December 30, 2011

What Might Have Been

Perusing a newspaper in Florida is like reading a press release for Snakes on a Plane. Nearly every day you will encounter a breaking news story about someone who was accidentally bitten by his pet black mamba or who woke up one morning to find a strange 10-foot Burmese python sunning itself on his back porch.

I eat this stuff up like candy, despite being deathly afraid of snakes. Part of it is just morbid curiosity--who in the world would have a pit viper in his house...on purpose?--and part of it has to do with planning. Living in the land of no rules, I know it's a matter of time until one of my kids starts begging for a rattlesnake.

"Compared to South Carolina, Florida has lots of animal regulations." This is what a local herpetologist told me yesterday afternoon, moments after handling a 12-foot cobra.

That isn't saying much.

My sister and brother-in-law are visiting from out of town this week. My commitment to exposing them to the best of what Florida has to offer is what led us to a local venom extraction lab. In response to public demand, the lab recently started hosting public viewings of venomous snake milkings a few times each week.

As a special holiday treat, the herpetologist decided to bring out some of his non-venomous friends for a pre-show meet and greet.

"Pass them around!" he said encouragingly as he plopped an albino ball python into my daughter's lap.

I hurdled over half a dozen other spectators as I bolted for the door.

As I watched from the safety of an outside viewing window, my kids taunted me with constrictors and hideously looking but totally innocuous black things, which they draped around their necks and passionately kissed. Around the same time as I watched Cortlen successfully coax a snake up the armhole of his shirt, I blacked out. Not really, but the sight made me so light-headed that I lost my balance and fell backward onto an aquarium containing a huge Eastern Diamondback.

Good times.

The venom extraction (which was, in all fairness, extraordinarily interesting and educational) ended with a Q&A session. One little boy from Washington D.C. asked the herpetologist if he had ever been bit by a poisonous snake (A: Yes, 11 times, including once in the face). Cortlen followed up with a query of own: "Do you need a helper?"

On the way out, my husband caught my daughter trying to buy a baby corn snake from the gift shop with her Christmas money.

She cried all the way home over what might have been.


Nikki said...

When my daughter turned 9 I had dreams of taking her to Helen, GA - a quaint little town in North Ga known for its Alpine influences and super cool attractions. The day started out 85 and sunny but by the time we made the hour drive North it was Pouring Sheets and Sheets of Rain. All plans for the day were smashed - that is except of course for the "Bear and Reptile Museum" No lie - we pulled in and saw bears of all shapes and sizes followed by a behind the scenes tour of all the reptiles (courtesy of it being my daughter's bday and I told the guy that his museum was the last place I wanted to be)...I have pictures of me holding these snakes but I am pretty sure I have blocked out the memory

Jill said...

This terrifies me! I can barely look at those pictures. You are braver than me. I wouldn't even have been able to look.

sorry4disappointingyou said...

I was having a hard time with the 100 magical ponies my daughter wanted for Christmas... till I read your story. Now I just need to figure out where one can put 100 magical ponies on layaway.

Carrie said...

Ah but did you ever visit the insectarium in Philly? They give you edible samples!

Tammy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tammy said...

Cracks me up that you jumped over seats and hid from all the snakes but left your children inside:)

Liz said...

Oh girl. I would've been right there with you---outside in the safely contained viewing area!!

Mom of 12 said...

I'm with you! Snakes are definitely NOT my thing. What I'm trying to figure out is why you didn't just stay home. Are you a masochist? Oh yeah, you must're a mom!

Insomniac Mom said...

Ugh, my hunny had a pet rat growing up and thinks its a great starter pet for a kiddo. I have no problem with wildlife living OUTSIDE. No vermin in the house.

zippityzern said...

As a native Floridian, I feel your snake pain! When we bought our home in Saint Cloud the former owner handed me a broom handle with a bent coat hanger stapled to it. He said, "Here's your snake stick. You're going to need it." He was right. The good news is that we don't live in South Florida where there's an epidemic of "super snakes" snacking on German Shepherds. The bad news is that my husband makes me watch reality TV shows called "Super Snakes." Gick to snakes, snake milking, and snake handling in all its forms.

Tere said...

My son and I do a mini vacation every year and it always includes feeding alligators and snakes. He thinks its cool to see a freaked out rat walking on water to get away from 8 full grown gatorsout for "fast food". Not me... ill feed them steak. Anyway... we always (the last 4 yrs) get our photos taken with animals. We've each held the alligators, but my fave has been the 8-ft albino Burmese python... and mind you, I am not big on snakes, but she behaved at she laid across my shoulders. And yes, I too have told my child "we DO NOT need a pet snake".

Cindy said...

You denied her the wonderful experience of owning a pet snake?? Yea, can't blame ya on that one.

BeckyB.West said...

Does this place offer free botox samples with the venom extraction?

Girl Schmuck said...

Another Florida girl here. I don't understand how I went from catching glass snakes and playing with baby ring necks as a kid to freaking out when the black racers zoom across my back yard. I am in the lead with leaping 10 feet in the air and screaming like a banchee when I see them. Even in the zoo, behind two inches of solid glass, the snakes just freak me out. They like our warm climate. Joy.

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Mrs. Tuna said...

You know what I hate more than snakes? Birds! You can never tell if the little sh*ts are going to bite you or fly into your hair. ughhh.

Brahm (alfred lives here) said...

Ewww... snakes.... your kids are braver than I am, and I am supposedly a fully grown up adult. Great pics tho. Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

I hope you checked your kids' pockets before you left. Just a thought.

vanilla said...

Door? There would have been a new me-shaped door in the nearest wall!

Anonymous said...

Ah, and the true Meanest Mom you are not letting your children purchase a coil of Satan scales!

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Renee said...

I am terrified of snakes!! Just looking at your pictures makes me want to scream like a little girl and curl up in a ball. You are a braver person than am for just going in the first place. I don't think I would've been able to contain myself watching my kids like you did. Kuddos!

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Actually, I would love to have a pit viper or any sort of snake in my house as pet. LoL... I don't know, some like cats, some like dogs and I like snakes.

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