By now, I'm sure most of you have seen the video that's being called "Snake on a Car." It was shot by a local couple who were surprised by a rat snake crawling out of their car's engine compartment and onto their windshield as they drove along Sam Cooper Boulevard. It quickly went viral on the Internet and was shown nationally on CNN, NBC, CBS, and elsewhere.
It was fascinating to watch, but I'm among those who wondered why the heck they didn't just pull over to the side of the road and let the poor creature crawl off. I guess that video wouldn't have made the Today show.
If it had been, say, a cute chipmunk, they would have pulled over. But some people think the only good snake is a dead one. It's irrational, since snakes help keep the rodent population down and avoid humans whenever possible.
I see snakes all the time and within the city limits. As I've written here before, my friend John Ryan and I like to fish urban waters — the borrow pits, swamp-waters, and creeks of Memphis and Shelby County. We get on Google Earth and search for interesting water and then try to figure out a way to get to it. Just last weekend, we discovered a new stream with a thriving population of bream and small bass, eager to take a popping bug on a fly-rod. We named it the "Little Wolf," but that's all I can tell you.
We name all the water we discover. There's "Billboard Lake" and "Hollywood Lake" and "Schoolboard Lake," to cite a few of our finds. We've seen a zillion snakes, bobcat and coyote tracks, foxes, armadillos, beavers, and lots of fairly exotic birds. An indigo bunting showed itself in the brush along the Little Wolf on Saturday. We've spotted bald eagles in Shelby Forest. The screen shot on my phone is a beautiful lime-green grass snake that I photographed near a lake off Covington Pike.
As this week's cover story makes clear, Memphis is blessed with abundant wildlife. Wild creatures live among us, in our parks, in the undeveloped pockets of forest and swamp and riverbank, in the air above. It's something to celebrate and treasure. When we encounter one of these creatures, whether it's a beaver or a red-tailed hawk or a snake on our windshield, we should be grateful and do our best not to harm them.
And speaking of encounters, I can't wait 'til I spot my first alligator.
Oh would some power the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us. — Robert Burns
Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote the line above in response to seeing a louse on a high-born lady's bonnet at church. The point being, of course, that while we might think we're looking pretty good, someone else might be noticing a flaw we've overlooked.
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."