Sunday, February 17, 2013

Snakes !!!

OK, I am going to admit that I have ophidiophobia, or fear of snakes. I am not so sure that I am unique in that regard. Heck even Indiana Jones had a fear of snakes. Let’s face it, he wasn’t afraid of much of anything even the ark of the covenant. The ark floated around at the end of that movie making all sorts of eerie sounds, spewing forth ghosts and spirits and melting Nazi’s faces. He was more afraid of snakes than he was that.

Word comes in this morning’s paper that the open season on Burmese pythons has ended. I think the sanctioned hunt went 45 days or so and paid some prize money for most snakes caught and the biggest python. Out of 1600 hunters there were 68 pythons harvested. One was over 14 feet long. That extrapolates to a 4.25% capture rate. Process that for a moment. These 1600 bravest of the brave men and women spent many days camped out in one of the spookiest places on earth, the Everglades, and only 4.25% of them caught a snake. That does not seem to be an effective expenditure of time and resources.

I have the impression that there are millions of these snakes in the glades. Every female lays 100 eggs per year. The story goes that hurricane Andrew, circa 1990, caused the release of a cache of these pythons from a serpetarium and they have been making whoopee and baby snakes for over 20 years. Just one snake could have produced 2000 in that time. Imagine if you would the geometric progression of the index population that slithered off into the Everglades those 23 years ago.

Now I have never been all that crazy about visiting south Florida. This is mostly because you have to be able to speak Spanish to order anything from a restaurant down there. Now you add in the fact that you could be eaten by a python whilst you are sitting at Joe’s crab shack trying to eat a blue crab. That is just more of an external stimulus than my 66 year old central nervous system can stand. I live in Tallahassee, 700 miles north, and I am going to have trouble sleeping tonight because the python hunt was a flop.

I am not rational on this subject. There used to be a black snake that lived in our grainery back on the little farm I grew up on back in southern West Virginia. It was my duty to place our two dogs Rex, the beagle, and King, the border collie in that grainery, every night. This was to keep them from roaming the country side and eating the neighbor’s chickens and their eggs or worse. I remember with perfect clarity, now 60 years later, the first time I ever encountered this reptilian monster. He was blacker than black, thicker than a strong man’s arm and made a creepy hissing noise. My brother and I plotted the detestable creature’s demise using missiles of stove wood or a hoe. However our father pronounced an edict that we were never to interfere with the coming and going of that snake. You see this snake ate his weight, many times over, of rats and mice that were set on eating our corn, wheat and rye in that grainery. I still get goose bumps worrying about encountering that snake.

After I was a full grown man my son, Drew, moved a water snake INTO MY HOME !!!! His grandparents had taken him to a pet store and promised to buy him anything he wanted. He came home with a 6 inch Florida water snake, an aquarium and a supposedly escape proof latched top. The first night that miserable snake was in my house I hardly slept. I felt him crawling into bed with me all night long. The snake lived with us for a year or more. And over time I came to accept him and his reptilian little habits, like eating live gold fish. After what seemed an eternity my son turned Patrick the water snake loose in Little river. My life began anew free from my fear of the little snake.

Now I come face to face with the invasion of Florida by millions of pythons. I strongly believe that the use of nuclear weapons must be meticulously calculated. For my money, however, it is quite acceptable to me for them to drop whatever megaton nuclear device in the glades necessary to send those pythons to a vaporized form of snake chromosomes.
Otherwise, I am going to have give up sleeping.   

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