My Funny Story About Snakes
Funny Story About A Snake: When A Snake Is A Snake
I have to give credit to Wayne Brown and his marvelously delightful hub Firepower which I just read today and laughed myself sick over. If you haven't read it, stop what you are reading and go read it! If you ever want to read a funny story about snakes, this is it - and well, men in general (sorry Wayne) and their fixation on things that go boom!
First off, when I opened the hub, I practically jumped out of my shorts and gave a wee bit of a shriek, because you see, as many who know me personally already know I am TERRIFIED of snakes. I am not a little scared of these reptiles - I am rendered temporarily insane. I scream, faint, whatever when I am faced with them.
To be honest, I can't even watch them on TV without becoming nauseated. Seeing them in any form, even on an avatar on Hubpages sends me into the shakes. Seeing them in a picture, on TV or on videos can give me nightmares about snakes for a week! I'm surprised I can even say the word - let alone type it!
All this said, here's how all this started and how certain people are, though 'probably' well-intentioned (you betcha), making it worse!
Photo Credit: WikiCommons Magnus Manske
(I feel better not having a picture)
How The Snake Phobia Started
I was a sweet and innocent young girl of 17 - this was just after I left home after graduation and while I was part of the religious group that I had joined. It was also after my bonk on the head after an ill-fated dive into the shallow end of the swimming pool (another day and another episode - could explain a lot).
Backing up just one tiny little second here, I was a total tomboy pretty much as I grew up since I spent most of my days outside escaping the wrath of my grandmother. I could easily say that I wasn't afraid of a thing. I took on snarling dogs (and tamed them), tried my hand at punching out the neighborhood boys for making fun of my grandmother and teasing my sister (unsuccessfully I should add), and I was even known to play with and catch lizards and frogs. I even had two PET frogs! At about 8 years old, I can remember standing in the class at a show and tell with a boa constrictor around my neck, petting it. Now that I think back on that little episode, probably not the brightest thing I could have done with a boa constrictor - I must have confused her or him with another kind of boa - or that death wish coming out again!
Fast forward to age 17. It was a beautiful fall day and I was out in the country with a bunch of my cohorts in religion. We were not on our missionary assignment this particular day and had gone to the mountains to have a day of fun - and a prayer meeting. The trees and bushes were almost devoid of leaves and the meadow grasses were at least knee high but blowing in the beautifully dry Santa Ana conditions of a San Diego day. It was a beautiful fall day and made for enjoyment. Enter trouble with a capital S!
We were standing in a circle and praying about something - 'God knows what' comes to mind but that seems a little sacrilegious - so I'll just say we were praying. As we stood there reciting our gratitude for the beauty of the meadows and our fine day away from the tediousness of our missionary work (which was never done), I became aware of a sound at my feet and to the right....'ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch' (speed that up about 100 times).
Okay - I have never before or since heard the rattle of a rattlesnake but let me tell you - if you hear it - you somehow just KNOW what it is! I don't think you need anyone to explain it to you!
Well, I wasn't worried about what God was going to think - my eyes flew open and while everyone stood there resolutely praying away, I looked down - and screamed. Not a little polite girlie scream - this was a wide-mouthed, fear of death scream that echoed to the hills far beyond where we stood. I then did something I've never done since - I literally climbed BACKWARDS up a huge boulder that was sitting behind me - all the while continuing to scream.
I tell you what - I got their attention pretty dang fast! When I looked down from my perch atop the boulder, there was my friend, Rastus the Rattler and he was coiled and ready to strike - right where my cute little bare leg had been just seconds before. The rest of it was a blur as I continued to scream and then became so dizzy that I was sure I was going to pass out - although I was painfully aware that I was now on top of a boulder with lots of crevices, and what if the bloody snake had a family waiting for me!
Not sure why, but I guess it was a guy thing - someone picked up a huge rock and smashed the living crap out of old Rastus. They could have let him go although maybe it was better that he was dead - I might still be sitting on the rock - and still screaming. Needless to say, my friends were not able to get me off the rock very quickly. Two of my favorite boy friends ended up carrying me out through the grass because I absolutely refused to walk through the high grass.
