Almanac

Community - May 29, 2013

In Woodside: Not the usual country weekend

by Marie Wagner Krenz

For 95 years members of my family have spent summers and Sundays in our Woodside house, but we've never had a weekend quite like the last one.

My sister-in-law Eileen and I had dinner on Saturday night at a local restaurant. We had made it early because my two grandchildren were coming later to spend the night. About 6:30 I went into the living room to leave my handbag on my chair and to put on welcoming lamps for the children. I left the room for a moment to check the refrigerator in the kitchen, then returned to the living room.

I could not believe what my eyes were telling me. Lying on a small rug by the front door and right next to my chair was the largest snake I had ever seen. As horrifying as he looked, I was fairly certain it was not a rattler, but I did not waste time on identification.

I ran outside to summon my sister-in-law but she was deep in conversation on her cellphone and just gave me a happy wave. I tore back into the house to be sure of what I had seen minutes before, but a problem had arisen. The snake had disappeared as quickly as he had come.

It was bad enough to have a snake you could see, but to have one slithering around unseen was far worse. I knew he had to be hiding nearby, and that was truly frightening.

I dashed to the telephone to call the fire department, assuring them this was not a fire kind of emergency, but that we had a huge snake in the house and needed help ejecting him. Five minutes later a big red truck drove into the yard with three young men. One walked into the house with his companions but refused to go into the living room. He said that snakes scared him to death.

The firemen, all three this time, went over the entire house, searching for our unwanted guest. They went to every room, checked under every chair, every bed, and looked into every closet. No snake. They left then but told us to call if he reappeared.

The children arrived and were happy to spend the night on our sleeping porch, a place where I had slept during my childhood. I asked if they wanted me with them, and they seemed to like the idea. I didn't tell them, of course, that I was afraid to sleep in my own room by myself.

There was no sign of the serpent until about three o'clock Sunday afternoon when a scream shattered the peace of our day. My sister-in-law was about to open the kitchen door when she looked down and saw the snake, looking exactly as I had described him.

A nephew visiting that day was experienced with snakes and knew how to pick him up. We all escorted the young man and his onerous burden into the forest across from our house. There, my nephew put him down in the freedom of the great outdoors. We warned that snake not to come back.

It was a gopher snake between 4 and a half and 5 feet long and as thick as my wrist. And that creature had been lying by my chair.

About the author: Marie Krenz is a freelance writer from Orinda who spends weekends at her family home in Woodside.

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