Sunday, May 24, 2009

All The Gear... All The Time!

It was hotter than blazes the other day when I came roaring into the driveway. The BMW K75 was running like I had stolen it from one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and I didn’t feel compelled to rein her in as I approached the garage. With utter confidence in modern electronics, I triggered the automatic garage door opener and gave “Fireballs” an additional burst of gas as I hit the incline of the driveway. The gentle reader will imagine my surprise when I crested the hill and found the garage door in the final stages of going down.

It took some fancy braking action on my part to avoid catastrophe.

The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse -- Dick Bregstein, Pete Buchheit, Clyde Jacobs, and myself. According to sources, the four horsemen represent jock itch, the clap, cheap whiskey, and blog writers who have the opportunity to malign the others with impunity.

(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia -- Ckick to enlarge)

“I wondered if there would be a chance that you would come careening up the driveway at this very moment,” said Leslie (Stiffie), my squeeze. She had been herding snakes out of the garage, and had both doors up, when I sent the signal to the motorcycle bay portal. Naturally, my action closed it again. I came to a perfect stop mere inches from having to replace the smaller of the two doors.

“What are you doing out here in the heat,” I asked?

“Trapping snakes. They’re here,” she said, pointing a triangular cardboard sleeve, full of writhing serpent loops. “I did the hard part. You do the rest.” Leslie then retreated to the house like a person fleeing swine flu at a hog callers convention.

I do not deny that life around here is sometimes like watching a Lithuanian movie -- without the subtitles. I was drenched in sweat, perched on the motorcycle in the relative shade of the garage, that was apparently the secret residence of snakes... Snakes that were now caught in a trap that I didn’t know we had, nor needed. The literary term “non sequitur” was coined in anticipation of explanations that I am continually required to go without.

The trap was a simple affair designed to look like a six-inch long cardboard tent, intended to catch and aggravate mice. It is lined with a kind of glue derived from the stuff spiders spray on their webs. It had been placed behind the trash cans in the garage early last winter to discourage the entry of field mice dreading the winter cold. The glue in these traps is not affected by cold, heat, nor the passage of time, apparently. There was about nine inches of snake (in various coils) sticking out of both ends of the little tent. The more active end terminated in a head, which was about the length and diameter of the last joint on my thumb.

The trap was as a simple cardboard affair, folded to look like a tent, smeared with incredibly sticky glue inside.
(Photo courtesy of Victor Mouse Traps Site -- Click to enlarge)

The head glared at me like the attorney who represented my second former wife.

I bent over to assess the situation and the head struck at me three times. Had it been attached to one of those spitting cobras, I suspect I would have been blinded instantly. As it was the killing nature of this viper was restricted by the camping gear attached to it.

“What are you going to do about the snake,” asked Leslie, from the far side of a steel door.

“That depends,” I replied.

“Depends on what,” she asked again, in words that not only lacked confidence but dripped criticism.

“Depends on whether you can get me the right tools,” I said.

“What kind of tools,” she asked, adding exasperation to the criticism and lack of confidence.

“Well, a flute and a basket or a mongoose would come in handy.”

The door opened a crack, exposing a single eye that emitted a look generally achieved by higher grade commercial lasers, or one of the more popular "Terminator" models. “Are you some kind of an idiot,” asked the eye?

I hate it when Leslie gets all philosophical on me.

But she did have an unspoken point. Even if I had a flute, there was no guarantee that I would have been able to play it well enough to force the snake into a basket. A mongoose would preclude the need for a basket, a flute, or flute lessons. Then again, we’d be back to square one if the damn mongoose got caught up in the glue too. What would be the point of solving one problem with another of greater magnitude?

Leslie had kicked the snake tent out of the garage and onto the hot sunny driveway about a half-hour prior to my arrival. I suspected the heat had made that snake good and pissed. I fetched my folding arthritis cane from the the Beemer’s top case and attempted to slide the little tent into a spackle bucket. The snake went after the cane, then withdrew entirely to safety of the glue.