So I guess you could say I came by my fear 'naturally'. There was a direct cause and effect that led to me becoming snake-impaired. Whereas I could go to the San Diego Zoo and go right into the snake exhibit and look at all the snakes and thumb my nose without a fear in the world, I now could not even go near the doorway. The pit that was out in the center of the zoo with all kinds of reptiles hanging on trees and such was now off limits. I am shuddering even to think of it! If anyone happened to steer me that way, I was so nauseated I almost barfed on my shoes.
All things considered, I decided to just keep my distance - they couldn't hurt me if I just ignored them. For many years, that policy seemed to really work for me! Until of course I had kids. Having kids just opens up lots of possibilities, especially when you have boys, especially one very precocious boy who has ADHD and loves to do everything and anything under the sun to scare his good old mom. There were a few incidents of bringing a live salamander into the house or the car and sticking it right up in my face because Jonathan KNEW (and he was right) that I would think it was a snake. He would laugh hysterically while I jumped from the car or ran out the door before I was eaten alive!
Then there was the day I bent down to pick strawberries in my backyard and while I was pulling the strawberry free, I noticed that the plant was somehow moving. I kept thinking "No - that can't be right - you must be seeing things". I belatedly realized that there was a snake coiled around the crown of the plant. My kids as it happened were having a get together in the backyard so there were many people who got to see me literally sucking air, grabbing at my chest, and hurling myself backwards as fast as my legs could carry me, not seeing the picnic table behind me and falling backwards over the table. I decided he could have my strawberries.
That wasn't enough though. This snake was so clever that he took to bullying me! He and a friend (or relative - could have been his wife for all I know) took to lying on TOP of my juniper bushes in the hot sun just to keep me from going up to my garden. I fixed them - I let 'em have it! I honestly didn't appreciate being threatened by a couple of Garters (Grizzly and Gristle) but this couple was very aggressive!
Even years later, when I was rearranging the woodpile because I didn't particularly like the way it was looking, I uncovered a salamander - probably related to those blasted Garters - and thinking it was one of their kind come to claim me, I gasped, clutched my chest and started my backward flight....only to have my malamute Kodi bite me in the ankle - whereupon I dropped the heavy piece of wood on my foot and broke my toe! I was SURE the bite was the Garters come off their perch on the junipers to get a 'piece of me'.
It also did not help one iota that my daughter married a SNAKE FREAK! Oh-My-God!! He claimed he was a zoologist or something but I never saw a license - all I saw was SNAKES. Not just one pet snake - there were like 10 or 11~!!! Who in their right mind needs this many snakes - and inside a HOUSE? Do you know what this did for me? He even brought a boa constrictor to MY house - the safe zone - on a Sunday for dinner and kept it in a pillowcase while we ate. I sincerely almost had a heart attack. "Will you please pass the snake---I mean potatoes?" Even my black labs wouldn't come in the same room with the 'pillowcase'.
I absolutely hated going to her apartment. There was only one way in and one way out - that was right past the biggest aquarium ever - set right beside the front door - with Butch the Boa (who was GIGANTIC) straining at the top of the aquarium. He was messing with me and don't think I didn't know it! He was pushing that lid off and saying stuff to me like "I got your number, sister....ch-ch-ch-ch-ch...I don't have any rattles but I'm gonna wrap myself around you and squeeze...how 'bout a BEAR hug?"
Love does strange things to us because I kept going back! Every snake had its own aquarium and they were positioned throughout the living and dining room so strategically that every single place I looked, there was another one! I couldn't look anywhere without staring one of them in the eyes. I got so I just stared at my hands in my lap and never looked up!
Then Kate would always call to tell me after we had come to visit and inevitably say "Oh by the way, Mom, we found out Fang was out of his aquarium after you left - but we found him - in the bathroom - in the wastebasket." Don't think I don't know she was messing with me but I know for a fact that they frequently got out - thank God Barney didn't - that I know of!
Slithering Ahead to Present Snake Time
Well, as things do happen, my daughter ended up divorcing the Snake Tamer (I was seriously sorry to see that happen!!!) and we moved to Central Oregon from Washington state where we'd raised the kids. We'd visited here quite a bit before we moved and I think vaguely in the back of my mind I knew there were rattlers here but I did what I mostly do with snakes - but a giant "X" in my head where they are concerned and just don't 'go there'.
One of the most beautiful places close to where we live is Smith Rock State Park. It is a favorite place for folks to come to mountain climb but also has some wonderful hikes. Most often when friends or family come to visit, they always want to see it because it is so magnificent with all its craggy rock formations, panoramic views, etc.
