My namesake (and second cousin on my dad’s side) Indiana Jones and I share several attributes in common: We both have a fascination with ancient mythology; in the end we both ended up with a gorgeous babe (just trying to score points with my wife here – How am I doing, sweetie?); And, most importantly, WE BOTH HATE SNAKES!
I cannot overstate just how much I despise those disgusting creatures. Everything about them gives me the creeps. There is no such thing as a cute snake. They have no fur, no legs, not even eyelids. How bizarre is that? Worst of all, they can paralyze or kill you with a single venomous bite – unless they’re the kind that suffocates you to death with their viselike grip.
I cannot think of a single redeeming thing about this evil being. Okay, well, maybe one thing. Apparently, some snakes actually like to eat other snakes. In fact, the favorite food of king cobras is, you guessed it, other snakes. How sick and twisted is that?
Snakes will never win any medals for intelligence either. Did you know that some snakes actually eat themselves? True. I’ll admit, when I was a one-year-old, I sometimes obsessively sucked my thumb. But I never gave serious thought to devouring my hand. Some snakes are idiots.
But back to my main point: I loathe those slimy, slithering serpents. (I wrote the previous sentence primarily to show my 9th grade English teacher, Mr. Santee, that I still remember what he taught me about the importance of using alliteration in storytelling. How’d I do, teach?)
When I was young, even the sight of a common garter snake would make me anxious, in part because there was no way for me to tell a harmless snake from a deadly one. (See image at right.) It would be extremely helpful if deadly snakes came with a warning label. Are you listening, God?
I once went tubing in the wilderness with a buddy of mine. He shared my snake phobia. As we drifted lazily down the slow-moving river, other more experienced tubers warned us to keep an eye out for water moccasins. Turns out this is a highly venomous snake that loves to hang out on rocks by the edge of the river, primarily to terrorize novice tubers like me. Its bite can be deadly.
Here’s a question: What’s more alarming than seeing a water moccasin basking on a rock by the edge of the river? Answer: Two seconds later when you turn to your buddy to point out that there’s a water moccasin on a rock by the edge of the river, only to notice it’s no longer there – because it’s decided to make like a torpedo and head straight for your inner tube. Luckily, he changed course and decided to pursue some other tubers, and we finished our journey without incident.
I once heard that snakes can actually swim through the sewer system and up into your toilets. I don’t know if that’s true, but ever since then, I’ve always closed the toilet lid after use. You may say I’m being paranoid, but I have yet to have a single snake attempt to bite my bum while on the toilet ever since I implemented this policy.
Perhaps the event that forever cemented my fear of snakes was the time my wife Michele and I attended a talk at the Miami Zoo by the zoo’s Director of Herpetology (think reptiles and snakes). During his presentation, he brought out several lizards and snakes of various levels of weirdness, including (I’m not making this up) a two-headed ball python.
In the background, I noticed a king cobra which the presenter had kept safely confined inside a glass aquarium. Then he removed the deadly snake from its glass enclosure with a long metal rod with a hook on the end. He delicately placed it on the floor. It immediately started winding its way towards the metal chairs each of us in this 30-person audience were defenselessly sitting on – make that standing on, as we each immediately jumped up in an anxious attempt to avoid the snake that was suddenly checking all of us out. Did I mention I was in the front row?
As the cobra sauntered in my general direction, the presenter grabbed it with his pole hook to pull it back. But then the snake just jumped off the hook again – and was now slithering towards me.
Fun fact: When a king cobra is angry or feeling threatened, it will rise up and flatten its head into a hood. Not so fun fact: The king cobra in our room was pulling that exact same move and was now less than four feet from me.
The presenter desperately snatched the snake again with his pole and thrust the misbehaving cobra into the aquarium, slamming the lid. When the director resumed his presentation, the angry snake kept smashing its head against the side of the aquarium. But his many escape attempts were completely in vain – that is, until he tried smashing the lid of his jail cell instead. Yeah, that worked like a charm. The lid instantly popped off.
In a heartbeat – and mine was beating extremely fast now – the villainous venomous viper (how’s that for alliteration, Mr. Santee?) had leapt out of the aquarium and was back on the floor. He made the same threatening move as before, elevating his head and flattening it into a hood. Once again he was coming right at me. Fortunately, my wife was closer to him than I was, so her body partially blocked him from getting a clear shot at me. Thanks, sweetie.
The presenter, now obviously a bit shaken himself, was able to snare the snake and wrestle it into a burlap bag. He then shoved the bagged beast into a box. I later thought about how close my wife and I came to becoming the lead story on the evening news:
“KING COBRA KILLS COUPLE.” (Kudos to the headline writer who came up with that. He knew a thing or two about good alliteration.)
I will thank you not to post comments reassuring me that most snakes are harmless or how they help farmers by eating mice and other varmints. I don’t care if a goddamned snake knocked on my door and offered to paint my house for free. Get him away from me! Besides, I’m pretty sure he’d probably do a piss poor paint job.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
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Absolutely hilarious! Especially the snake offering to paint his house and Tim refusing! Don’t believe it. Tim sure isn’t going to paint his house. I remember walking on a trail with Tim which had lots of wildlife, i.e., copperheads. Tim was walking in front. I took off my belt and slowly lowered the strap down the front of his shoulder. I did not know that a human could jump 5 feet straight up, and without even warming up! Fortunately, the Electroshock treatment completely erased his memory, as evidenced by the absence of this true story in his snake tales! Bill
I feel exactly the same way about snakes. I don’t want to be anywhere near a nope rope!
Talk about hair standing on end, mine does just thinking of snakes.
I probably would have left the room not interested ar all in Herpetology.
Just had to read this to test out the new Like button. Worked just fine by the way.
I grew up in rural northern California and my mom was, like you Tim, very afraid of snakes. So whenever a rattlesnake decided to nap on our patio, it was me who had to dispose of it by decapitation with a garden hoe. The older i got, though, the more it began to occur to me: hey! I could get bitten doing this!
As to the photo with your article: gopher snakes have devolved to resemble rattlers, apparently a good defensive strategy. Hiking in the Bay Area, we have been amused by the signs depicting the miniscule differences between the two. “The rattlesnake’s head is 1/8 of an inch larger….” I mean, that’s really helpful if you happen upon a snake and forgot to bring your tape measure.
Enjoyed the tale immensely. Look forward to reading more articles! My wife shares your love of snakes to such an extent that it may be awhile before she’ll read it!