"Did you hear about the rattlesnake?," said Raul, our maintenance man. "No!", I said, wondering if this was the opening line of a joke. He continued, "It was up between two condos, and the guy in one of them shot it and put it in the dumpster". I waited for the punchline. "I took it out of the dumpster, here!" As he showed me the picture of the more-than-a-yard long creature, that this was not a joke, and the hot weather had caused the reptile to depart its usual habitat, and seek whatever it was it was seeking. "Be careful by the pool!" Raul warned. With my limited knowledge of reptiles, I continued to question. "But...don't they just come out at night?" Raul paused, and then said, "If you walk at dusk, take a flashlight, and don't walk in the grass, and if you see one.....". He left the sentence unfinished, and shrugged his shoulders. "Oh, you will know if I see one", I said, "You will hear the screams".
As we approached the pool, I commented to Samantha that the snakes could not come into the pool area, as they did not have the code. She looked at me with one of her looks, and said, "Well then, you have nothing to worry about!" I then started to panic. "What if one falls from the trees?" I asked. "Then you can scream, and Raul will come running!" was her flippant answer!
Needless to say, I did not spot a rattlesnake, nor any other kind of reptile, and on my way back to the condo, called to Raul that I had surveilled the area and all was clear.
"After thirteen years of living in Texas, I am still finding 'firsts'", I commented to my mother, the following day. Finding the rattlesnake so near to my condo was a little disconcerting, but I had been aware of their existence in the neighbourhood. After all it is their territory. Having a neighbour, quite nonchalantly, announce that he had got his gun and shot it, and then just threw it in the dustbin as if this was an everyday occurrence, was almost amusing. My mum was quite concerned as to the fact that such a venomous creature was within the vicinity. I did try to convince her that this was their natural habitat and that we were really trespassing on their land, but I did not do a very good job!
It did make me a little more vigilant when coming and going to the car. I was not as concerned about my safety, (which surprised me more than anyone,) but that of our little feathered friends, who were now getting to be quite large, and very vocal. Sitting up in their nest, they were calling to their parents for food quite prolifically.
We were experiencing a very busy week, again, at work, and Dana had actually commented on perhaps needing to take on another member of staff. I was wondering how this fell into the plans of reducing the business and retiring, but did not mention it to him! All I needed for him to do, for the immediate future, was to make sure he was caught up enough to join our 'Third Thursday' soiree, which we were going to 'do' by the pool! Since one of our original 'hosts', and (as we call) founder of the two year old group, has sadly been hospitalised, we have failed to keep regularity, but I had chatted with two other neighbours a couple of weeks ago, and we had decide to make a June date! Dana promised he would be poolside by seven, and I was satisfied!
Having lived in Texas for thirteen years, I would have thought that some things would have become obvious, to wit, creamy desserts do not work in ninety degree temperatures. As I was on 'pudding' duty, I had made up my mind as to what I was going to cook, and completely disregarded this thought. With six egg whites in my fridge, I whipped up two dozen meringue cases, and then set to making a trifle. The number of attendees was not definite and although I knew my neighbour's chicken dish would probably feed the whole community (we are like minded when it comes to preparing food!) I decided that I should probably make a quiche, for good measure!
Upon my return from the office on Thursday evening, I went for a swim, as I had done the previous evening. It is the perfect time of year to swim between five and six. After a quick dip, I returned home and filled the meringue cases with cream and strawberries, then looked at my ice box and sighed. It was not going to work! Suddenly, I experienced a 'eureka' moment. Up the stairs I ran, and retrieved from the spare room a set of plastic draws. Lining the draws with 'ice pops', and a couple of freezer bags of ice cubes, I laid an aluminium tray atop, and then put some silver foil into the tray. I then placed the meringues on the tray and closed the draw! I was amazed at my own ingenuity. Genius! I had made a perfect ice chest for my desserts. Now for the trifle! This was not as clever. I simply placed the bowl in another bowl of ice and put the double bowled dish into a cake box. Finally, I put everything into a large storage box, loaded up my car, and then drove to the pool.
We discussed local events; Dana told stories of our birds, and we discussed the wild life around our beautiful community. We were a final group of fourteen, which dropped by a couple by the time we had finished eating the feast to which everyone had contributed. Then someone mentioned the rattlesnake! Apparently, a couple of years ago, one had been found in a garage! It had been shooed away, but it was not particularly encouraging! A baby had been found in another patio area, "and if there is one baby, well", and the group, excluding me, said in unison, "There will be more!" The paranoia was starting to settle, and I was suddenly very aware of my desert surroundings! Talk about how best to deal with the reptiles perused, and deterrents were discussed. Apparently, the urine of a King Cobra is a very good deterrent. Where can we find such a substance? "Oh I have some in my garage", said one neighbour, "I keep it there just in case we need it". After thirteen years in Texas, I am still not used to their sense of humour! Why wouldn't she keep such an item in reserve. After all, if one of my neighbours, nonchalantly goes into his house to get his gun to shoot a rattlesnake, why would I be surprised that Walmart would sell such a product! For a split second, I felt relief. For a split second, no one laughed! Then my sense of security was shattered and I was back to square one! Screaming for Raul was my only option!
The party came to an end around nine thirty, and the file boxes, despite my constant referral, had not been opened. Someone said, "Can I take a meringue with me", and someone else said, "Meringues? Where?" Within a couple of minutes, the spoils had been divided, and I was left, quite happily so, with empty file boxes. No one had quite understood why someone had brought a filing cabinet to the pool, but my ingenuity was praised to my further delight! I always feel as if I have pulled of a coup when I impress the natives!