I will say this, all glued-up tight, this tent contraption is the preferred way to carry a snake, sort of like a serpent six-pack. Yet there was not a doubt in my mind that if there was ever a time in which a snake would be tempted to say, “shit,” this would be that historic moment. With the tent and some 10 or 12 snake coils in the bucket, I retreated to the kitchen, where it was about 20 degrees cooler. I moistened my hand with tepid water and let it drip on what coils I could see. I figured this might cool this poor snake off some, while emphasizing that I was trying to help him, as opposed to the tanned lady, who had put the trap down in the first place.

Assuming these were garter snakes, I still proceeded with caution having recently read that the black mamba often hangs around with more harmless reptiles to lure cattle and wildebeasts to certain death.

“I hope you didn’t bring that damn snake into the house,” said Stiffie (Leslie) from a hidden safe room. This time, I opted to say nothing. (There are times when silence is the best gasoline to throw on a fire, as not saying anything leads alpha women to believe they are being ignored. Nothing makes women crazier than to think they are being ignored, especially during a time of crisis, when they are occasionally forced to rely on men they suspect of low cranial capacity.) Since the snake’s head was no longer visible, I carefully unfolded the little tent and gently opened it to a flat card. This set the coils to writhing but to little effect as the end parts with the fangs were set in glue, and glue in an advanced state of cure, I might add.

The younger reptile was obviously a young garter snake like this one, but about twice this size.
(Photo courtesy Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)

The trap revealed not one snake, but two. The larger of the two was better than 4 feet long (my estimate) and had a bulging belly that looked as if it might have been the better mousetrap. While it had the same color configuration of the smaller snake, the colors seemed dustier or faded. I attributed this to age and the current economy. The smaller one was about three feet long, with a head the size of a dime. It appeared to be smiling at me, but then I realized it’s lower jaw was glued to the cardboard.

I tried flexing the cardboard away from the tail of the smaller one but only succeeded in gluing my finger next to the snake. Dissolving the cardboard in tepid water was equally unsuccessful and seem to be regarded as the equivalent of reptile “water-boarding.” The last thing I wanted to do was tear their skin or injure these snakes in any way. A healthy snake population is the best insurance against field mice and other things that try and come into the house. These two had given me the idea of releasing a 26-foot-long anaconda to deal with our aged neighbor's cat, who feels our garage is a delux feline urinal. Since the cat is usually in the old bag's lap, I could see nothing but positives in the scheme.

The second snake was much larger, and had slightly different coloration.
"What the hell," I thought. "A snake is a snake."
(Picture courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)

“Hey Leslie,” I yelled from the kitchen. “Please get on the computer and find out what dissolves this damn glue.” A muffled response detailing the first option had to filter through piles of furniture stacked up against her office door. It was rubbing alcohol. My knowledge of snake skin is limited to cowboy boots, but I was certain that the snakes wouldn’t think much of the rubbing alcohol solution. Then again, maybe they’d absorb it and tie on a good Memorial Day Weekend drunk. The thought of having drunk snakes in the house was another limited appeal idea, however.

“There has to be something else,” I yelled back. "A more natural and harmless substance." It was my thought that some online authority would recommend lighting up a joint and blowing the smoke over the snakes to relax them.

The answer was vegetable oil.

Smearing some vegetable oil on my fingertips, a gentle massage freed approximately six inches of the smaller snake’s tail in about 15 minutes. The novelty of running a massage parlor for reptiles was wearing thin, however, and it occurred to me that a better option might be to bring the snakes to the Oriental Pearl Chinese Restaurant (in town) and see what the cook could do.

Both snakes were really stuck to the card, breathing quickly, and attempting to pull away from the glue. That’s when I got the "great idea." I poured a tablespoonful of the oil over the snakes, smeared the card with it, and then let them do the work. They could flex their skin at whatever rate was more comfortable. Sixty seconds later, the small snake dropped off into the spackle bucket. I would like to report that “Dwight” (which is what I named the smaller one) curled up and awaited release. The frigging snake hit the bottom of the bucket like a coiled spring. He was out and halfway across the kitchen counter in the blink of an eye.