It is a rather steep climb down to the bottom of the 'canyon' and then there are several paths you can take - some into rattlesnake country and some not so much. I've been there several times and have seen the bull and the gopher snakes enough to be wigged out. They are roughly 3 feet long and really, really 'thick'. (I guess that has to do with wolfing down a gopher - go figure!)
They also have no fear whatsoever of people (obviously) because as you are walking along (usually looking up to watch the climbers on the rocks), they just start to mosey across the path. Since the path is not very WIDE in the first place, they stretch across the entire length of the path. I have stepped on one so far - and almost had a heart attack and then almost wet my pants in fright. Needless to say, I have learned the very hard way to NEVER quit looking at the ground - especially in summer.
Well, as my luck would have it, one summer day a few years ago, our friends arrived from up in the Seattle area and said they wanted nothing more than to go to Smith Rock for a hike. I tried to talk them out of it - simply because of the snake factor! I admit it - I don't like getting my nerves jangled if I can help it - and I'm always worried that the rattlers aren't going to see those pesky little signs. What if they decide to cross over into the 'other areas' and come after me! They're probably still pissed about that whole killing of one of their brethren and all!
Unfortunately, my husband loves to hike and he kept needling away at me. "God Audrey - what are you so worried about - they're more afraid of you than you are of them". Yeah sure - "Just keep on thinkin' that until ya get bit, pal" is my answer!
Then the final challenge - "I didn't know you were such a chicken, Audrey." Okay - the gloves are off - no one calls me a chicken (for long). So I met the dang challenge. Okay - y'all want to go brave the heat and the blasted snakes - you bet - I'm up for it. Just let me get the biggest meanest hiking boots I can find out of the closet and about 15 pairs of socks to go inside - and we're off!
So there we are....we descend into the bowels of snake hell and I'm whipping my head every which way trying to identify the beginnings of any reptilian activity in my sector. Honestly - going there in the summer (for me) is NOT conducive to a nice outing. I have whiplash by the time I get home. To say that my nerves were a little on edge would be putting it mildly. But we got down to the main trail and were meandering along the river and uncharacteristically, I let my guard down. There were the 4 of us - Bob, me, and our 2 friends - and we were chatting about this and that when all of a sudden, my girlfriend screeches excitedly "Oh how COOL" and starts to bend down in the path.
Well, if I were a true friend, I would have grasped her by the shoulder and thrown her back - instead I stood absolutely paralyzed in the path and gazed ahead to see none other than Stanley the Snake stretched out in all his freaking glory across the path! My friend of course whips out her camera and she is excitedly taking pictures as it is moving.
Oh no - the moving - not again....my head is starting to reel and I'm feeling like I'm seriously going to hurl. (Of note, if I ever DO encounter a rattler again, with my ability to handle it so well, I figure I have about 5 seconds before it jumps up and bites the living daylight out of me. I will of course have passed out cold long before this and it will be able to have its way with me - no resistance. I don't even know - can they bite you like multiple times? On second thought I do not want to know!)
My world is starting to grow dark - but not before I notice that it has markings on its back....Oh-My-God - it's Rastus' COUSIN! I'm frantically trying to draw a breath because I'm now starting to hyperventilate and I'm gasping out "Get away from it - STEP BACK - it's a RATTLESNAKE" while my stupid (blond I might add) friend is taking more pictures and bending down further towards it to get a better picture.
"No it's not, Audrey - I don't see any rattles, see?" Seriously, I can only see out of my eyes in little slits because everything is going to darkness and I keep arguing and telling everyone to stand back - for what I'd really like to know though - was I going to reach down and grab it or take care of this situation? Before or after I fainted?
What happened next was just cruel....it was also typical of the kind of crap I have to put up with. While I'm practically asphyxiating myself with fear and trying desperately to think of how to get around this monstrous snake - going into the brush would seem like suicide surely - I feel a prick on the back of my leg. Not once, but in 2 spots - in unison! OH-MY-GOD!!!! It tag-teamed me - it had a snake running a drop-back pattern and it was behind me now!
The story was later related to me that I looked like Wilma Rudolph coming off the gun shot. I felt the prick on my calf and I literally shoved my friend into the weeds, then became airborne as I gracefully leapt into the air over the snake, while letting out a bloodcurdling scream that echoed in the canyon - and took off at the speed of light.
