We live down a quiet little private lane along with two other residents
"Whack" means "to prune."
I hate snakes. I don't even like the useful ones, like blacksnakes, who supposedly eat rodents, copperheads (folklore, I believe), and ATF employees because the main purpose for all snakes is this - scare the bejeezus out of me the instant I see one. I don't want to see one, but I am ever vigilant that there is a snake somewhere just waiting to jump out at me and say, "Aha!" at which point, as soon as my heart starts beating again, I go get a shovel, hoe, or gatling gun to KILL IT. But by then it is usually gone, blogging to other snakes about what fun it was to make me wet my pants. I hate snakes. So, when my long-suffering wife, Lisa, came in the house to tell me there was a snake in her little vegetable garden (one of only two manmade creations visible from outer space the other being The Great Wall of China), I asked, "Do you want me to kill it?" she replied, "No, I want you help me to free it."
A simple, non-assuming, modest rat snake, about 3-4 feet long, had gotten itself entangled in a roll of mesh Lisa uses to cover our blueberry bushes to keep the local birds from ripping us off when the berries are ripe. The poor snakey-wakey was twapped and couldn't get fwee! I told Lisa I'd go get a shovel and put it out of its misery. I mean, it was a freaking snake, not a bunny wabbit.
My wife, The Snake Whisperer, prevailed. While I used a long stick to pin the snakes little noggin, Lisa took a pair of clippers and snipped away at the mesh, holding the snake by its tail as she did so. Finished, she let go and I let go and the snake slithered away, no doubt giggling about more opportunities to sneak back and surprise me.
I hate snakes.
My long-suffering wife has a wonderful garden that keeps us supplied with fresh veggies for months and months, not to mention blueberries and figs. She does the raised beds thing, and thoroughly enjoys getting dirt under her fingernails and bringing baby plants along and into production. Recently we made a trip to Home Depot with the plan to buy a hose to be used when watering the garden. But one does not go with my LSW to a garden store to buy one thing. It can't be done. It's like me in a used book store - can't buy just one book. So I tagged along and watched as my bride picked out one of these and a couple of those and, oh!, need that as well. It was fun. I like to look at pretty flowers and she likes to acquire purchases that make gardening more productive. So, that "one thing" grew almost as fast as the federal government. When we checked out, we had picked up a heavy duty hose, a cone sprayer for the hose, a heavy duty nozzle, a bag of natural plant mix, two bags of pine nuggets mulch, a 175' capacity hose reel cart, a lavender plant, a calypso plant, and another plant I can't identify. It was bright yellow. She was thrilled with her purchases. I was thrilled with mine - a large Diet Coke.
This morning, I dropped in, alone, at a used book store, landing to purchase just one book. I have no further comment.
Yesterday I was watering the garden. This is something my long-suffering wife usually does since she's the one with the green thumb that leads to a bumper crop of fresh vegetables. But she wasn't available and had asked me to do it because, as of two days ago, I'm off for the summer. So out I went, soft-soaking the raised beds she has put in place. Then something happened that surprised me - not the actual thing, but my reaction. First, let me say that I hate snakes. I loathe snakes. I want to kill snakes whenever I see one. And I saw one. But this snake was different. First, it disappeared so fast I didn't have time to be shocked or ready to kill. Second, it was a black snake and it was, well, I mean, um, beautiful. I did not recoil in fear or disgust. I just watched for the couple of seconds it took to leave the garden and head for the underbrush. This snake was so black and swift it was like a stream of ink poured out before me. And then gone. It was a pleasure to see. And I did not go "Zero at the bone" as Emily Dickinson wrote upon seeing a snake. Fact is, I enjoyed the experience. Sometimes I surprise myself.
My wife, beautiful and brainy, almost always makes wise decisions. I say “almost” because her discernment escaped once briefly when I proposed marriage, she agreed, I instantly offered a diamond ring, and she slid it on her finger, sealing her commitment to marry me forever.
In the years since, the word “commitment” periodically leaps into her mind, inevitably paired with “John.” As it is with others; “damn” with “Yankee,” or “cruel” with “stepmother.” Part of my commitment to her was the genial acceptance of “honey-do’s.” For the uninitiated, a “honey-do” presents a gentle request from the fairer sex (Lisa) to the cruder sex (moi) to accomplish some simple task that will enhance connubial bliss.
A while back, a particular honey-do seemed simple – acquire a truckload of (FREE!) mulch from the city landfill to be used for establishing beds for a well-planned, lovely, privacy-providing plant-and-flower garden off our sun room. No sweat. Happy to comply.
I reserved an open day in early August to acquire and distribute the (FREE!) mulch while Lisa would be in meetings at her high school. When she came home I would surprise her with a completed love offering. Suspecting vigorous labor ahead, I ate a big breakfast. After Lisa left, I rested, waiting for the landfill to open. When I did stride out to my truck, I noticed that it seemed unusually hot for so early in the morning.
Being one who continues to woo his wife, I shrugged off the heat and hustled off to the county landfill. Heat or no heat, a honey-do is a honey-do. I joined a line of trucks and patiently waited with the radio on and the air conditioner thrumming coolness into the cab. The man on the radio said, “Hoo-boy, but it’s gonna be a hot one! Maybe a record high!” Then it was my turn to acquire the (FREE!) mulch.
Almost immediately there was a mistake. The man operating the front-end loader mistook me for a Ford 350 and dumped approximately six metric tons of (FREE!) mulch into the bed of our little Nissan Frontier. When the front wheels settled back down to earth, I eased away from the landfill and skated home with the a/c on high and the radio off.
Safely home, I unloaded (FREE!) mulch, interestingly, hot to the touch, so hot it exuded steam in (I learned later) 97-, then 98-degree heat. I whistled while I worked, pleasantly productive, shoveling out the back end of the truck. Delighted to be useful, pleased to be needed, I labored on for the next five hours, pausing more and more frequently to make sure I completed my task professionally, and to make the dizziness go away.
When I finished, I tottered to the truck and parked it out in front of the condo, slithered up the steps, and plunged myself into the air-conditioned interior of our residence.
Lisa was surprised, pleased, entranced with my efforts to help nudge her dream garden along. She flashed mild alarm when she was forced to feed me at dinner because I could not raise my hands, but I fully recovered in forty-eight hours.
The next step waited coyly around the corner, peeking at me, beckoning with a delicate, feminine finger, innocently imploring me to acquire another load of vital material to feed future fragile flowers and bountiful bushes.