Sunday, January 23, 2011

Rand opened the cabin door and spied Julia up on the center of the table, skirt hiked up in her hand, a shapely pair of ankles distracting him from what she was saying.
"Snake!" she whispered, pointing with her shaking free hand to a darkened corner of the cabin.
Rand dropped his bag and fetched the lamp and the broom. When he raised the lamp and peered into the corner, there was a faint susurrus--a sound like sand falling on the floor. He looked closer, set down the lamp and broom and said, "C'mon outta there, fella." He crouched down and waved his fingers in front of the snake, and when it coiled to leap he grabbed it behind its head. The snake wrapped itself around his arm and gave it a good squeeze, but Rand didn't let go of the snake's head.
He straightened and turned to Julia, the snake clinging to his arm, tongue darting in and out in agitation.
"This ain't nothin' but a corn snake, darlin'. He's likely more scared of you than you are of him." He held the snake up, admiring the red, gold, and brown stripes and chevrons patterning the reptile's body as the snake squirmed in Rand's grasp. "This is a frisky one, too. Bet he could help with those rats in the corn field. C'mon, fella, let's put you to work out back."

--Smuggler's Bride, Darlene Marshall

I blogged about finding lizards in my house and some of you wrote me and said, "Euwwww!  How can you live with lizards?"

In Florida, you learn that not all critters that live outdoors and sometimes come indoors are pests.  I leave spiders alone, because they kill and eat other, more invasive insects.  Same with the little lizards.  Finding the lizards where I feared I would find mice put my mind at ease.  Mice are detrimental--they chew up wiring and carry disease.  Lizards eat insects and don't chew up wiring.

Then there are the snakes.  Not all snakes 'round here are evil.  Some, like the corn snakes (also known as rat snakes) eat rodents.  Last week there was a beautiful black racer snake sunning itself in my backyard and I was glad to see it.  They too love to snack on mice and rats.

I learned a great deal about Florida wildlife, including how to cook a possum, while writing Smuggler's Bride.  I still describe it to people as my "Cracker novel" since it's set in the backwoods, and not along the coast or on the water like my other novels.  I don't know if I'll ever write another ode to Florida quite like that book, but when I see a helpful snake in the backyard it reminds me of the fun I had researching Smuggler's Bride.   It's also a good reminder to whack the woodpile before you fetch your firewood on these cold winter nights, because you just don't know what might have taken up residence out there when you weren't looking.

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