  one with a lid.

As we gained momentum on this reclamation project we’ve jokingly named the Path Valley Hotel, I had the forethought to buy a new toilet brush, beer mugs, and a wooden spoon. I had even grabbed an old bird feeder from home, along with my favorite George Winston CDs and a box of sterile, adhesive bandages. (You can’t call them Band-Aids in a blog).

But somehow I had forgotten that we would be needing a trash can at the cabin.

It didn’t take me long to remember that big black ants will take the bus in from Schenectady if they think there is a promise of a little bacon grease on a discarded paper towel inside the house.  Outside, I’m not sure if the first marauder was a possum or a racoon but something rooted through our aromatic remains the very first night we set out the trash. As I was picking up our garbage all over again,  I did make a mental note to avoid setting out any bagged trash in the evening.  That needs editing: no bagged trash outside, period.

When I walked out the back porch door Thursday morning, I found a narrow fellow lying in a loose coil on my trash wearing a look of satisfaction and a blob of Grey Poupon on his face. If you don’t remember or have never read Emily Dickinson’s Narrow Fellow in the Grass, Google it because you’ve missed out on some beautiful descriptions of what it is like to be surprised by the presence of a snake.

My snake was of the  stripped and yellow garter variety  and he was hard to miss: colorful, handsome and horizontally tall for his species. Although I’m  sure he was actually doing me a service by waiting for any food-to-go that might scurry by, I already had a cat under contract to do that kind of work (and was paying prevailing wage).

I’ve annoyed a lot of garter snakes in my lifetime and while they are non-venomous, they are far more aggressive than black snakes and don’t like it when you get handsy.  They also emit some foul-smelling something when they feel threatened and once you’ve smelled it, you don’t need to smell it again. Furthermore, I knew that if any of my VIP hotel guests (a.k.a. Mom) ran across him unprepared, a life-changing event would occur on the spot. Those were three  good-enough reasons for me to want to know if his internal GPS system was dictating a right turn, hard left or ahead three more feet.  I  knew I couldn’t walk away without knowing where he’d be next.

A stare-down ensued but he blinked first and had to crawl inside the trash bag, leaving only his head and a few inches of his stripped neck visible. I moved toward him;  he retreated further into the bag just as I had hoped (which is good because I was out of clean underwear). I closed the bag with a couple of quick twists and laid a brick on the end which was much like putting a bread twisty on Hannibal Lecter’s cell. But it worked.

I extricated my mother without mention and escorted her safely past a live snake without incident.  I came back a few hours later to see the shape of him wriggling in the bottom of  the trash bag.  We have one strict rule at the Path Valley hotel: Don’t invite bad juju. So I knew I had to release him (and of course I waited for my son to come home first to admire my capture technique).  We moved into the center of the driveway and he opened the bag and nudged the bottom with his foot. Nothing. He shook the bag gently, nudged it again, but there was still no sign the snake was making his break.  I began removing the contents of the trash bag bit by bit: the egg shells, the baked bean can, the banana peels. When the bag stopped wriggling, I was no longer sure I wasn’t going to come up with a handful of garter snake and that prompted a dump and jump. All of the trash – disgusting paper towels and all –tumbled onto the driveway but the snake did make his getaway into the raspberry bushes, a whip-lash unbraiding in the sun as Emily D. described it.

I’d like to think that a few hours spent tied up in the heat with a load of stinking garbage might have sent him a not-welcome signal but who knows.  Maybe to him it was fine dining at the hotel’s AYCE buffet. All I know for sure is that a narrow fellow in my trash caused me to have pick up all that same garbage again but I was rewarded with another episode for News from the Path Valley Hotel.

Copyright 2012. Mitchell Kyd. All rights reserved.



  1. If I saw that snake, I’d be in the car so fast you couldn’t even smell the fumes as I was leaving…….I am so not an outdoors person. LOL!!

  2. You made me giggle this morning. Love the line about putting a twist tie on Hannabel’s cage. You had me cracking up!!!!!!

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