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Random Thoughts About Reptiles

I had something strange happen at the house a few days ago. When I opened up the door leading into the dog yard, I heard some sort of insects chirping. It was at night and this isn’t that unusual, but I realized that this was the wrong time of year to be hearing this. It was in the mid-twenties outside and way too cold for any insect to sing, yet there they were.

Snakes are one of many reptiles the author has encountered.

Today I still wonder what those sounds were. The next evening when I went out, there was no sign of the chirping, nor have I heard it since. Could it have been some sort of insect, like a katydid? This is very unlikely. Those insects can’t take temperatures below freezing. Could it have been some sort of motor that just happened to sound like insects? That’s entirely possible, though, if it is, it’s a motor I’ve never heard before in this neighborhood.

Could it have been some sort other animal? Maybe the lizards were singing, someone joked. But lizards don’t sing. The only noise I’ve heard a lizard make involves something it disturbed while moving. Most reptiles that I know of are silent, or only capable of hissing noises. They don’t have vocal chords, at least not like mammals have them.

I remember one reptile who made a noise. It was near the same dog run where the chirping was happening the other night. I was outside with Mom and the dogs and we were exploring a wood pile that had formed near the yard. Suddenly Reedy, my German shorthaired pointer, spotted something between the wood pile and the fence, which he promptly stomped on. The thing issued a rattlesnake-like hiss, prompting my sixty-year-old mother to leap over the woodpile like a hurdle runner. It was probably the most athletic feat I’d ever seen her accomplish.

I finally saw what made all the commotion. It was a rather grumpy gopher snake who took exception to being stomped on by a dog. It had curled up into a coil and was rattling its tail just like a rattlesnake, but you could tell there were no rattles. It wasn’t until I explained this to Mom that she calmed down. We took our dogs to a rattlesnake training class after that.

Mom was always terrified of snakes, though I’m not sure why. She always claimed it’s a natural instinct of humans to be afraid of snakes, going back to her anthropology major.

To be honest, that major always pissed me off. It was very sexist in the time she took her classes. According to the men who taught anthropology in those days, women couldn’t run because their hips were built for childbearing. It seemed everything involving women in their eyes had to do with child-rearing and there were strict male and female roles, and Mom parroted it all obediently. I imagine when I showed up with my agender status, it was hard for her to comprehend. This was something her anthropology education hadn’t prepared her for.

This is despite the fact that certain Native American societies have different gender roles besides male and female. I know of one nation who has five gender roles. There is always the concept of the two-spirit. Yeah, there’s a lot of things in Native American cultures that don’t involve strict male and female, but that wasn’t taught in her time. It wasn’t even comprehended.

I have to give Mom credit, though. She struggled with the whole thing after I came about, but she eventually learned to accept it. It took her several years, but she did it. I’m not sure I could say the same thing for the sixties anthropologists that taught her.

But we’re not talking about anthropology or sexism. This article is about reptiles. I think another reason for her fear of snakes was the fact that she spent part of her childhood afraid of them. She lived in a neighborhood that got overrun by rattlesnakes. They were everywhere, even getting into people’s houses. The outbreak stopped only when a rich man’s son got bitten and he went out and bought a whole mess of king snakes, which he released into the neighborhood. There were no rattlesnakes after that.

It seems funny to me that Mom later moved into a neighborhood where rattlesnakes were frequent again. When we lived in Dallesport, they were everywhere. I went out for a walk once and found one curled up among the strawberries I planted in a rock wall. One of our dogs got bitten, but thankfully got the treatment in time. I was very glad to leave that neighborhood.

I live in the Nevada desert, where rattlesnakes are possible, but so far I haven’t seen any. The snakes I see are the gopher snakes, and they are mean! One summer evening I was watching TV when I heard a weird hissing noise in the dog yard. I went out to discover that our three cats had cornered a snake in the bushes and it was very angry. I chased the cats away and tried to shoo the snake out of the yard, but it took exception to me and promptly chased me with a snap of its jaws. I don’t think it ever intended to bite me, but it was going to call me an asshole either way.

The snakes don’t like our cats. One day, Meelet caught a baby gopher snake and brought it alive into the house. I managed to encourage it to sit on a flat point shovel while I carried it outside. It just sat there calmly, flicking its tongue in and out, and waiting until I gently set it down on the cement in the dog yard. Then it hissed viciously at me and ran away.

Another time, I was in the storage building on my property when I felt a strange tickling sensation on my ankle. I looked down to see a very mild-mannered gopher snake just checking me out with his tongue. We stared at each other for a minute or two, and then the snake just went on his way. It was one of my only encounters with a gopher snake where it didn’t cop an attitude.

I think my favorite reptiles are alligators. I lived for five years in Florida, where alligators are famous and prominent. It’s hard to believe they were almost hunted to extinction at one point, because they are everywhere down there. We lived near a lake and every time we drove past, I could see at least one gator floating on the surface of the water like a dead log.

My favorite time of year with the alligators was April, which was mating season for them. The third house I lived in down in Florida was situated near a creek and swamp area. My family knew there were alligators down there, but they only made themselves known in the spring, when the bull gators would sound off with their loud rumbles.

I remember one time I was camping in the back yard. It was an eerie night. The crickets and frogs weren’t even singing that night, probably because of the noise of the alligators. You could hear them down in the creek bottoms, roaring like lions. I’ve heard that the sound of a bull alligator can be heard up to a mile away, and that the roars vibrate the water like rainfall. It’s awesome!

One guy down in Florida even has a pet alligator. He rescued it as a little baby after its mother was killed. (Alligator mothers raise their young, which is rare for reptiles.) The alligator follows him around like a dog and even walks on a leash. He spoils it rotten, too.

I know a lot of reptile owners who treat their pets the same way the rest of the world treats dogs and cats. One owner I know has even made a bed for her bearded dragon. Their reptiles are treated like kings and queens, as they should be. Just because an animal does not have fur does not mean it should be treated any differently. I admire all reptile owners who go the extra mile for their scaly family members.

All reptiles are amazing creatures. Did you know that some of them are capable of changing their sex? This is something that as an agender person I can relate to. Both reptiles and amphibians have this ability and it is very interesting. It just goes to show that the male and female only mindset of the God of Abraham religions and some Wiccans is not a really balanced view. Ever God doesn’t subscribe to it, as evidenced by these creatures.

Was this blog post about reptiles or gender roles? It’s really hard to tell at this point. I pick a topic to write about and wherever my mind takes it, that’s what you get. I hope you found this discussion as interesting as my nerdy self does. It’s all part of being a random weirdo.

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