So Belle Waring has a story about copperheads and beheadings and camp counselors getting bit.
1. I was absolutely 100% certain until somewhere around my junior year in high school that I was going to be a herpetologist. I kept several snakes as a kid, my most faithful and long-running was a rosy boa (small California desert constrictor) who was astonishingly placid and very tolerant of handling. He got out at one point and spent 2 months in my clothes drawer until I found him. I also had a garter snake who didn’t particularly take to captivity well and got out during my mom’s dinner party, which was actually pretty amusing. I used to check out a book called I Was a Teen-Aged Herpetologist from the school library once every week or so when I was in elementary school.
2. My mom was kind of phobic about snakes. However, when we lived up in the Santa Monica mountains, we once had a juvenile rattlesnake in our garage (as well as some very large adults in the hills behind us). My younger brother was used to snakes, due to my pets, so he toddled out at the age of 4 or so to pick up the “snaaayk”, “snaaayk” coiled up in the garage. My mom grabbed a shovel and in a fairly smooth ninja-like move, beheaded the rattlesnake. Perhaps only a few months later, she found a scorpion in a silverware drawer and proceeded to more or less crash into total incapacity until I came (me, all of 11 or so) to remove the scorpion.
3. I managed to freak out my wife and several friends by trying to get them to look more closely at a hognose snake who was doing the patented “hiss and pretend to be an eastern dimondback” thing a minute or so before he tried the “flip over and pretend to be dead” thing. They were running down the trail before I could even get them to come and take a look. Sigh.
There are definitely days where I wish I’d stuck with the herpetologist thing…
Never, never, have I read an entry of yours with more disbelief and lack of sympathy. Snakes. Eek. I faint. I shudder. I call to my wife–“Goldberry, dear–could you come deal with this snake for me?”
I will name my first-born Patrick Mongoose Withywindle, to symbolize my attitude toward snakes.
I suppose it’s not as bad as all that. I’ve even touched some snakes at the show-and-tells for kids at zoos and science centers. But that will do.
My problem with snakes has always been that you have to feed them small animals. One of my worst memories is of watching a group of black mambas (behind glass, thankfully) fighting over some small, terrified mice. I’m no big fan of mice, but seeing them paralyzed and half-eaten… Ugh.
Snakes are the best thing ever. The fact that someone else — someone who is not a herpetologist (much as you seem to have been interested) — knows what a hognose snake is, and even knows about their defensive tricks, has made my day measurably happier.
CMarko: As for feeding them small scared animals, most captive bred snakes are perfectly happy (and in the case of my resident ball python happier) with frozen pre-killed rats . Simply thaw, warm, and dangle in front of said snake’s snout.
I find myself wishing more and more lately that I were in grad school for herpetology…
I used to find my rosy boa’s consumption of a live mouse pretty interesting, but I could see why it would bother some people.