Thursday, June 21, 2012

Things on Thursday: My Nightmares

Okay, okay. You were expecting (if you expected anything) a thing to do with Hawai'i, right? And I'm giving you a thing that has nothing whatsoever to do with Hawai'i because Hawai'i has only one snake, the tiny island blind snake, which looks more like an earthworm than a snake.

I KNEW it was paradise!

I spent a few years of my very early life in rural Georgia, living on a lake and running in terror for my life.

I almost rode over a corn snake on my bike, and if I hadn't been five at the time, I would have died of a heart attack.

When I was riding on the back of my boyfriend's bike, he suddenly turned around and started pedalling for our lives away from a rattlesnake stretched across the dirt road. Thankfully, the seven-year-old (older man!) had the sense not to tell me why he turned around until we were well and safely away from the Agent of Satan because I would have fallen off the back of the bike and died.

My mom was in the blackberry bushes, you know, picking blackberries, when a rattler started, you know, rattling. I get all clammy and heart-poundy just thinking how close my mother came to death. She claims to have jumped straight into the air and run on top of the bushes to get away.

I believe her.

I watched my dad shoot a snake, and then he told me he regretted it because he'd shot a small king snake, not a coral snake. Apparently, he shot before checking the "red on yellow, kill a fellow; red on black, friend of Jack." I couldn't understand why he was sorry at all.

But the worst Georgia snake story of all involved my little sister getting between a rattler and its hidey-hole. Lisa was maybe three or four, and was outside watching a telephone repairman climb up the telephone pole to, you know, repair something. The repairman and our dog Cindy both heard the snake and knew what it meant.

The repairman had to get himself safely down from the top of the pole before he could help Lisa. No matter. Cindy attacked the snake, distracting it from Lisa and buying the repairman the time he needed to get down and snatch Lisa to safety. I've loved all repairmen ever since.

Cindy survived unbitten, and my dad took care of the snake later that day.

Hearing this story did NOT help my phobic attitude toward snakes, which has followed me into adulthood and will be with me when I die, hopefully of old age in a library surrounded by books that are not about snakes. Snakes haunt my nightmares and make me really, really jumpy when we enter the herpetarium at the Columbus Zoo. You just never know when the stupid zoo people will have a snake out for people to pet.

WHY? Why do they do this?!?!?

When George flew in B-52s, there was a chance he could have been stationed on Guam, where the dreaded brown tree snake climbs into clothes dryers and waits to give heart attacks to unsuspecting officer's wives. I told George he'd have to make that assignment a remote because I wasn't going. Even six-inch garter snakes make me scream like a little girl and run for Hawai'i, where I now know there are no snakes that look like snakes.

But let's get back to my dog Cindy. Cindy was not afraid of snakes. Dogs in general are not afraid of snakes because they have very, very tiny frontal lobes and far too much courage. For dog owners in areas of the country plagued by venomous snakes, such as Utah, this is a problem. A big problem.

Blogger Heather Armstrong had a rattlesnake infiltrate her back yard a while back. Not only is she afraid of snakes (so sensible), but she has two dogs and a small child who are NOT afraid of them (not sensible). Sadly, there isn't much you can do to make a child healthily afraid of snakes, but there is help for the dogs, and she got it.

Danger Ahead

You have no idea what reading her post did to my blood chemistry. Fight or flight hormones are coursing through my body and my blood pressure must be off the charts. But I love how funny Heather makes things, and even if you don't read her whole post, know that when I read this paragraph, I totally fell in love with a very smart golden retriever mix:

"...this training totally works. In fact, watching each dog learn to associate the scent of the snake with the shock was better than some of the sh*t I've seen on Broadway. Totally fascinating. One golden retriever mix caught on so quickly that during the second and third exercises when he got within ten feet of the snake (at that point hidden from view) he turned, ran, and tried to claw his way inside of a locked car."

Good dog. Smart dog. Let me open that door for you, honey.


  1. I loved reading your post today Susan and sympathize with your fear of snakes. I come from a land far away that has only three types of snakes and only one of these is venomous. The alert walker is extremely unlikely to encounter one of these. My father had a facination with all things reptilian and we had several vivariums at home containing egg eatings snakes, iguanas, geckos and many varied lizards, as I said facinating. We had a boa constrictor at one stage but she got a little amorous with my mother's fingers and bit by mistake. That put Mum off for good! I was a little disturbed because we had to feed her live mice, facinating but eeeuggh!
    I was in Egypt on holiday a few years ago and had a very close encounter, whilst jogging with a Black Mamba on the banks of the Nile. Now that did scare me, in my little white socks, eeeeuuuggghhh!
    The thought of these animals on my doorstep fills me with unease, have you seen the damage a snakebite causes? And that's if it doesn't kill you! Oh yes a healthy fear will go a long way. Get those doggies trained up now LOL

  2. Oh I so agree with you. Snakes, large or small, scare the heck out of me. I hate snakes. I get scared just thinking about them.

  3. Your article made me think of my mom. We lived in the country, and Mom was not at all afraid of snakes. I saw her pick one up and swing it around to kill it. Yuck! However, let a roach run in front of her, and she would be scrambling for cover. I never quite understood that.

  4. Snakes don't bug me but I give all snake a wide path. I found out there are rattle snakes on the property and I have to train Annie about them. Not looking forward to that but better than dealing with a snake bite.
    Love the post but I love everything you post!

  5. Thanks for the chuckle at the end. Love the way you write! I hate snakes. Fear them as much as spiders. I know God made them for a reason but I've told Him that whatever His reason I still will never like them.

  6. Good morning again, I thought it would be good if I found out a little more about the snake I encountered in Egypt (tried earlier and didn't get very far) this time with my google search I discovered it wasn't a Black Mamba as I so stupidly wrote, it was a Black Cobra! Not really important but after all these years but I needed to put the record straight. So please forgive my ignorance and have a lovely day, xxx

  7. I hate snakes. Thankfully I live in New Zealand where there are no snakes and only one slightly poisonous spider species (if it bites you, you just get sick - you don't die)

    You should holiday here next time but you might need more than a week.

    Love your writing Susan.

    Kind regards
    Sharon Dines


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!