When I read that February 10 began the year of the snake for the Chinese, I remembered the day I visited the snake house, kept by a local fella who shows his wide collection of live reptiles all over the south and Florida, which we all know isn’t southern. This accompanying photo, which I took, is of two of the reticulated pythons I mingled with during my interview with Fred. One is an albino. As we approached the snake house I expected cages, but after he opened the door and I stepped inside, holy cow, they were lying on open shelves. I could hear them breathing, smell them, something similar to a chicken pen, but not so strong.
I stepped into the dark house tucked up against a bluff behind Fred’s house. Now, snakes have not ever been considered on my Friend list, but I had a job to do. Interview the snake man, and he’d made it painfully clear “love me, love my snakes.” Or, get an interview, go in the snake house. So there I was.
“Do you want to touch one?” he asked.
Of course I didn’t want to touch one of the slimy, ugly things. However, I timidly reached out and put my fingertips on the huge loop of snake coiled around another snake on the shelf. Cool, dry. Not slimy at all.
“They like to be handled,” he added.
Yeah, sure. The better to choke me with. However, I lay my hand on him or her. Who could tell? Palpating slightly with each breath, but otherwise he made no move to coil around me. Actually quite pleasant. Wildness contained.
“Let’s take one outside,” he said.
Insisted might be a better word. We took one outside. Ever think about herding snakes? Well, he sort of unwound the fella from his buddies, and pointed him at the door, whereupon the big guy began to make his way over the threshold, pulling his 28 or so feet behind him.
“It’s so cool outside he won’t be very active,” he assured me.
And he wasn’t. His wife held him for a couple of photos. Well, actually, she sat in the grass with his head and a few feet in one hand and draped over her lap. The rest lay out across the yard. The snake did appear to like the attention. In the end, I was convinced and took her place, holding the python. He lifted his head and looked me right in the eye. Quite a sensation, knowing his power yet not fearing it.
Okay, this blog started out to be about the year of the snake, and so I’ll finish with that. The first words on the site I found online are, ” Ancient Chinese wisdom says a Snake in the house is a good omen because it means your family will not starve.” After reading on, I was reminded of something else I did that I’m ashamed of now.
One afternoon, I glanced up from my work–probably reading–and saw a snake stretched out along the rocks of our fireplace taking itself a nap. Well, I didn’t know about that snake in the house belief, so I ran outside, yelling for my mother next door. Knew she’d want to be in on the show as well as protect me if I were attacked. Then I grabbed the hoe, ran back in, and by the time she arrived, I’d captured the snake on the business end of the hoe. Now if he’d behaved and remained there, I’d have put him outside alive, as I could see immediately that he wasn’t of the poisonous variety. However, he opened his mouth, hissed at me and started down that handle right at me. I screamed did a little dance, wet my pants and slammed him onto the floor where I chopped his head nearly off. My mother, the coward, was laughing so hard she did nothing else.
Now, we never starved from my actions, but one never knows what hex may have caused any other bad luck we had following that little episode. Check out this site for information on the Year of the Snake and see horoscopes and all kinds of great information you might want to use to create some of your characters.
You’re a braver woman than I!