During the period just past down at the Quinta, the Old Gringo noticed one morning that the three female cats, Smokey, Cleopaetra, and Calico were all in the kitchen pantry. They were all arrayed, tail to snout, like spokes of a wagon-wheel, pointing directly under a little wagon that Alvaro uses when he is painting and doing small repairs around the house.
The cats are all wierd....which is normal for cats....especially spoiled cats, so I was not surprized at first. But then it was noted that Smokey, the persian-type cat, was flicking her tail vigourously....like before taking down a bird or pouncing on a mouse. Her sister turned and looked at me with eyes the size of steak-platters, and her tail was puffed up like Dolly Parton's hair-do.
So an inspection was made and lo and behold, we had a 2 foot-long coral snake. It was only the 4th one to be seen on our about the property, and the violation of my own rule about the total securing of the screen doors....shutting them snug to the door molding and hooking them shut....had brought the visitor in upon us. I noticed that during the morning, earlier, I had left the door only slightly open....less than an inch....after feeding the neighbour's chickens. It was still open. Leaving the cats to their work, the Old Gringo went to the guest room to make sure that set of doors was correctly shut.....then called the neighbour's son to go and get Efrain *(Alvaro's brother-in-law) and then proceeded to trap and/or slay the beast.
By this time, however, it could be noticed that the cats were all at the back door, standing on their hind-legs looking anxiously at something outside. My attention was directed to where the snake had been but was no longer. That is an icy-type feeling. But then it was remembered that a coral snake, although extremely venomous, is also quite a coward. Given an out, they always flee.
So, outside went the Old Gringo, carefully searching any reasonable path of retreat for Caroline the Coral Snake. The cats went in front....(Calico went in front as well, as long as she was behind someone)....and I trained my far-sighted eyes as best they would on the area where the cats were going. The path they bloodhounded went towards the Rio Corona and was soon covered by impenetrable bramble. Returning, Efren was encountered already inside the house. He listened stone-faced to my explanation of things and then observed that we would have to evacuate the entire pantry and even the kitchen since the Old Gringo had not actually seen the snake leave. His conclusion was my conclusion, so the next hour was spent in moving things that had not been moved for a while. We filled several large plastic garbage bags and did quite a bit of "improved placement" of things.....as well as a bit of helpful inventory assessment.
Of course we did not find the snake....so we threw the cats into the pantry, one at time, because they would immediately know if there were still a snake on the premises. Each cat made her brief review.....starting with they had encountered the serpent in the first place, and then decided that things were pretty boring again....the way they should be. Each went to her appropriate "reward station" where each allowed me to give her a cat candy-treat at her exclusive place. Before long they had preened up and were fast asleep.
It should be pointed out here, without any false attempt at humour, that the practice of judging by a cat's reaction whether there are snake problems nearby is very common in the Ejido Francisco I. Madero. The mother of the two sister cats, for instance, has killed two coral snakes during her time on earth. These cats are called, appropriately enough, "Coralilleras" (koh rah lee YAIR ahs)....which means something close to "coral snake hunters" or "coral snake killers".
Things become even more interesting during the next episode which will be published sometime early this evening.
As an aside, We are watching with some interest as a tropical depression tries to form off the coast.....it is moving west....so if things would develop a bit, both South Texas and the area around the Quinta could stand to receive a bit of moisture, finally.
El Gringo Viejo