Monday, June 4, 2012

End of Season Sunbathing

End of Season Sunbathing

I remember in college waiting for that first warm day of spring.  My friends and I would cruise to a nearby lake to unveil winter-white bodies under blasting rays of pre-summer sun.  It felt so good to lay our bathing-suit-clad bodies on an old quilt, where vitamin D mixed with UV rays coursed through our sun-starved carcasses.   The rocks beneath our quilt released stored solar energy into our spines at the same time our faces and bellies soaked up sun from above.  As much joy as we got from those first days of sun in the spring, none of us sought the last days of October warmth. 

I wonder why now, after spending the past few days counting snakes by the scads catching the last rays of summer.  These reptiles toast themselves on white caliche roads or on the sun-absorbing asphalt of  Interstate 70.  We  often see snakes crossing our roads, but never in the numbers I see in mid-October when night temps drop into the upper 30s and lower 40s.  These cold-blooded guys use solar collecting roadways to warm themselves before they search for  their daily meal.

Lately, these long, skinny fellows have been very evident. Three nights ago, our terrier and I were walking around the quarter when we accosted a slow-moving racer lying in the evening sun.  He must have felt the  vibrations of our tromping feet as we walked up on his nap.  However, he didn’t get out of the way.  He didn’t lift his head, although he did blink. He apparently needed a few more degrees of heat to build energy to move.

One slow moving bull snake didn’t make it out of the way of a car passing by.  His carcass fed a hungry turkey vulture in the drive way for the next two days.  That’s certainly one way to convert solar energy. Yesterday, a very young bull snake (he wasn’t big enough to eat a mouse) lethargically lay across my path as I walked to our mailbox.  Once again, he didn’t seem alarmed to see me or the dog.  Earlier, on a trip to town, I saw six snakes either sunbathing on the Interstate or squashed  on the shoulder of the road. 

That brings to mind another thought.  We try to live in harmony with reptile neighbors.  That doesn’t mean a rattlesnake in the yard or any snake in the kitchen is safe, but it does mean we know how valuable bull snakes, racers, ringnecks, and other snakes are in terms of rodent and insect control.   We accept reptiles on the front porch as temporary visitors or we move them into the pasture if they are a nuisance.  After all, they just want to catch some rays as I did in my youth.


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