Thursday, February 18, 2010


Maybe you like snakes. Some people do. My brother, for example. He can tell you how good snakes are for the ecology of a farm pond or a barn.

That's not convincing to me. I don't live in a farm pond or a barn, and snakes aren't good for my personal ecology. And don't talk to me about poisonous or non-poisonous snakes. My intention is never to be around a snake long enough to question it about the potency (0r lack thereof) of its venom.

The sad fact of the matter is that the sight of a snake triggers an immediate "flight or fight" response in me, except that you can forget the "or fight" part. For me, flight is the only option. Let me tell you how bad it is.

When we lived in Brownwood, Texas, I often ran in the area that had once been occupied by Camp Bowie during WWII. It had been a huge training camp, but now it's mostly gone. The part nearest my house was overgrown with weeds and mesquite trees. Not the roads, though. Those concrete roads were solid as ever, and I'm sure they still are. I'd jog up and down them nearly every day.

The junior high school wasn't far from my house, either, and some of the students walked home down those concrete roads. You shouldn't get the idea that the roads were used by cars. Most weren't, and they often had mesquite trees overhanging them and big rocks lying around on them. One road in particular had a big block of stone right in the middle of it. One day as I ran by the stone I noticed that someone, probably one of those junior high kids, had scrawled a message on it: "Snake under rock."

A pretty harmless message, you might think, and it might not bother you or my brother a bit. Me, it bothered. Brownwood was far enough west to be the home of plenty of rattlesnakes, and in fact the city had an annual "rattlesnake roundup." (Apparently it still does.) Camp Bowie was far enough away from town and houses to have more than enough rattlesnakes on the loose. I admit that one is more than enough for me.

Now that rock I mentioned was flat on the bottom. It sat right on the concrete, and there was no way a snake could have been under it, not unless it was dead and squashed. That didn't matter. Instantly, nerve cells fired all over my body. Adrenaline squirted into my blood stream by the gallon, and I started breathing as if I'd run a hundred miles instead of only four or five.

What's worse is that exactly the same thing happened very time I passed that rock. For years. That's just the way snakes affect me. Not spiders. I passed by a couple of saucer-sized tarantulas in my daily run, and I thought they were cute. Snakes aren't cute.

So that's how I feel about snakes. If you like them, that's fine. Just don't bring any of them around me. Thanks.


Todd Mason said...

It seems to be a true truism...people are often either snake people or spider people (as Fritz Leiber was ready to remind us). I lean in the snake direction (or at least they don't tend to make me uncomfortable, while spider webs more than the spiders themselves tend to freak me...thus, and their fur, make the taratulas actually less disturbing to me than their smaller cousins). If ever a dualism lent itself to cheap Freudianism...

Bill Crider said...

Better not to think about it.

Jerry House said...

Not to add anything of importance to the discussion, but my word verification is "eashipt", a sentiment I will gladly pass on to any and all spiders.