Things I Thought I’d Never Have To Do

. . . at least while teaching high school Latin and middle school Geography:

Use a small plastic trashcan to help corral a copperhead. Our biology teacher held a laminated copy of the Gettysburg Address behind the snake while I pushed a trashcan at it horizontally, and it was obliging enough to slither in rather than under the trashcan. Otherwise we were prepared for a rapid retreat. This happened fifteen feet outside the front door about 20 minutes after school let out, when the area was still full of children. (We’d been wondering why we hadn’t seen any skinks there for the last few days.)

The snake was only a foot long, but quite feisty, especially after the Animal Control officer got it in her lasso-stick (or whatever those things are called) to transfer it to a coffee can for transport. She promised to let it loose outside the Raleigh city limits, which is what we wanted. Plan B, if she had said she was going to kill it, was to kill it ourselves and have the Biology class dissect it. While we waited for her, we discussed possible methods of execution that would leave it in good shape for dissection. Drowning? Very difficult to fill the trashcan with water without letting the snake escape — it was quite slender. Freezing? That might not have left it in the best shape for dissection. Poison? The tentative plan, forestalled by the arrival of Animal Control, was to pour acetone (nail-polish remover) on it. Would that have worked? I don’t know, but the Biology and Chemistry teachers seemed to think so.

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