An out-of-work snake gave Carson City resident Mary Broyles a scare, but only after she had picked it up and carried it to the toilet to be flushed.
She found him (or her) lying under a rug in the living room of her Harrison Lane house near Graves Lane. Her Manx cat "Mister" was growling, tipping her off to the potential danger that lurked just inches away.
When she finally pulled back the rug, she saw what she believed was a giant earthworm - 12 inches long.
"I flipped the rug back and thought 'I've never seen a worm that big,'" she recalled last week. "And I went to the bathroom to get a wad of toilet paper to pick it up."
With Mister twitching and moaning angrily in the background, Broyles took hold of the worm and carried it - at arms length - to her bathroom.
When she laid it in the bowl, it stiffened and she suddenly realized what she had just done.
"Every hair on my arms stood up straight," she said. Mister's hair was on end as well.
In retrospect, Broyles thinks that Mister may have been trying to tell her something. She realized that his persnickety temperament that day should have caused her to pause and consider what she might be getting into.
"He growled at me," she said. "He was trying to protect me."
Broyles, after judging the coloring and consulting friends, said she believes the snake was a baby rattler, drawn to her house by the unusually late winter and construction on the Graves Lane extension.
She said she learned the hard way that rattlesnakes usually don't get their colors until spring, which explains the case of mistaken identity.
"I just want people to know that they are in the neighborhood and they can get inside," Broyles said. "Nobody is aware that they don't always look like typical snakes."