I watched three feet of pissed off greased snake head off toward Leslie’s office like it had a GPS.

Did you ever try to grab a greased snake? I barely had a grip on him, when I felt movement on my other arm. The larger of the two snakes, who I had named "Himmler," had worked his way free and was headed up my elbow to settle an old score.

“Leslie,” I screamed. “Get in here and help me or there will be snakes in every room in this house.”

“I can’t,” she sobbed back. “I just can’t. You’ll have to do the best you can and maybe die trying.”

This was from a woman who has swatted bats with her fly fishing rod, standing in the Beaverkill at dusk. This was from a woman who calmly reloaded a shotgun rather than be intimidated by coyotes into dropping her day's take of pheasants. (Leslie owns a custom-fitted Beretta shotgun.) This was from the woman who tracked down a scorpion released into the house, and then confronted the kid who released it with the squirming poisonous creature. This from a woman who in every way personifies the tenets of the Hemingway Heroine. (Even more amazing, I used to call Leslie my "snake charmer," as a kind of pet name. When we first met, I thought she was the spitting image of Selma Hayek, doing the snake dance -- seen here in the link -- in the cult classic "From Dusk Till Dawn," which may be the best Quentin Tarentino flick ever made.)

“I can’t stand snakes,” she sobbed. “Sorry.” I could hear her piling more furniture against the door.

If I ever fail as a writer, I know I have potential as a greased snake juggler. I got both snakes in the bucket, got the bucket out into the driveway, and released the two reptiles into the neighbor’s yard, where this elderly blight was sleeping in a chair not 20 feet away.

“Make me proud boys,” I whispered. I was barely back in the house 90 seconds when screams from outside punctuated the warm afternoon. Mission accomplished.

“You can come out now,” I said to Leslie. “It’s all over. I took care of it. No big deal. The guy took care of things.”

“The brave guy, who isn’t afraid of anything,” asked Leslie. “The brave guy who is still wearing his riding gloves, his ballistic jacket, and his full-face helmet with face shield down. That guy?”

I was tempted to say, "Yeah, that guy," in my best Clint Eastwood-type tone. But knowing the peals of laughter that would have drawn, I replied again in silence.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)


motonomad said...


Thanks for the opportunity to offend virtually all female and some male readers of your blog:

To take liberties with an adage, the only good cat or snake that comes into my house is a dead one.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Motonomad (Pete):

I don't make the rules, I only play the game. Women love me. Do you remember our last West Virginia Trip... Get ready for a repeat.

What are you doing tomorrow? I'm heading down to Maryland for another shakedown ride. I want t rack up 200 miles tomorrow.

Fondest regards,

BMW-Dick said...

Dear Jack, you old snake oil salesman, what a fun story. The best part, however, was the Selma Hayek dance clip.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dick:

And it's the absolute truth that I called Leslie my "snake dancer" and always referenced that movie. Jim Ellemberg called me a bit ago. We're riding someplace tomorrow, (Memorial Day) but no details are available yet.

It was good seeing you yesterday. How did the buke make out on the ride home?

Fondest regards,

cpa3485 said...

I am with Leslie on this one. I absolutely detest snakes, don't want to touch them, be near them or otherwise have anything to do with them.

We don't have snakes around here, just squirrels, a few rabbits and an occasional possum. Our dogs are given complete authority to deal with those pesky creatures. Except that they get occasionally get fooled by the possums.

redlegsrides said...


the secret book of "how to be a hero in six easy lessons" specifically states that one should wear proper gear when dealing with snakes.

of course, you can't tell Leslie since it's secret, but at least you've the satisfaction of knowing that you're following the rules.....

very nice tail....I mean tale!


Jack Riepe said...

Dear CPA3485 (Jim):

I was hot and achey when I cam in the door tha day. I have no feeling for snakes one way or the other, but I felt so badly fo these things, stuck to to that glue, and in that heat.

