Yesterday I saw the snake again that I saw last weekend while mowing the lawn. I got a very long, up-close look at it this time . . . but I wish I hadn't, because the only reason I did is that it was dead.
It's definitely a gopher snake, not a striped racer as I had thought when I caught only a fleeting glimpse of it. Closer inspection revealed that it had some orange markings between its yellow stripes that clearly identify it as a gopher snake. So the range maps were right, and I was wrong. I probably should not presume myself knowledgeable enough to doubt the range mappers. I mean, I know the plant range maps are sometimes a little off, so it stands to reason that the animal range maps would be too . . . but I know so much less about identifying animals that my odds of correctly identifying animals would probably be improved if I trusted the animal range maps completely and only dared to question the plant range maps.
Anyway, it's now a dead gopher snake, dead in my food garden. It was partly hidden under a log that I had used to edge the path. It appeared to have slithered there of its own free will, but I'm not sure why it died. The skin around its neck appeared to have been eaten away, but I think that may have happened after it was already dead, because it had clearly been dead for a few days by the time I found it. Either a neighborhood cat got it (Stardust is innocent because she does not go outdoors) or it died of an illness or just starved to death. I wonder whether it was feeling ill when I saw it last weekend (maybe that's the only reason I was able to catch sight of it at all) or whether its death is related to the destruction of its habitat . . . my next-door neighbor is a 90-something-year-old lady who had a hugely overgrown thicket of blackberries and mulberries and other invasive weeds on the other side of the fence from my food garden, and both times that I saw the snake, it was right next to there, so I suspect it was living in that thicket. This week her grandson came over and hacked away the thicket completely, cut it back to the ground and dug out the roots so there's now nothing left but bare dirt. If he used herbicides that might explain the snake's death, but my impression is that they didn't, since the weeds remained healthy-looking right up until they were cut back and dug up. Maybe the snake just couldn't find a new source of food or shelter when the thicket was removed. But if that was the problem, it ought to have tried wandering farther afield. There are plants it could have hidden among in my front yard. Or in my back yard, as long as Boston didn't notice it, which she didn't when it was in my back yard before.
Today I made a discovery about my next-door neighbors on the other side of me: they are selling their house. Generally our houses are very comparable. They're asking $15,000 more than the asking price on mine in 2012, so perhaps I've made some money by buying at the right time? I'm not sure how to feel about the neighbors moving out. They're devout Christian homeschoolers, but they were actually perfectly polite about having a lesbian couple move in next door to them, and they've been quiet neighbors, and they take good care of their yard, so I really don't have any complaints about them beyond the fact that they and I are not destined to become personal friends. (It would never have occurred to me before I moved from Sacramento to Marysville that anyone could ever regard their neighbors as personal friends. I doubt that I will ever have a neighbor I would count as a friend, but still I have become sufficiently rural that the theoretical possibility of such a thing now seems real to me.) Whoever buys the house next could easily be worse. I do kind of like the idea of not being the newest neighbor at the intersection anymore, though.
I've decided I need to introduce myself to whoever owns the house with the native plant garden in downtown Marysville. I keep driving past it and admiring it and noticing ever more plants that they've squeezed into their tiny yard - redbud trees, toyon, deergrasses, lupines, even (somewhat ridiculously) several redwood trees, all on a lot half the size of mine, with a house larger than mine on it. It's a pretty house, a two-story Craftsman-style house that looks well maintained. I just don't live near enough to be able to catch the residents outdoors and start a conversation. Maybe I could resort to mailing them a letter? Just to compliment them on their garden and offer to give them a tour of mine. It would be nice to be able to exchange notes with them about which plants can be grown here.