We Found a SNAKE in Our RV! (Spark Plug Surprise)



There are some stories that fair well with dramatic builds ups and climactic peaks reserved for the end.

Then there are stories — such as this one — that are better told without hesitation and in (what I will call) reverse chronology …

It was April 2021, and I was in the driver’s seat of our 1965 Clark Cortez motorhome; Andy, the passenger seat. We were finishing our test drive around the farm after our most mundane and simple work of replacing our spark plugs — and I’ll talk about our spark-plug work at the end of this post because the shock of our day came in the form of the one thing we never imagined encountering in our RV, and it is this high point of interest that our story starts …

Andy was shouting. Of course shouting alone is jarring so in the flash of one second my brain had to sort through the levels of alarm: Beyond the sudden yells, I realized who was shouting, which was worrying because Andy never shouts. Then I understood what he was shouting …

“OH MY GOD!” Andy’s voice boomed in our empty steel-box-of-an-RV. “THERE’S A ****ING SNAKE IN THE CORTEZ!”

At this very point, two actions happened: I turned in Andy’s direction to better comprehend the situation. Meanwhile, he simultaneously leapt towards me and essentially into my lap — which, by the way, was a bound so fierce that he pulled a muscle in his shoulder so that two years later, he still has problems.

“AH ****!” I matched all — level of volume, shock, and cuss word before finding the need to repeat his sentence in my own harrowing scream. “THERE’S A SNAKE IN THE CORTEZ!?”

(Dear reader, keep in mind you were about to read a post solely on spark plugs. You’re welcome for the extra excitement.)

At the same time I screamed, I ungracefully tumbled out of the cab while also gracefully managed to keep hold of our camera so that our video was documented in some type of Blair Witch Project-shaking style.

Safely outside, I got a look at our snake, which was tucked under our dashboard precisely where we had been working.

This made me question what type of snake it was because if it had bitten us and if it was venomous — Let’s instead not let my thoughts get away from me, and we can pause to talk about the type of family I was raised in …

I grew up 100% confident I was meant to be some type of veterinarian due to my love of animals, which can be seen when my mother recommended I showcase my obsessive desire for animal-knowledge by researching every animal that descended into the world in our Encyclopedia Britannicas and then writing a book report on the animal. (Yes, this was before the internet was invented and yes, I was thrilled at this idea.) Years later, school started to become too demanding for me to spend time doing my own personal book reports as often so I began transitioning to David Attenborough’s wildlife programs to the point that I felt I made a real friend in the British biologist. (Maybe this was why since elementary school I swore I would live in England?)

I say all of this because it was possible that by the time I reached my 187th book report that I learned a great deal on the black snake, or Pantherophis obsoletus or western rat snake. Therefore, when I discovered this common reptile going for a joyride in our RV, I wanted to calm Andy with my knowledge, which included identifying our snake, warning Andy that it was alert and ready to attack, which also meant it could lunge at him.

Andy totally disregarded my knowledge and instead developed a plan to get not him out of the RV but our snake out …

Andy’s genius plan involved opening our RV’s door then hooking our snake with one of our seven-foot wooden RV hook-poles (that we used to pull a tarp over our roof), plucking the snake from its resting spot, and placing it outside to freedom. Please note that Andy — the sudden experienced snake handler — is from the city of Sheffield, England, which is also known as “Steel City” and not anywhere in those nine letters can you imagine a place where a young Yorkshireman would acquire snake-handling skills. This is why it comes without surprise that I doubted his abilities.

Realizing that we both determined the other person was not a professional, I moved to another plan — Google. Listen, if you haven’t guessed, I’m full-blown nerd and find both comfort and calm in research.

The unfortunate part is that I was so anxious about our situation that I typed into the search not “How to get a snake out of a car” but instead “How to get a snake out of a Cortez” as if the Google-world actually understood that a Cortez was a vehicle with a snake hiding inside. Just so you know too, here’s what was rendered:

A Museum of Natural History site on snakes from Cortez, Colorado …

Questions answered on mothball snakes …

A journal on “Creepy Crawlies” in Cortez, Colorado …

Nike’s classic Cortez snake-print sneaker …

and additional sites with either had the words ‘snake’ or ‘Cortez’ in them.