I was resolved to free them. It took about 40 minutes. I am terrified of spiders, and will call Leslie from another part of the house to kill one.

We all have our quirks!

How is your nw blog coming along? I would have thought you'd be ridng with new friends every weekend. Did you do something cool for the holiday weekend?

Thanks for reading, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

I should have been out riding today, but I just didn't feel up to it. Plus, thunderstorms were predicted all day today. We never got one. Nary a rumble. So I wrote that little story, which actually took place on Friday. And it's all pretty much true, except for the picture of the black mamba.

I read your most recent ride report an hour ago. I wanted to compose a meaningful reply, but got up to feed the two dogs instead. They ae sweet puppies, total weight 250 pounds.

I am going to write a decent, insightful, thought-out response to your blog tonight. It certainly rates one.

Thank you for reading my tripe, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Canajun said...

Great story. Good tip on the vegetable oil too - even though I don't ever plan to have to deal with snakes glued to cardboard, I'm sure it will come in handy for something where WD-40 doesn't do the trick.

Cantwell said...

"...Smearing some vegetable oil on my fingertips, a gentle massage freed approximately six inches of the smaller snake’s tail in about 15 minutes...."

"...If I ever fail as a writer, I know I have potential as a greased snake juggler..."

I'm sure someone will say something about this...I just can't come up with something clever. Although something on the lines of Penthouse Forum came to mind, but just didn't seem right.

Hope you're enjoying the weather. Say hello to Leslie for me.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Canajun:

It is my understanding that with a little preparation, snakes can be dropped into hot vegetable oil in a pan too! That was the next step.

I have to honestly say that dealing with snakes glued to a piece of cardboard wasn't on my agenda either.

Thank you for reading my stuff and for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Michael (Cantwell, not Evans):

Dealing with snakes is more in your line than mine. But I'd like to think I'd risen to the occasion. I had fun portraying Leslie's phoebia, but had these snakes been tarantulas, I'd have poured gas on them and lit them up.

I'm heading up your way in June,

Fondest regards,

Unknown said...


If I ever need a "greased snake juggler" I'll send you the plane tickets, but you'll have to bring your own ATGATT. I am terrified of snakes and they are able to jump higher and faster than I.

Spiders, on the other hand, can be stepped on easily

Have a great Memorial day, we had our Victoria day last Monday.

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bob:

I have seen bird-catching spiders of Tierra Del Fuego, or Australia, or someplace that could jump faster and higher than you could whistle Dixie. Now the question is why these snakes were in the garage, and will they return?

I will in the garage early tomorrow finishing up a little work on the mount for my Works Performance Shock. I may let the dog run through the garage first.

Bob, I left comments on two of your Victoria Day scooter rallies! I am ready for more! You need to do a four points rie with a buddy or two, criscrossing BC on your scooter!

I may have t do our call this week on Wednesday night, as I will be on the road in West Virginia on Friday.

Fondest regards,

Grandad 43 said...

Jack: (The head glared at me like the attorney who represented my second former wife)
Just loved your commentary and phrasing on this creative and entertaining piece.
Keep the articles coming, we here at the blog enjoy your offerings.

Grandad 43
PS 14

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Grandad43:

The stories are easy to write when they happen to me on a daily basis. Today will be a bike day as I am doing some minor adjustments on Fireballs in the garage. I can't think of a better way to spend a quiet holiday afternoon.

I'm glad you can sit back and laugh at my life. Thank you for reading my blog, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Allen Madding said...

I must take sides with Motonomad on the topic of snakes. Our property is posted, if something slithers onto said property they are trespassing and thus if it slithers, it will meet an untimely death.

So shall it be.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Allen Madding:

So snakes, attorneys, aluminum siding salesmen, and members of Congress all get what they deserve when they cross your property line?

Thank you for reading and writing in. It's always a pleasure.

Fondest regards,

Anonymous said...

Great read Jack. Funniest part being the end picturing all the goings on with you and all your gear on.

Ride on,

Wayne W. said...

