"In the basement."
"In the basement!"
And we went. We heard the sound as soon as we got back to the house. "I don't understand it. I'm sure it's dead," I said. Down the stairs again, and around the corner. The corpse was still there, motionless. The sound was still being made. We walked up to the dead snake.
I don't know which of us saw the other rattlesnake first. It was about three feet from us, in the corner, coiled between the wall and a vertical two-by-six. It was actually off the ground, wrapped into that space like a pretzel.
Dean swore and grabbed the hoe from me. The blade was too wide to fit into the space, so he turned the hoe around and used the handle to poke at the snake, trying to scrape it out of there. The snake writhed and twisted. If you have ever seen a snake move, you have some appreciation for the strange feeling that its motion generates in the watcher. The nature of the snake's musculature or something gives the impression that the snake is going in different directions at the same time. It gives you an eerie feeling. It doesn't seem possible that you're watching one creature go through all that motion. Dean got the snake to move out onto the floor and gave it one good whack behind the head and killed it. At last the basement was quiet. We got a paper bag and a shovel and scooped the two snakes into the bag. And then we went upstairs and had a drink.
As we drank, we tried to figure what my wife and I should do next. Circumstances prevented impulsive action. It just isn't possible to move 20 head of horses on the spur of the moment. We had no idea how the snakes had got in there. We had no idea if there were others or if there would be others. We eventually persuaded ourselves that the warm weather had caused these two snakes to come out of their hibernation earlier than usual, that they somehow got into our basement, and that it was a one-time occurrence.
Later that night I went into the basement to test our one-time theory and put my mind at rest. I took a flashlight to be thorough. I even went so far as to shine the light along the tops of the walls, where the beams supporting the floor above rested, and when I saw the pattern of a six-inch section of snake slowly moving above my head, I couldn't believe it. My breath stopped. I moved the light away and then back again. The snake was still there. I went back upstairs. Once again, I didn't quite know what to do next. My wife, by now, was nearly hysterical. She wanted to leave and check into a motel. I didn't see that we were in any immediate danger—but that was a long night.