“We just need to get him out,” Andy tutted from inside after he requested me do the scary task of opening the door adjacent to the snake.

“No, we can’t,” I told him before showcasing my research once more. “They can jump like six feet, too — I’ve watched nature shows!” This only brought laughter from Andy, which I suppose was warranted because I later confirmed a snake can lunge half its body length so, looking back, our four-foot snake could only strike at two feet.

It was around here I decided to enlist the only experts in this field of work I knew: my aunt and uncle.

For more background, for centuries, my mother’s family has owned the farm our Cortez stays on. This means by the time my mother was a child, her father/my grandfather owned the farm, and my mother and her brother/my uncle worked on it and were even raised there for a few months. The farm moved into my uncle’s care around 1995 so that he and his wife/my aunt now own and care for it.

Essentially what I am saying is my uncle and aunt have had their fair share of incidents involving snakes so it seemed only natural to label them as ‘Expert snake wrangler aunt’ and ‘Pro snake handler uncle’.

“Hello?” my uncle answered on the phone to which I greeted him before immediately notifying him of our situation.

“We have a snake in the Cortez — How do we get it out?”

“You have a snake in the Cortez?” my uncle answered.

‘Trust me,’ I wanted to say. ‘For the past many minutes, Andy and I have been in so much shock that we still haven’t processed this fact either.’

“What’s it look like?” he asked.

Thank you, uncle — Don’t worry. We’re okay.

After a quick description of our snake, my uncle also identified it as a common black snake, which in some strange way was a sort of applause at my knowledge so I decided to ask the other question I knew the answer to: “Is he nice?”

To this, my uncle laughed then gave the generic snake-answer of “It won’t bother you. It’s nice unless provoked.”

‘Uncle,’ I was about to say, ‘we have no intention of provoking a reptile.’ However, he followed up with advice for getting the snake out. I held my breath, certain I needed to pay full attention to this special matter that would require many steps and specific details. After all, there must be a secret country-farm-life hack to removing snakes.

Instead, I got this: “You could snatch it,” he said.

At this point, I was positive I misunderstood him — Surely my uncle did not suggest Andy or I use our delicate-skin-covered hands to not only go near the snake but to grasp it and then pull it from under our dashboard. Surely. “SNATCH IT?!” I repeated

“He might bite ‘cha if he’s provoked,” my uncle continued as if he had not just recommended we actually remove the snake by hand.

“Well yeah,” I heard Andy say, “I’m nice unless you provoke me!” Not helpful right now, Englishman.

Clearly, we were headed down the wrong path so I felt the need to repeat my initial question: “How do we get him out?!”

The answer, laughter again, making me realize the help I hoped to receive wasn’t coming.

It was as if my uncle could read my thoughts because suddenly he confirmed the exact opposite. To him, he proposed a resolution that was the most immediate, responsive, and logical: murder. Obviously.

“I prolly should come down and shoot it with a snake shot.”

This brought me through several minutes of panic working to do the exact opposite of my call: now encourage my uncle not to come and take over the situation.

“No, no, no,” I gasped. “Please don’t kill him, please don’t kill him! Because I wasn’t going to call you because I don’t want him to be dead — I just want him to be removed.”

To this, my uncle became extremely grouchy and responded the way only country, hardworking farm folk would respond when time is money:

“I ain’t playin’ with no damn snake!”

Laying down the only card I had left, I hoped for sympathy, explaining that we were in front of Chicken House Two — stuck, unable to move for who knew how long — when out of the corner of my eye I saw a glimmer of a metal hook from the wooden RV pole move closer to the snake as Andy decided to take matters into his own hands.

“Don’t provoke him!” I paused in my conversation to yell at Andy.

“It’s better than being shot up, n’t it?!” he hollered back at me. “Can’t shoot him in the Cortez! I don’t want brains everywhere!”