I think I did the 100 yard dash in like 2 nanoseconds. I was in fact still running for at least 5 minutes straight ahead down the path, pushing people out of my way and still screaming. When someone finally grabbed hold of me and asked what was the matter, I couldn't even talk I was so winded. All I could gasp out was "S-N-A-K-E".
They were busy asking me if I was bitten when my so-called FRIENDS and my husband ran up to join me bent over at the waist - from running but mostly from LAUGHING....to politely inform the people that no in fact I had not been bitten by a snake but that they had played a joke on me and both poked my calf with a stick at the same time. They (of course) had no idea I was going to react so crazily!!
Okay - we won't even go to the retribution for that little escapade! Bob owes me big time - STILL. There is no excuse for scaring the living crap out of an old woman - who knew I could run that fast though? I was humiliated and they had the unmitigated gall to stand there and har-har it up for at least 10 minutes - while the other innocent bystanders laughed and laughed. If I hadn't been so bloody tired, I would have walked off and left them behind.
Rastus Before He Met His Maker
Summing Up A Snake Is A Snake
So you see, my friends, it is not about the KIND of snake that it is....it is just about the snake. The fact that it IS a snake is a done deal now for me.
As it turns out, we just visited Smith Rock a few weeks ago. We go there quite often although (for very obvious reasons) I am not a fan of going in the summertime. It was almost 100 degrees this particular day and Bob and I went the river way with our 2 malamutes and my daughter's puggle - and Kate and her now husband (NOT A SNAKE CHARMER) went the Monkey Face steeper trail. They were innocently walking along the trail up top when my daughter came upon none other than Ralwus, one of Rastus' other cousins! He even shook his things at her! All I gotta say is, they would have been airlifting me off the top of the rock if I'd been up there! And Bob has the nerve to say "Wow - sure glad I didn't go - I'd probably never have HEARD him and would have gotten bit". Hmmmm...okay - I'm not even going to think it.
Also to my delight, it turns out we have several huge bull or gopher snakes behind our house as we sit on a wetlands. I guess there are loads of rodents out there for them to indulge on for dinner. I never thought about it - my bad!
One day last summer though we had our own 'pet snake'. Bob was weeding behind the fence and somehow he must have flushed one out. I shudder to think how it got through the fence - the thought is making me queasy right now! Anyhow - it slithered its gigantically long 3 foot self up my flower beds on the lower level all the way to the downstairs patio of our house and was laying on the patio! Bob confirmed it was 3 feet long. (Obviously malamutes are NOT built-in snake alarms - or much of an alarm period)
I'll tell you how this went.....I was inside in my office working. He and his friend were laying brick and when Bob turned to see the snake laying there, I heard VERY excited talking. The windows were closed but I could hear both of them conferring - and it sounded like 2 hysterical women if you want to know!
I knew INSTANTLY what it was with my snake radar...snadar! I heard them saying things like 'Do you see any rattles?"...."Should we get a shovel?"...."YOU pick it up!"..... "No, YOU!" - then running. (I don't think the snake had tennis shoes on)
It turned out this particular snake didn't want anything to do with a couple of hicks so he made off the way he'd come in - down the flower beds and slithering (shuddering again, gagging) back up over the fence.
I have to tell you though - those 2 pantywaists never heard the end of it from me! Of course, I never went out to SEE it - I just listened. Even THAT gave me nightmares for the week and I had a dream that it was sitting in my computer chair when I came down to work the next morning!
My mother tells me often that I was born in the 'year of the snake' - like this is somehow supposed to help me get over this. Unfortunately, it hasn't worked. It is much like my fear of flying - it may be irrational and it may all in my head - but folks, it's there! I'm just not a snake kinda gal. Lizards, bugs, spiders - even tarantulas - I don't collect them or anything but they don't even blip on my radar - snakes.....no way! (I guess I need my snadar fixed)
That's my tale of the snake - now my dilemma will be how to possibly upload videos and pictures of said reptiles without LOOKING at them. I can only say that I'm adding everything and then throwing them on and closing this page really, really quick. If anything is wrong, let me know and I'll come back to it and try to fix it with my eyes closed!
Then I'm going to shudder a bunch of times, throw some salt over my shoulder or something and take a shower for good measure. Hopefully that will ward off any of Rastus' family coming looking for me!