I was walking up some stairs to the second level of the Water Conservation Garden when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a magpie hopping up and down and pecking at something on the ground.
This is a magpie, if you've never seen one. They are pretty common around here, and there are definitely lots of them in Red Butte Garden. They are into scavenging, so I thought it was picking at a piece of paper or garbage that someone had dropped. That's when I noticed that what I thought was garbage was striking back at the bird. It wasn't garbage, it was a little snake, and not just any little snake - it was a baby rattlesnake.
I was not pleased with this scenario because having a rattlesnake on the main path where lots of people are walking is not ideal. Plus baby rattlesnakes are scary because they are fast and when they bite, they release all their venom. (Somebody told me that and I believe it.) Normally I will go find a gardener, a member of the horticultural staff, who will come to remove the snake and take it up to the natural area. Unfortunately, I was pretty sure that no one from "hort" was onsite because it was around 5:30 on Memorial Day weekend. Fortunately, though, there was a garden staff member with a radio very near me, Robin, the wedding planner lady. There was a wedding going on in the Fragrance Garden and Robin was at the entrance nearest me. I quietly told her about the snake and she got on the radio to find a gardener. That's when we both knew for sure there was no one from the horticultural group around.
Robin asked me if I would mind staying where I was and direct guests away from the snake. By that time, there was a bit of a crowd gathered around the magpie and the snake, so the magpie gave up and flew away. The snake coiled itself up against the wall and was very still. I thought that maybe it was dead because it wasn't moving. I stood about six feet away from the snake and asked people to walk on the opposite side of the walkway. Most people just scooted over without a question. Some people wanted to know why they should do that, and then I just pointed to the snake which caused most of them to stop a take a photo of it. Honestly, it was about the size of a medium dog's poo. It was pretty small, so I'm sure their photos weren't very great. I thought about trying to take a photo, but there was NO WAY I was getting any closer to the snake.
Robin the wedding planner decided that when the wedding ceremony was over, she would go get a bucket and a broom and we would capture the snake. I chose to think when she said "we" she meant that she would capture the snake and I would provide moral support.
Soon I heard cheers and applause from the Fragrance Garden, so the ceremony was over. When the bride and groom left, Robin took off to find the snake-catching gear. She came back pretty quickly with a cart, a garbage can with a lid, a broom and a snake stick.
Her idea was to put down the can and sweep the snake into it. The problem was that the lip of the can was bigger than the snake. I told her, from my vantage point six feet away, that she was probably going to have to use the snake stick to get the critter into the can. She couldn't see the snake (she was behind the can and it was one of those big 20 gallon plastic cans, like this one but with a lid).
Very slowly and carefully, Robin drove the cart up to the natural area, taking care not to knock the can over. We were both freaking out a little. We found a good spot. Robin is a total rock star. She took the can over to a grassy spot where we both fervently hoped another snake was NOT hanging out. She gingerly lifted off the lid, tipped over the can (away from herself, of course!) and kind of tipped it up so the snake could slide out, which it did. She got back in the cart in record time. We high-fived and congratulated each other on keeping the guests safe.
By that time, I had had about enough of Red Butte Garden and I decided to go home. I still haven't seen the whole Water Conservation Garden yet. I didn't even walk around the rest of the garden to see the waterfall and the ponds and the Rose Garden. I'll catch it all this weekend, hopefully. I had seen two snakes that day and I was done with nature.
I did get another wedding volunteer gig out of it and a fun story.
Happy June y'all! Talk to you tomorrow!