I mean, when he put both parts that way …

Meanwhile, my uncle heard Andy’s rant and added, “No. It’s a snake shot — It don’t hurt nothin’.”

I was convinced my definition of ‘won’t hurt nothing’ was entirely different from my uncle’s but still (and I don’t know why) I asked with near-tears in my eyes, “But it will kill him, won’t it?”

“Yeah, ‘cuz I’m gonna shoot ‘m in the head!”

Between the deepest inhale of breath and Andy confirming we must get the snake outside before my uncle greeted it, I hung up the phone. Then Andy and I moved forward together to our next plan. This entailed the best advice my uncle semi-provided: We should open all of doors to create as many exits as possible then make as much noise as we could to scare the snake out.

With this in mind, Andy and I returned to our wooden poles to, well, bang them on our RV.

Please notice Andy’s smug expression as he had suggested the use of these poles over two hours earlier.

From here, we drummed various beats in different patterns and various forces along our Cortez so that, I’m sure, all passersby driving were witnessing Andy and I appearing to vandalize a classic vehicle feet from the roadway.

At first our snake refused to leave …

so Andy hopped back inside and made noise directly next to the snake, which prompted it to move.

“Where is he going though?” I asked from a safe proximity outside. “Is he going to hide somewhere else though?”

Andy reassured me this was not possible because there was no flooring where the snake was so it would surely drop outside. However, I would soon discover this was only an audible thought as he had not actual investigated this flooring and, turns out, there is not an opening so our snake did hide elsewhere.

“OH MY GOD!” I heard Andy shout as I imagined him watching our snake’s long body continue to slither down. “LOOK HOW LONG IT IS!” By now the snake’s tail slowly moved into sight until, you guessed it, its tail disappeared.

“He’s not coming out is my problem though,” I reported as I crouched from a vantage point almost a yard from the vehicle. “Do you see its tail?”

“No,” I heard back. “It’s gone.”

“IT’S GONE?!” I shrieked back. Clearly, he didn’t realize the gravity of the situation — We were about to have a snake for a roommate in a vehicle that was 18-feet long.

This fear would be momentarily rectified when I heard Andy scream cuss words inside our RV — Apparently, he had bent to search for the snake when he found the answer rather quickly. “****! It’s looking at me again!”

Our snake was now tucked behind our passenger headlight. From here, we theorized more noise was necessary so we turned on our engine and continued our pole beatings.

Soon our snake slithered from its headlight-home down to the battery box, which has limited flooring and is opened to the outside world.

This allowed our snake to carefully question if he wanted to leave before dropping from tour Cortez.

Andy gives me a hard time because I literally jumped for joy and cheered like a crazy person, raising my wooden RV pole high in the air as if I just won some championship, but I was more than thrilled.

My moment of celebration though soon turned panicked as Andy shouted that our snake was trying to re-enter our motorhome by traveling up the rear passenger wheel.

In a last heroic act, Andy wound his metal hook around the body of the snake then pulled the reptile from under our RV and onto the middle of the pebbled path.

Worried our snake would try to climb back into our motorhome again, Andy then flashed into the driver’s seat and moved our vehicle.

From there, we delicately prodded the tail of our snake to encourage it to “get a shimmy on,” as Andy said (because the last thing we needed was my uncle to arrive and kill the poor creature).

Finally, it disappeared in the tall grass as cheers of “Good boy!” and “We saved your life!” rang out behind it. Andy and I stood proud of his true snake-handling efforts and our ability to work together to save an innocent animal.

It’s around here though we realized our final dilemma: “How many more could there be in there?!” Andy asked as we turned our gaze back to our motorhome.

We found a snake inside our RV! Here's our crazy story that started with replacing spark plug and turned into wrangling a snake on our own!

Did our Cortez serve as a diner for a snake? Yep, there are (or, um, were) mice in there. Shelter? Check. Zero threats or disturbances? Yes or, uh, mostly (until Andy and I arrive).

Therefore, we had the sudden realization of who knows how many more we would encounter …

“They could be anywhere,” we both said as we crept our way back to our Cortez.

