July 24, 2002

So Excellent a Serpent: Part Two

Signing up for the "Snake Class" (as it was called with disdain by those poor misinformed unfortunates who loathed the creatures) happened during the same month that I began graduate school and became a married person. Symbolism here is purely coincidental. I think.

Herpetology 401 was the 'field class' to end them all, as we underclass persons already knew, since, as I have described here earlier, we helped class members with their collections a year in advance of taking the course ourselves. Snake sticks, pillow cases, field guide to the reptiles and amphibians, and a couple of cold (heck, room temp is good too) Pabst. Life don't get no better'n that! Right, Ann? Ann?

Brand new wife Ann is a pharmacy major, the beaker-speak bunsen-burner type; but at least she had grown up 'country' and I'd have to say, she had been quietly tolerant of my curious fascination with things slithery...at least prior to having to live under the same roof with Snake Man. The marriage of Herp 401 and a new bride was an auspicious beginning for a death-do-we-part relationship. The first time she intimated that perhaps she had made a mistake, I reminded her that there was not a single word in our marriage vows about snakes!

So: we are to be about the business of catching and releasing snakes and their kin for fun and a graduate level grade. The enterprise started off from the git-do with the offering of easy pickings: You may have heard the college-town 12:00 swap shop programs on the radio, where everything from anthropology tests to zinc oxide is offered for sale or swap. We're talking local color here, folks, down in Lee County, Alabama, environs of Auburn U. The Swap-a-thon is a cultural experience.

"Yeah, Don, I got a big ol' snake o' some kind here in th' clothes hamper, anybody wants it, just gimme a call". Don the DJ repeated it, as if holding it up for auction to an eager crowd. I was on it like ugly on a frog. Yes sir, this was EASY POINTS! In a half hour, I was back at Married Students Housing, proud as punch. Had me a four-foot, ten-herp-points gray rat snake in a pillow case! Didn't even get my hands dirty...they were snake-bit a little, but they were clean.

Seeing as how I couldn't take him in for credit with the prof until tomorrow, hmmmmm...we needed a place to house Mr. Elaphe obsoleta spiloides. Aha! This styrofoam ice chest will do, with a couple of Annie's massive pharmacy tomes on top to hold down the lid, cracked just a smidge to let in a little air. And off we went to the Dairy Dee for a couple of celebratory chili dogs and a cherry coke. Yes, this was the way to start off my career as Dr. Doolittle, friend of animals!

The onions from the chili dogs were still strong on our breath when we made the most awful discovery: Snakes Are Strong. Before I could say 'well I'll be danged', Ann is up on the bed, stomping hysterically as if the cussed snake was between the sheets. Calm down, child, its just a little snake!

As I recall, she did have some very opinionated comments about how lonely I was going to be until I got that snake out of her bedroom, yadayadayada. We'll find it, chill out! And I proceeded to look in all the obvious places...under the bed, behind the wardrobe, down amongst our shoes in the closet, that sort of thing.

Forty five minutes later, no snake. I think I suggested that maybe we could just release a couple of lab rats overnight to lure it out of hiding. She's not laughing, dude. AH! I have spotted a really sneaky potential hiding place under the stove. There are some holes near the floor large enough for Mr. Snake, who is somewhat smaller than a grown man's forearm. So, I go to the desk drawer for a pencil to poke with.

Dang! Drawer is...stuck...won't come. Wonder what is hanging it...

At that instant, with Ann looking on, the drawer became suddenly unstuck. In one motion, the drawer pulled out and the snake's front half uncoiled out of the drawer toward my face, like a jack-in-the-box. Dr. Doolittle almost soiled himself. Big time. The startle reflex, on steroids. The snake didn't seem too happy about it, either.

To be honest, I don't remember the fine details that immediately followed, except that we, er I, extricated said bruised snake from the back of the desk and got him back in the cooler. With the lid firmly in place, no cracks, if he dies I'm really sorry, but I'm pretty certain that I will be involuntarily celebate if my new bride EVER sees that snake again.

Next day, SneekySnake goes to Funchess Hall in the pillow case, to be evaluated by the professor so I can get my FREE POINTS! And what happened next, I saw repeated a dozen times over the course of the semester:

I found Dr. Mount in his office, feet propped up on his desk, reading, when in I walk with a squirming something in a yellow pillow case.

"Whatcha got there? Isn't poisonous, is it?" he asks, stupidly trusting that Doolittle knows the difference, as I hand him the bag. "No sir, I don't think so", says I.

And I'm not making this up, as Mr. D. Barry would say: He gets a distant stare in his eyes, all senses focused on his fingertip touch as he reaches without looking into the bag, deeper and deeper. "Whup!" he barks quietly, almost but not quite flenching, as he caresses the snake, so as to identify it by touch alone....and its temperament.

"Hmmmmm...big fella. Keeled scales. Rat snake. Probably gray. These guys are usually not this mean. Whaddya do to him anyway"? he asked. I didn't go into it. Long story, I sez.

And that was that. Had a great semester, got lots of snake-points, and enjoyed married bliss with no repeat offences. Except I never did find the black snake that got out in the Volkswagen, though, come to think of it.

Snake Tails, Part One


Posted by fred1st at July 24, 2002 04:39 PM
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