Monday, March 22, 2010

Don: The Woman Who Feared Snakes.

I have a strong fear of heights but on occasion , when such an opportunity presents itself, I’ll go up into a high place, just to prove I can, and will, do it. The last chance I had was when the dead Oak tree was taken down in the yard and the tree people offered to let me go up in their bucket truck to take a few photos. I didn’t enjoy the ride at all but I did like the idea of being able to overcome my fear enough to get off the ground for a bit.

My camera malfunctioned and most of the photos were blurry.

I’ve never met anyone with a snake phobia who ever got any better. Don was the one person I knew who did try to overcome her fear of snakes took a herpetology class and damn near flunked out because she would sometimes realize she was in the same room with a snake and run out screaming. Yes, Don was a woman, but if I stop to explain her name it will take the better part of the day. This was the same woman who held a loaded gun on me while I removed a Smooth Earth Snake from her yard. In case you’ve never met a Smooth Earth Snake they are only as large as your average pencil.

The herpetology class required Don to bring snakes to class and they might as well sent her out for Plutonium, or a box full of Ebola Virus. They were allowed to bring dead snakes as long as the creature was still identifiable, but Don, like most of her fellow snake loathers, was frightened to death of dead snakes as well, which is really a phobia I cannot understand. She called me one day from a farmhouse between Valdosta and White Springs Florida so I might remove a snake from her Jeep. It seems Don stopped to pick up a dead snake, with six foot long tongs,and she put him in a jar. Well, she thought she saw the snake move once she got him in the Jeep, so Don got out and walked three miles rather than stay in the Jeep with a live snake. Did I mention he was in a jar? Did you think this critter had a glasscutter concealed in his pocket?

Don and I had a very strange relationship. She did not trust me any further than she could throw me on a windy day because I was a Snake Person. Yet when it came to all things Snake, I was the first person she called, and Don was usually mad at me when she called, as if were my fault the snake in the jar had moved. The snake in the jar was indeed dead but it rode with me on the way home. Don’s master plan was for me to keep her snakes until she needed them, and in a perfect world, I would go to the college and hand her the snakes right outside the door, or better yet, leave them on the professor’s desk. I tried to explain I worked for a living, and my employer wasn’t going to give me snake days off.

I found a note on my door one day explaining there was a snake in a fifty pound dog food bag on her steps. Don wanted me to get the snake out of the bag and into a more suitable container which in this case might have been the vault at Fort Knox. In the meanwhile, she couldn’t get into her apartment because the snake was on the steps. I went to her apartment, saw the bag, and shook it. Hmmm, there seems to be something inside, but not something deserving of such a large container. I started up the steps, which were quite steep and opened the bag to see what was inside. Out streamed a snake, and it was one pissed off snake at that. There are not many species of snake which can do much damage to a human being, but the larger a snake is the harder that animal can bite, and this one was looking to decapitate something. I managed to get a hold of the head, and out of the bag poured another five feet of snake. It was a Coachwhip, one of the longest, but slimmest of snakes. It wasn’t much of mass, but made up for it by being long and pissed. Did I mention it was pissed? Getting the snake back into the bag while on those steps was a feat, I tell you. I took the snake back to my place and put him into a real snake bag, and explained to Don that she really did not want to take this one to school. I released it back into the world, and everyone was happier for it.

The real clincher of all this came one day when I left a note on Don’s door explaining I had left a gallon jar with three snakes in it on her kitchen table. I had taken a large empty jar, laid it on her kitchen floor, and left the top off. I went home and waited for her to call, and in the meantime, a woman I had once dated came over with a bottle of Scotch, and we began to discuss the good old days. I totally forgot about the jar joke. Don arrived home, read the note, saw the jar, and fled the scene. Of course she came looking for me, but I was not answering the door. I truly do not remember her knocking. This was all in the days before cell phones, so Don did the only thing she thought made sense; she flagged down a city cop, and explained there were snakes loose in her apartment. The cop went to her apartment, examined the jar which had a screw top lid, and then asked Don a very simple question: “Is there any chance this man is playing some sort of joke on you?”

Obvious truths are at their most very obvious when someone points them out to you.

Of course Don truly believed there were no snakes, but she couldn’t bring herself to sleep in the apartment until she knew for sure. She drove an hour to her parent’s house to stay overnight, and the next day, as the sun came up and my company was leaving, I was greeted by the sight of a very angry woman, with a very large jar, storming up the steps to my apartment.

Take Care,


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