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Ranch Visitors: Blue Racer Snakes

Ranch Visitors: Blue Racer Snakes

February 2, 2022

Dear WinkWorld Readers, as you know I usually write a blog post about whatever is on my mind, on my computer desktop, or on my desktop. I rarely write about some ranch-life-realities. However, today I decided to write about Blue Racer snakes, which sometimes come into our house.

A Blue Racer Snake Hanging from the Ceiling of Our New Bedroom

Our ranch was once my grandparents’ homestead, or Grandma Grace’s house. I used to think that it was a castle.  But, when we returned to live in her house, circa 1994, we did some measurements and found that the main floor had 900 square feet.  Not as large as I remembered. We believe that my grandparents must have moved from the sod hut to this house about the 1920’s.

This house also has half a basement: dirt floors, low ceiling, gorgeous old cedar beams, dangerous, hand-poured concrete steps, and our all-important water pump, with various more important water pipes going to and from the cistern.  OK, I will admit it: the basement is more like a cellar, and sometimes it feels like a dungeon. Very scary.

However, snakes (Blue Racers) think that it is a fine place to hibernate.  Often during the cold months, a ball of sleeping Blue Racers hang from that low ceiling.  When we are in the cellar, we watch carefully, so as not to bump that ball of snakes with our heads.  Sometimes one will wake during the winter, and slither up those dangerous steps and sneak into the kitchen to look around.  More than once, I have been reading at night at the north kitchen counter, when I noticed an annoying smell.  Blue Racers stink.  Then I simply “shoo” the snake back down those dangerous steps.

In 2006 we decided to build an addition–new living area and new bedroom for us.  This was the year that I was on chemo in CA, so I am only vaguely aware of all that took place during the building process.  In retrospect, the builders must have dug into another hibernation site, as the Blue Racers continued to sneak into our new bedroom.

Six years in a row–one snake in the new bedroom each year–always at night–always in the winter–always when I returned from a trip to a cold, dark ranch. Wink was not home for even one of these great snake events, as he was in Pierre for the Jan., Feb., March annual legislative sessions.

The first time this happened, I had just flown back from CA, driven from the Rapid City airport two more hours, and was thrilled to be home safely–even though alone.  I hauled my suitcase down the new stairs to our new, gorgeous bedroom, and there stretched out in all of his glory, was a huge snake on our brand-new carpet.

What to do?

Rule #1: Don’t look away – you must know where that snake is.  I stood and stared and thought and gathered my courage.  I slowly picked up a small wastepaper basket and a pretty, little decorative broom, which were in the bedroom.  With one whoosh, I swept the snake into the basket and ran as fast as a I could up the stairs and out into the darkness and tossed the snake out the door.  This is basically what I have done with each snake in the bedroom since that time, even though Wink did give me one of those snake catchers, which I have never tried.

My Unused Snake Catcher 

However, one time I had just returned from another teaching trip, and I found the snake in the photo, hanging from the ceiling of our new bedroom.  This time, a man who was working on the ranch was helping me carry the luggage down the steps.  We saw the hanging snake at the same time.

            “Oh, no, I don’t do snakes,” he told me seriously.

            “Buck up, Big Boy,” I replied, “tonight you do, do snakes.”

I kept my eyes on the snake and asked him to get me a wastepaper basket and the big broom, which he did.

            “Now, on the count of three, all you have to do is take the broom handle and pop up that ceiling tile.  I will catch the snake with the waste basket,” I told him.  And, this is exactly what we did, and then I again ran like crazy to toss the snake outside.

Each time I have had a snake in the house, I knew I could call one of several local ranchers for help, but I knew it would take time for anyone to arrive, and then they would tell stories about the experience.  Nope, this is my story.




  • Lindy

    I love this story. Blue Racers are my favorite snakes. Better to have a nest of BR in your house than a nest of Rattlers.

  • Joan, great Ranch story. Keep them coming, preferably in a collection for a new book. You are truly an awesome young lady.

  • Debra Schneider

    OMG. That’s it. That’s my comment.

  • Rosie Jaramillo

    Oh my you are very brave Doctora Wink. I hate snakes. I would have run out of house and waited in car.

  • Moneik Stephens

    Your description of the basement fits my memories of the small house where I grew up in Milesville. We had wood stairs down to the dirt basement and snakes more often than not. The “big” freezer was down there and I would run on the boards over to get something and hurry back up to the kitchen. It was a scary place.

  • Janet Towell

    OMG! You have spunk and grit just like grandma Grace. Love you!

  • Carla Powell

    I used to want to visit you and your ranch some day. No longer do I want to visit. Please come visit me in Utah. We did have a pet Corn snake that escaped in our house by entering my kitchen cabinets. I had a dream that the snake was dangling from the ceiling above my bed…just like this Blue Racer. I did find the Corn snake (Ruby) about 2 weeks after my dream looking to exit the house via the kitchen door. I took her to the barn and let her go in there. I hope she was happy and able to survive on the mice in there.

  • Annelle Afdahl

    Oh, dear Joan. I understand exactly what you are saying. Snakes had denned along a wall on the west side of our house. We took out a block so there would be heat under a bathroom that we put where a coal bin room had been. First one, kids saw looking over the top of the concrete wall where the block had been, next between loads of sorted clothes on the basement floor, etc. I even carried one into the house in packing blankets that had been in the garage. We built on to the west side and they moved around the house. Next a blessing in disguise- after a bad winter we lost the footings on the two story part of the house. New basement under both old and new parts solved the problem.

    • Joan Wink

      Hi Annelle, yikes, more denned snakes! With this warm weather, they will be on the move.

  • Larry Mayes

    Joan, loved your story and your spunk!!! My memory of about every 3rd bucker pile of dried hay dangling a 4-5 foot tattle snake coming down on me standing in the stack rig came immediately back!!

  • Tony Zarych

    Great to storytelling and strategy to herd snakes.

    Stay warm!

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