Well, no. He didn't really do either. Although his ukulele, a snake AND squirrel poop did in fact figure greatly into our day. See, today we went here for a little afternoon hike (and by hike I mean a leisurely stroll on a completely flat terrain, except for the 2 minutes we ventured up a hill to see what was up there. There was nothing up there.) Ethan insisted on bringing his ukulele along for the adventure....
..I'm a cowboy, on this steel horse I ride...
So we got to listen to his island-inspired musical stylings while we read this sign at the entrance of the trail:
(please note the instructions written in dog-ese. Someone's a witty park ranger!)
The nature preserve is right next to a small municipal airport, which? I guess is okay if every little plane in & out of there is piloted by bird-flier-througher-extraordinaire Captain Sully Sullenburger, but otherwise? Why would you build an airport adjacent to an area where flocks of birds are routinely making the rounds? Also? There is a landfill (lovely) not far from the preserve (which also makes me scratch my head--"let's put all our unbiodegradable crap right next to a lovely haven for aquatic wildlife!"), and the sheer number of scavenge-y sea gulls circling the place would have given Alfred Hitchcock the heebie geebies. So I'm grateful to the powers that be that we didn't watch some bird shredding cessna plummeting into the marsh on our hike.
The walk was actually quite lovely. Dusty trails, what passes for grass during the California summer (beaten down straw is more like it), blue skies, birds calling, ducks in the wetlands diving for lunch, tall graceful egrets tiptoeing elegantly through the marsh, and little things we thought were bunnies but turned out just to be boring old squirrels scurrying past us on the trails. All so lovely. Ah, happy Saturday making family memories.
Until Ethan spotted the squirrel poop. I'm not sure why, and perhaps there is no explanation that a rational non-4 year old could possibly understand, but Ethan became at once equal parts fascinated by & terrified of, the squirrel poop. To my eyes, it was unremarkable (although it did make me wonder aloud why one never sees squirrel poop in urban settings. Husband thinks I'm insane). But to Ethan, this particular poop opened up a flood gates of questions and concerns. Do squirrels have bums? Why do squirrels poop? Why do they poop right here in the middle of this trail? Where else do squirrels poop? Why don't squirrels poop on potties? Why can't I poop anywhere I want to, if the squirrel can? What is in squirrel poop? (ohdeargod!) And it went on.
These questions came in rapid fire succession as Husband and I volleyed the "it's your turn to answer" look back and forth between us. The child is a bottomless pit of "why" these days. Bottom. Less.
After we responded as completely as we could to every question he shot at us, Ethan decided that he could not, without tearful fits of hysteria, continue walking on the trail whenever he encountered squirrel droppings. Thus began the "carry meeeeee!!!" portion of our hike. It was, my friends, delightful. Any time we approached the offending poop, Ethan would begin his tiptoe-y dance of doom & demand that one of us pick him up and carry him around it.
Let's take a moment to note that the trail was wide enough that 2 of me could have laid across it, toe to toe. A squirrel poop? About the side of a popcicle stick, if the squirrel really meant business. So let's be clear that Ethan could easily avoid being anywhere remotely near the poop and still manage to walk on his own two feet, all while staying safely on the trail (not that it was surrounded on any side by perilous alligator infested water or molten lava, so he could have even gone off the trail to avoid the poop if it were especially monstrous).
What we have here is a drama queen. Or king. Or whatever, he's 4.
So there was a lot of that to contend with (because I had no idea how much squirrels actually do poop, and I will give Ethan this--there was a LOT of poop). But we powered through.
Ethan, however, was not the only one doing an overly dramatic tiptoe-y dance of doom. I have to admit to doing one myself (sans tears & flailing arms), when I saw the snake. I went a little bit "off road" to get a closer look at something that looked like a pheasant, but really probably wasn't because I don't think that pheasants generally hang out in marshy wetlands. So it was probably just a really big duck of some kind (my bird-watching grandmother would simply be kvelling over my vast knowledge and appreciation of our avian friends, wouldn't she?). Anyway, as I approached the edge of the water, I all but put my foot on something that looked very much like this:
Please note I did not in fact take that picture, but it is the closest approximation I can find to the snake I saw today; it is a picture I found on a "snakes of Northern California" website & I'd give the credit for it if I could read that little name in the lower left hand corner.
I took no pictures of the actual snake because I was too busy losing my fucking mind. For a few seconds, I think my brain literally just ran a loop of "it's a snake. it's a snake. it's a snake," before it jumped into gear and tried to remember what to do in the event you confront a snake in the wild. Make yourself as big as possible? Shit, no, that's for a mountain lion. Play dead? Shit, that's for a bear. WTF do you do when you're confronted by a snake??!!! If you're me, you shudder a few times and then run on your tiptoes to safety, saying, "snake. snake. snake snake," the entire time.
I should note that I never once saw the thing's face. When I was approaching it, it was already slithering it's way past where I was, and I must have seen it's back half uncurling and rolling on it's merry way. I did, however, check to see if there was a rattle on it's end & there wasn't it. Thank goodness because if it had rattled, I'm fairly certain I would have dissolved into a puddle of gelatinous terror right on the spot. But it had to be as big around as my wrist. Ugh.
Apparently both Ethan and I will be watching where we step for a long time to come...
I can't help but hear a John Cougar Mellencamp song when I look at this picture. It is so "Little Pink Houses"
do you see it up there in the tree? One of the poop-squad, just hanging out. No doubt planning his next poop assault on the trail.
This plant smelled just like licorice. This made me happy, but made Husband and Ethan a little sick to their stomachs.