Random Thursday: The Pictures Edition

Hey, fellow earthlings and others…happy Thursday. Today is National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day, but it’s also National Reptile Awareness Day, and wouldn’t you know it — there are a couple of snake photos at the bottom of this post (following the grapefruit-looking mushroom pictures). So, here’s your mashed-up warning sign (aren’t I clever?):

Graphic: Warning -- Photos of snakes follow

I do have a few non-serpenty photos to share with you, but let’s get some other pressing matters out of the way first.

Screen capture of a tweet from an A&M studentAs some of you know, I’m a proud Texas A&M graduate — class of NOYB — as is MLB. You might have heard that A&M’s football team inexplicably beat the [at that time] #1 team in the nation, the University of Confusing Mascots of Alabama. Yeah, I know; this outcome was accompanied by reports of an ice storm in Hell and of Nancy Pelosi resigning in order to concentrate on training for the hammer throw in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. Anyway, I have it on good authority that it actually happened. The football thing, that is, not the Hell thing. I don’t know about Pelosi.

It’s not like this doesn’t happen regularly. Why, it was only nine years ago that we prevailed over [at that time] #1 Alabama on their home field. (What happened during the intervening years is irrelevant and unimportant.) Anyway, while we can certainly pretend like we’ve been there before, we’re really not such skilled actors. There was great rejoicing in Aggieland, as evidenced by this thread of reactions to the Alabama win.

Besides being a fan of A&M, I’m also a big fan of opossums…which are not the same as possums, no matter how thick you lay on the Texas twang when you say it. If you’re not also a big fan, it may be because you haven’t read this short-but-extremely-enlightening introduction to them. Now’s your chance.

OK, I promised photos and I’m occasionally a man of my word.

We went to the annual Main Street car show in downtown Marble Falls back at the beginning of October. We always enjoy viewing the scores of classic and not-so-classic autos lined up downtown. Most of the owners are more than happy to exposit at length about the details and history of their particular vehicle, occasionally even if you don’t want to hear it. (You can ask Debbie about that.)

You may fancy yourself an automotive aficionado, and if so, surely you can identify the vehicle from whence this photo was crafted.

Photo of the back windows of a ... yeah, you figure it out

Betcha wish you had one today. (If you do, I don’t want to hear about it. Not that that will stop you from telling me.)

A week later, we traveled to outskirts of civilization, otherwise known as Fort Stockton, my hometown as well as that of my brother and his wife, whom we went to visit. When I say “outskirts of civilization,” I mean that in a [mostly] good way. There’s a great deal I like about that part of Texas resting west of the Pecos river, including views like this on a morning run from within the city limits. It may not look like much to you, but it’s home to me.

Photo of the horizon from Fort Stockton, Texas

However, our new home in the Hill Country offers some pretty good views as well. (Does it still qualify as new after four years?)

Photo of Pecan Creek in Horseshoe Bay, Texas

Fall in the Texas Hill Country usually lasts for only a short time, but it can be achingly beautiful. This is a view of the section of Pecan Creek directly behind our house (you can just make out part of our roof on the left).

It hasn’t been a particularly rainy fall in Central Texas, at least not in our part of the Hill Country. But it’s been wet enough to bring out some unusual fungi. Debbie spotted this one in front of our house and initially wondered who had put a dried out grapefruit on our yard. Use your imagination.

Photo of a mushroom that resembles a grapefruit

Photo of a mushroom that resembles a grapefruit

See, the top photo is like the grapefruit rind, and the bottom one is like the inside…well, I hate it when I have to explain my citrus-themed fungi photos.

And now, we have arrived at the part of the program where…

Venomous snake photos follow

Since it’s the aforementioned day to be aware of reptiles, I’ll share a couple of pictures of a cottonmouth (aka “water moccasin” [I can never spell ‘moccasin’ correctly on the first try]) we encountered on the neighborhood low water crossing one night about a month ago.

Debbie and I were heading home on our golf cart after dark after a cruise around the neighborhood (visiting with neighbors kept us out later than usual), and found this small cottonmouth — about 18″ in length — in the middle of the street that crosses the creek. This was the third or fourth snake we’ve encountered in this exact spot since summer, as they seem to like the warm pavement after sunset.

Photo - Cottonmouth snake in the road

The snake was not motivated to move out of the street, and I had nothing handy to convince it to do so. We eventually found a small stick and I managed to herd it back into the c
reek, but not before a car appeared and stopped beside our golf cart. The driver exited, and I was prepared to offer a defense of what I was doing. To my relief, he immediately recognized the species, and was equally interested in getting it off the street and out of danger.

Cottonmouths have a reputation for being aggressive, but I haven’t found that to be true at all. This one was annoyed by the stick, but never struck at it or attempted to crawl toward me. They’re very quick but also very awkward on land, and their erratic movements can startle you if you don’t know what to expect. Anyway, the encounter ended peacefully and everyone went on their way without trauma.

It’s sometimes difficult to distinguish a non-venomous water snake from a cottonmouth, so I cropped the following closeup to help. Note the black “mask” running horizontally across the eye; that’s a sure sign of a cottonmouth and it won’t be present on a water snake. You also won’t see the pattern on the belly on a water snake (the most common species in our area is, in fact, the plain-bellied water snake).

Photo - closeup of a cottonmouth snake's head

This closeup also shows the vertical pupil of the snake’s eye; non-venomous water snakes have round pupils. (But don’t rely on this as the sole identifier, because in certain lighting conditions even the cottonmouth’s pupil will appear rounded.)

Regardless, if you’re not absolutely unsure of the snake’s identity, just leave it alone — admire it from a distance, or quote poetry to it, or shower it with verbal imprecations — and it will return the favor.