If you've read this blog for any long period, you know of my snake phobia. I hate them, but since I hate rodents more, I don't kill the snakes. Well at least not the non-poisonous ones and I have yet to run across a poisonous snake in my yard, although I'm sure there are plenty of Copperheads and Rattlesnakes in the vicinity. Thankfully for my mental stability, I most often find either rat snakes or these pretty orange-black-yellow Common Garters. This guy is likely an old one. Wikipedia lists their maximum length as around 54 inches and although he didn't stand still for measurement, he was at least 48 inches nose to tail. Based on my reading, he may be a Kansas record, but now I'll never know.
As I've noted before, frequent noxious exposure has conditioned me to moderate my response to the sight of a snake and I was calm and collected as I spotted the snake and got the clear picture above. As I went in for a closer shot of the head, however, the snake moved with ninja-like reptilian swiftness and I found myself looking at a coiled, ready to strike, four foot long snake from about 2 feet away. Mildly startled, I produced this moderately blurry image from an elevated position of spontaneous levitation. The snake was not moving, but I certainly was. Or perhaps the image is just blurred from my heart rate, which went from 60 to 200 faster than an Indy 500 race car. My primitive brainstem doesn't seem to care that my highly evolved human cerebral cortex knows this snake is nonpoisonous.
Discretion being the better part of valor, I chose at that point to stand still and watch from about 10 feet away while the snake uncoiled and swiftly slithered across the yard and disappeared into the irises, leaving me panting, and at the same time, a little sad. I had great hopes for the irises this year, but now they'll just have to survive summer as best they can on their own.