There were times when the snakes decided to make their home in our feed sheds, and it was a dangerous dally, with the snakes as we retrieved the feed for the animals.
The snakes took up residence in the hay stacks on a regular basis. They also made their home in the feed sheds. The oats and grains and feeds attracted the mice, which in turn attracted snakes.
Inside the feed sheds stood large timber bins, with lids on top. The bins were elevated above the ground to avoid moisture or the weather. There were four large bins, joined together. Each bin was about four foot high, and three foot wide and deep. Each bin held the equivalent of about four large bags of chaff or grains.
There were always numerous horses to feed several times a day. We would take an empty bucket, and scoop out the chaff and grains and pour it into the buckets, before mixing it together and feeding each horse the particular mix required.
When the bins were full, it was easy to scoop out the grains, but as the bins emptied it was harder. We had to reach deeper down into the bin to reach the grain. Sometimes we would notice a movement underneath the grain. Most of the times we just prayed and wished it was only a mouse. The mice were small, so their movement was subtle. Sometimes we noticed a larger movement, but if we were in a hurry, we would forget about it.
Occasionally my parents would organise a big clean out of the feed shed, including underneath the bins. Spilt grains accumulated under the bins, but were usually cleaned up with a regular weekly sweep.
My mother would not risk our lives, or the lives of her precious animals by allowing her children to go into the feed shed if she thought there might be snakes in there.
Anyway, mum was out late feeding an animal one night, and noticed quite a large movement in one of the bins she was retrieving the feed from.
The following morning, mum called the Snake Catcher. I think his name was Frank Grundy, and he was a Professional Snake Catcher. Frank had been catching snakes most of his life. He had lost several fingers over the years as a result of snake bites. Frank often worked alone out in the country, miles from the nearest Doctor or Hospital. Apparently the safest thing he did, if he was bitten on the finger by a snake, was to cut off his finger , hence the missing fingers.
Frank came up to the farm, to look for snakes in the feed shed. It must have been a weekend or a holiday, because I was there with mum. I heard Frank tell mum “Mrs Carter, I would not put my hand in those bins in daylight, let alone at night time, there are snakes in there.”
Well that convinced me, I was out of there, gone, kaput.
The snake catcher was there for several hours, while he trapped the snakes and took them away in his bags. I did not hang around to count how many snakes he caught that day, but I believe it was a few.
He knew what to look for to determine if snakes were there, including nests etc. I wondered how he would catch the snakes that we believed lived under the huge hay stacks.
We were supposed to wear big thick rubber boots when we were working on the farm, or in the haystack , or the feed bins. That was fine in the cold weather, but I am sure we slackened off in the warmer weather. Frank said there should always be an adult on hand, or close by if the children were in the backyard.
We had some farm cats that made their home in the haystack. Frank said the snakes did not like cats, because the cat would have a go at a snake, and scratch the snake with its claws.
Life on the farm had its share of dangers and excitement.