Living in the country is supposed to be peaceful, but I'm finding it has its moments of heart-stopping thrills.

Take last week. I had just finished up a telephone call and was placing the phone back on the cradle when I sensed something not quite right to my left. There, on the vent atop the propane wall heater, was a snake.

Granted, it was a little snake, probably just 15 inches long. Hard to be real certain of the size when they're all curled up snoozing, and you are recovering from heart seizure. After the initial shock, I realized he was just a harmless little garter snake, the yellow-racer type. He seemed perfectly willing to wait there for autumn, when we would crank up the heater again, so I took a few seconds to consider my options.

Clearly, nice snake or no, he had to go. I steeled myself to evict him. The key was going to be to grab him firmly and hold on tight, no matter how he wiggled and squirmed, and dispatch him to the great outdoors via the front door ... 15 long feet away.

I took a deep breath and made my move, grabbing the little guy about midsection. At which point he started to thrash like a 'gator in a burlap bag. That's when instinct took over, and I dropped that little sucker.

Thwap. He landed softly, back on the vent, and began slithering into the interior of the heater. At the last second, I recovered my senses and was able to snatch the very tip of his tail and pull him out of the heater. It was sort of like pulling the test noodle out of the pasta pot, only this was one unhappy test noodle.

I cleared the vent and made it halfway to the mud room, my little captive whipping back and forth energetically. So energetically that I lost my grip on the tail and - you guessed it - he fell to the floor.

The drop from hand to floor seemed to happen in slow motion. There was enough time for a litany of "uh-ohs" to run through my brain.

In a flash, I realized that once he hit that floor he would take off, sidewinding through the front room and into the den or the bedroom. He'd find a soft warm spot under a recliner or, worse, the bed, where he set up his home base, leaving that refuge only to foray through the house at night in search of dead flies, spiders and the occasional bit of dog kibble. He would grow fat and contented, like all of our animals, and start sleeping on the couch or the bed, thumbing his little snake nose at our stupid rules.

Thwap. He hit the floor, breaking my high-speed reverie. I sprang into action. (No lazy old snake is going sleep on my furniture.)

This time I got him with both hands, managed to kick open the front door, and vaulted across the deck to jetison the little fellow into the garden below.

Thwap. He paused a second, as if to ask "What the heck was that all about?" and then slithered away under the deck, toward the foundation of the house. Likely he was heading for the little trap door that all these critters apparently are using to sneak into our house.

But I digress. That's not the kind of paranoid idea you can afford to entertain when you live in the country. You have to have faith in your walls and your floor, or you will go bats. And don't get me started on bats, which also don't belong in the house...

Suffice it to say, I took a moment to celebrate my triumph over the serpent invader and a safe restoration of the natural order: snakes outside, people inside, dogs on the couch.

Well, that last part needs a little work, but the first part works for me.

Scotta Callister, editor of the Blue Mountain Eagle, is getting accustomed to life in the country.

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