There’s a certain weathered fence post that does nothing but look unremarkable and hold up page wire through summer droughts and winter’s blizzards.
Except for the first warm weeks of spring.
Then the post becomes the exit portal for the underground limestone palace where the garter snakes have been dozing away the icy months. But when the bright spring sun calls, they twitch awake and emerge by the dozens from the gravel around the bottom of the post.
We watch to see when the first ones come out for it means spring has truly arrived. If it is cold, they look around and go back. But more and more linger topside. When convinced the sun will stay, they collect in writhing heaps in the grass behind the post. It’s a mating frenzy and a shameless sex orgy and they don’t care how many people gawk from cars whipping past.
Female pheromones bring males snakes in hordes. As many as 25 males per female induces a fiercely competitive frenzy. But after the fun has come to an end, each snake sets out for a solitary summer of sunning itself and gulping insects, mice and frogs. The much-courted female incubates her young inside her body and, after two or three months, gives birth to them live. She can also store male sperm for years though it does seem the annual orgy would be way more enjoyable.
I’ll be watching for my little pal garter snake who lives in the bricks by the door and hangs out among the irises when the sun is out. Maybe there will be babies. If there are, I’ll know exactly how she spent her first day out of hibernation.