We've lived in Florida over 20 years and have had a few interesting animal encounters, like the time we were driving home from choir rehearsal and had to stop while an alligator crossed the road ahead of us. Usually, though, it's pretty tame around here, once you get accustomed to lizards in the house, palmetto bugs (aka cockroaches on steroids), and spiders half the size of your hand.There is a small part not far from our house that hosts a suprising variety of flora and fauna for its size. From pileated woodpeckers to herons and sandhill cranes, from squirrels to gopher tortoises, you never know what you'll encounter on the jogging trail. Once I even met a red fox.
I try to walk every day for about an hour, and at my pace four times around the jogging trail runs just five minutes over that, so since I had to be out in the car anyway, that's where I decided to walk today. It was on my second lap that I had The Encounter: wending its way across the trail just a few feet in front of my striding legs was my first ever, in-the-wild, live-as-it-could be coral snake!
Pencil-thin and about a foot long—perhaps he was a youngster—he was minding his own business and slithered off into the woods on the other side of the trail, so I did not let his presence deter me from completing my circuits. On returning home, however, I hastened to google "coral snake" to prove my memory, which has been confused ever since I realized that the old jingle, "Red and yellow, kill a fellow; red and black, friend of Jack" (and variations thereon) could easily be reworked to say just the opposite. It's like when I thought I was clever to remember how to get to the public parking lot near St. Luke's Cathedral in Orlando: Turn at the first president. Easy enough; one turns on Washington Street. But then I realized that when driving one actually encounters Jefferson Street before Washington, so in another sense that is the first president, and I remained confused until I had made the trip often enough to remember to turn on Washington without any clever memory aids.In the future, I don't think I'll be needing rhymes to help me tell the difference between a coral snake and the harmless scarlet king snake or milk snake. Those equal-sized red and black stripes separated by narrow yellow bands will be hard to forget. I've seen coral snakes in zoos before, but that is not the same thing as a personal encounter, and adrenaline sharpens memory.