Hello Jack,

Enjoyed the story. We had some of the traps at work, mighty sticky stuff. Now I know how to set glued snakes free.

How are the knees? Treatment working? I need to do something about mine. Seeing the Doc next month. Would like to get some new knees.

Always fun reading your stories. Thanks.

Have a marvelous day,


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Torch:

While I wanted to help the snakes, the last thing that I wanted back was a snake bite. I was actually wearing the long leather gauntlets I use for turkey frying, but I did have on my helmet and mesh jacket to discourage injury. It was all rather ridiculous.

Thank you for reading my tripe, and for taking the time to respond.

Fondest regards,

sgsidekick said...

Jack, so the rumors are true! You ARE a snake charmer! (Or was that a snake oil salesman??? hmmmmm)

Terrific story. I don't mind snakes so much, but spiders? If Ron isn't on hand, I get my old combat boots out. While Ron will capture them and set them free outside, I want them pulverized. I've been known to put dents in the wall in my desire to flatten said arachnid.

We were riding horses on a country road in OK when suddenly the dirt road GOT UP AND MOVED! Come to find out it was a whole BUNCH of tarantulas sunning themselves! The vibrations from the horses' hooves irritated them so they got off the road. Down the road a bit was a kid with a mason jar. He told us he was catching them to sell to the pet store.

I told him he was nuts! This, of course, was after I pulled both my knees from under my chin so I could talk. Somehow I had managed to pull my feet clear up to the saddle. Luckily, my assuming the position of a tightly rolled ball in the middle of the saddle did not bother the horse.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Tena:

There are tarantulas in Oklahoma!

One more state to c ross off my list. I don't go anyplace where the spiders have hides. It should be noted that I foster no love of reptiles. Had the occupants of the trap been lizards, I still would have worked to release them. Yet had there been any doubt as to the poisonous nature of these things, it would have been the flat side of a shovel.

Thank you for writing in Tena, it is always a pleasure to hear from you.

Fondest regards,

Conchscooter said...

Very Freudian. Nuff sed.

John said...

Great story Jack. We were having issues with animals living in the roof of my parents house while I was in college. My father, who loved animals set up a live trap. I got a call, "John, I got a skunk in the live trap." I said, "No sweat Dad, just take it back in the woods and let it go, the skunk will not spray when its in the trap and once you open the door, it will run away." Dad said, "Great you can do that when you get home tomorrow."

He didn't spray.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Conch:

Freudian? Dreams about driving the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile through the Lincoln Tunnel are Freudian. Sometimes grabbing a greased snake just means grabing a greased snake.

On the other hand, I left out the part where Stiffie (Leslie) suggested I try K-Y Jelly to separate the throbbing snake from the sticky trap... And she whispered it too.

Did I leave anything out? Oh yeah... Thank you for reading my stuff and for leaving a comment.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear John (Clauss):

I'm glad you liked the piece about the snakes. Living in Upsate New York, I was once menaced by a racoon in broad daylight. I was walking the dog at the time and being approached by a racccoon at high noon, with a dog, was two strikes. I dispatched it with a Ruger Mini Thirty.

An hour later, a neighbor who lived a mile distant called to tell me they hadn't seen their pet raccoon that day, and to tell me that little "Bandit" liked dogs. Boy, was she pissed.

Thanks for reading my crap John, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Wayne:

We have to get together for a ride this summer! Pick a destination and I'll meet you halfway. I will give you a call in the next day or so.

I had my first really good ride story (Maggie Valley) with you and it's time to set the gears in motion for another!

Fondest regards,

Unknown said...

Mr Jack rIEPE:

Well, your adventure starts tomorrow. I looked at my map and found Elk Neck SP and Rock Hall. I would imagine that you will be passing beautiful scenery along the way. Stop and smell the roses and take lots of pictures so we can all follow along.

Happy and safe travels. Can't wait for you to get back and write about it.

If it is not out of your way, perhaps a picture or two of the Turkey Point Lighthouse with your K75 in the foreground, would be nice

bobskoot: wet coast scootin