Harmless Horace and me.

I was raised in Africa, in a city and never encountered a snake until, in midlife, moved to a farm with snakes.  Fight or flight?   Forget it.  Run yelling ‘snake snake’ and let some one else deal with it regardless.   There are ‘good’ snakes and bad snakes but they were all the same to me.  Preferably kill or at least remove. I would be long gone.

On my recent sojourn in Florida I encountered a snake.

It was the mockingbird who drew my attention

mocking bird

He was dive bombing the poor snake, who was on the driveway,screeching in a dozen different bird languages (Mocking Birds do that).   The snake disappeared under a car, and then when the coast was clear headed under the house. I watched fascinated.

Hours later, out with my camera, my eye was caught by a sliding motion on the fence.  The snake appeared and posed for the camera.  I am assuming it was the same snake.  I stilled my heart and got the pic.


I was ensured by my family that the snake was harmless, although my sister confessed that she, in ten years of living there, had never actually seen him.

I named him Harmless Horace, just to remind myself not to be terrified.

I spent much time in the garden and was always aware of him.   A black slither across the patio.  The flicker of a tail disappearing under a shrub. An arm length away amidst the jasmine – a rolling coil of glistening black.   I was always aware of him, but never got another photo op.   I stomped around, speaking loudly.  Terrified I might stand on him and in panic, drop my camera (which is not insured).  I felt an affinity.

My holiday ended and I return to England.   Bro-in-law skyped me.  Said Horace had been looking for me.   Came up to the glass sliding doors of the family room, reared himself up and peered in.   He then apparently curled himself up and lay in front of the sliding doors for ten or so minutes before disappearing again. Never ever happened before.

I suggested to my bro-in-law that Horace wanted to see his portrait. Whilst I was in Florida I painted, on request, a painting of Roseate Spoonbills. I included Horace on instruction, at the last minute.

best painting pic

I am not feeling very comfortable about saying I felt an affinity with a snake. What I do feel is priviliged. I can’t quite explain it.

Meanwhile my sister says there is no way she is going to take the painting outside and sit and wait for Horace to come and view it.


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20 Responses to Harmless Horace and me.

  1. Pussycat44 says:

    Florida can keep its Harmless Horace! I’ve only met up with 2 small garden snakes in my 60 years in SA. I hope to keep it that way.

  2. Lovely painting! I think I prefer my Igasho to harmless Horace. 😀

  3. Gunta says:

    What a lovely, bright and cheery rendition of Florida and its spoonbills, also Horace. I’m not overly fond of snakes either. We have a garden variety that hangs out in the back yard. It always makes me jump and I tend to avoid weeding the spot where it was last seen, until the creepy feeling goes away.

    Perhaps your sister could just lean the painting against the sliding door for him to view?

  4. Saw one a few months back when I was walking one of the dogs in Spain. Couldn’t believe how fast it slithered. The speed rather than the snakiness gave me a shock.

  5. libraschild says:

    I did say to you i grew up in suburbia and we had puff adders there at least twice (both times two separate household staff took issue to them despite my father telling them to leave them alone and they’d go away.. cant really blame them for ignoring him as apparently the snakes liked sunning themselves on the concrete at the back and they feared standing on them if they were still there after dark and couldn’t use the route in the day )

    • footsy2 says:

      Puffies are very scary – they lie around waiting to be trodden on then bite to kill. Best to dispatch them anywhere near the home :-(. (You must have grown up near a koppie?)

      • libraschild says:

        no… not at all… really truly boring built up suburbia… which is what makes their appearance every decade or so so strange. I think it’s the fact that the gardens are still reasonably large so lots of places to hide

  6. colonialist says:

    Love the picture, but danged if I can find Horace in it!
    I like snakes and have an agreement with them – I treat them with respect, and they do the same for me. Only ones I don’t trust are the really big black mambas who get aggressive when they reach that age, and the puff adders which are too lazy to move out of one’s way – but at least the latter give their distinctive ‘puffing’ warning.

    • footsy2 says:

      I didn’t know that Col. Puffies give a warning? I have had one in the house, hiding under a curtain …. it was absolutely silent. (TL saved it from me (or rather the staff) and relocated it). If you enlarge the pic you should spot Horace wrapped around a tree middle distance on the left. It is actually a HUGE painting :-).

      • colonialist says:

        Yes, they often used to sun themselves on paths I followed, and I learnt to listen for the puffing (not really a hiss) sound. Your one couldn’t have felt threatened by you, but I’m sure it gave TL a few words about being relocated!
        Oh, right, (er, yes … left, actually) – got it!

      • footsy2 says:

        Erm…. TL, who has relocated at least five over the years says “Moenie kak praat”. (Sorry about that :-)). But seriously, says the ones he encountered never gave so much as a squeak. Perhaps the Natal variety do? Would have thought it too hot for puffies down your way.

      • colonialist says:

        Most of those I encountered were in the Cape, although one in Dargle was a particularly loud puffer. TL may be a bit deaf? Or didn’t recognise the sound? Or approached so fast they didn’t have time to give their distinctive warning? Ask him where he thought their common name came from?

  7. Arkenaten says:

    Did I miss you telling us the species?

    It looks like a Black Racer


    Painting is lovely, and I spotted the snake! Col needs new glasses.

    • footsy2 says:

      Thanks Ark, and yes definitely Black Racer. Apparently they will charge if confronted but only to frighten (?). TG our encounters never came to that – would have dropped camera for sure.

  8. A very fun story, and I enjoy seeing your paintings.

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