Before packing away my empty boxes, into the larger one, I turned on the flashlight on my phone, and checked all receptacles for insects, arachnids and the like. I did not want to find anything untoward in my house, or my car. Although the laughter was loud, it was not very long, as everyone started to check their receptacles! I took the box to the car, refused to place it on the grass while I opened the door, and struggled to get it onto the passenger seat. After bidding all farewell, I drove back home and crept in to my house, so as not to wake the sleeping birds.
Friday finally arrived and the birds were looking up over the top of their nest when Samantha arrived. She had brought her camera and tripod, in order to video the days action. However, the battery was not charged, and the length of time left was about thirty minutes. Once again, I marveled at the difference in my life. My daughter, quite naturally setting up her equipment to capture nature at its best. Up until now, for me, this had been confined to those folks on the television!
We returned at lunchtime to the nest empty! The birds had flown the coop! Samantha checked the camera and we watched the film. There as little activity until the last few seconds, where it looked as if one of the birds was just about to take flight. Unfortunately, the battery expired at that very time. We were rather sad, and went down to the pool for a swim. No snakes were present! The message about the pool code had obviously 'got out'!
Upon our return to the condo, we mournfully looked around the empty area. "Look!" came a loud whisper, and I looked. There, under the table, perched on an empty basked, atop a few flower pots, sat a baby bird. Then we saw a second in the corner. They were still there! The parents were hovering and we realised that they had not quite left the nest!
Samantha did some research that afternoon, and it appears that when the birds leave the nest, they find somewhere to 'hide', and then continue to learn to fly, before going to a new nest which the mother has built; a larger nest to fit the whole family with ease, and one where they can grow and become stronger, before finally finding a family of their own!
By the time I returned home, it was obvious that our 'sun room' was 'out of bounds' for humans. I scanned the area a couple of times for predators, such as unwanted reptiles, but saw that the parents of our babies were quite vigilant. I had left the office before Dana and told him to call me when he was finished, so I could come back and collect him and the dog! Edward and Samantha were attending a birthday bash and were going to be gone for about four hours. The plan was to collect Frank around ten, and take him home!
After a swim and a short read of my new book, I returned to check on my family, and then prepared dinner. At around eight, I received a call from Dana. "Where is my car?" he asked, quite concerned. "Did you move it somewhere?" I often wonder if he listens to me at all. I told him that I had to use it to get home! A sound of relief came into his voice, when he asked if I could come and get him, and the dog! We parked in the sun room, and crept into the back of our house. I was finally able to return my small step ladder to its home, as it had been kept by the back door, for instant access to pee into the nest.
I messaged Samantha to warn her to take care when she returned, as the birds were hopping recklessly over the sun room, but we then decided to keep the dog, as her return at anything past 10:30 would cause us to have to be woken from sleep. After a week of very late nights, we were exhausted and could not keep awake much past 10!
The sun was shining quite brightly upon the floor of my sun room on Saturday morning, and I stepped out to see check on one of the little ones, as it flew into the glass and then dropped to the floor. Stunned but not hurt, it continued to flap and hop across the floor and finally stopped in the safety of a corner. I stood for less than a couple of seconds before the birth parents came down to circle my head. I ducked back inside for safety. Dana left the house on Saturday morning, through the front door, something which we rarely do, due to our cars being at the back. Samantha set up her camera again, and we watched as the birds hopped and flew, flew and hopped. We, too, left by the front door, and went shopping.
I did not look for King Cobra urine, nor any other deterrent for rattle snakes, as I decided not to act paranoid, despite feeling paranoid! The likelihood of finding more than one reptile was also unlikely, as although I doubt the slaying of one of their own would have spread like wildfire through the rattlesnake population, apparently, there is never more than one sighting a year. I do understand that this simply means that there may be others, but it is good enough for me! Upon our return, and a trek up the stairs with all our shopping, we saw one of the birds had made it to the top of the fence, and was making its way to next door's car port!
The pool was busy enough to make an appearance by any self respecting reptile a non-happening thaing and I sat and read, and dozed, after swimming several laps.. My daughter floated on a rather large contraption resembling a cow! I chatted with a couple of neighbours who had heard about the snake, but not about the birds, and I eagerly told them my story! I saw my next door neighbour and asked her to be vigilant when driving in and out of her car port, as I was not sure whether this would become a new temporary home!
After we returned from dinner on Saturday evening, Dana and I were a little sad. We missed the birds. He looked at me and said, "You know what this means, don't you?" I did not. "We are experiencing, quite literally, empty nest syndrome!" We were indeed!
Father's day came around and Dana and I went out for breakfast. Upon our return, we saw one of the birds fly in over the fence and settle on the table. It was accompanied by its parents, and I felt it was reminiscent of Elsa, the lioness, coming to see Joy Adamson, in the story, Born Free. Of course, it was probably a case of, "What are you doing going back in there. We are watching you!", but I have my dreams!
Born free, the birds most certainly are, as are the rattlesnakes, and despite my dislike of all things reptile, they were probably here first! I shall continue to enjoy all my 'firsts', although perhaps, 'enjoy' is not necessarily the appropriate verb. It is still, however, a wonder to me that I can still be amazed or shocked at my surroundings. A happy father's day to one and all, which of course includes snakes, arachnids, birds and beasts, who presumably do not celebrate any day over another. The summer solstice is upon us and next week will see the nights 'drawing in', little by little. What a sobering thought! I shall, of course, be continuing to march along with .......... another story!