Suddenly, the space inside seemed a vast hiding ground for snakes — They could be resting under the dashboard again or curled in our tool bag or wedged behind our ceiling’s roof supports …

“I’m so scared,” Andy’s thoughts echoed my own. “What if his missus is there?!”

This lead us to the most rational decision: We would need to sell the Cortez …

But first we would have to move our RV back under its covered shed. This brought forth a debate of who would be courageous enough to do so — and just so you know I enjoyed my calm stroll back, listening to Andy once more struggle to start our RV and the new strange squeaking sound as it puttered off.

Speaking of mechanical work, don’t forget our original Cortez work because that was the complete opposite of what actually unfolded this day — and to avoid disservice to this, here’s a quick, calm, easy recap of our most quick, calm, easy job of replacing our spark plugs …

When we did our compression test, we got a look at our old spark plugs only to discover they were at varying levels of used condition, meaning some were clean (great condition) but most were either cracked, sooty, or oily or a combination of all three.

This is why Andy and I were hopeful a switch to eight shiny new spark plugs would solve our V8 engine’s irregular starting problems, not to mention allow our Cortez to run better.

Replacing them meant perching in precarious positions — I was in charge of the four spark plugs on the driver’s side, and Andy, the four on the passenger’s side, which means he was next to and rubbing against our snake’s hide-out the entire time. The saying, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you” totally applies here.

Back to our work: Together, we popped off our ignition leads, cleaned the area around the spark plugs, confirmed the correct gaps on our new spark plugs, swirled copper slip around the new threads to prevent rusting and seizing, torqued the new spark plugs in place, and pushed on our ignition leads.

Then it was time to start our vehicle — and if you’ve been here long enough, you’ll know daggon well it is never simply ‘starting our vehicle.’

“It should fire up real nice and quick,” Andy said as he hopped into the driver’s seat while I cheered for instantaneous success.

Moments rolled along as our engine only turned and turned without firing up.

“Well, this isn’t the definition of ‘quick’ I was thinking we would get,” I told him.

“No,” Andy agreed back, “I was expecting a bit quicker” and, as if on cue, our V8 smoothly started and (even better) sounded better.

To test our engine, Andy pressed his foot to the gas petal.

That’s when we heard a gunshot-of-a-sound as our engine backfired … and it continued to backfire every time the gas petal was pushed.

Leaving the cab to investigate, I was reminded of our other engine problems: backfiring and smoking.

Puffs of smoke shot from our exhaust until a cloud of smoke lingered under then gradually surrounded us and our antique RV.

Andy theorized it could be due to the fuel and oil additive we used to clean and lubricate the engine or it could simply be due to the engine burning the dab of oil we used during the compression test. Both, he thought, could be cleared with a long test drive.

Up and down we drove on the farm’s pebbled path, bumping along with little squeaks and squeals and leaving behind puffs of smoke.

Those squeals seemed to occur more often though and sounded as if it was metal rubbing metal so we decided to stop and look into our new problem.

Andy’s best guess was that it was our anti-roll bar or shocks because the metal squawking came when we bounced. (Plus, those two parts are the only ones that control movement up and down). To test his thought, he wanted to lean over the engine as I drove … and by now we all know what happened when Andy got back in to finish our test drive: He was greeted with a snake.

Therefore, did the spark-plug change allow our V8 to reliably start?

No, of course not.

Did we figure out our squealing, squeaking sounds?


However, the most important question: Was this the last time we encountered our snake inside?

No, most definitely not.

All of these stories, though, are for another time …

Author: L

Hi there! I am the impulsive do-er, the jumper, the one tugging to move past comfort zones to embrace a life of sheer surprise. I am a writer -- a pursuer of stories -- because I believe in the destination over the journey. I am a chaser of sunrises and sunsets and cherisher of the moments between. I have an overwhelming curiosity, an insatiable desire travel, and an obsessive yearn to turn dreams into realities. For all of these reasons, the word that best summarizes who I am is "seeker" -- I am forever a seeker.

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