Saturday, 29 September 2012

Snakes Alive!

Part 1

Summer is approaching here in the Southern Hemisphere. Thoughts turn to iced teas and watermelon. Blue skies and beaches. Sunny days and... snakes.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I had encounters with snakes when I moved to the country. Usually, from a good healthy distance where I could observe without danger to them or myself.
But, I have been up close and personal. And I mean REAL personal.

Working on the land usually means a lack of public conveniences. So you either, go before you leave the farm shed, hang on til you get back or, “find some bushes” to hide behind.

On an early summer’s day, I was repairing a top wire in a fence on a remote part of the property I was working on.

The urge to pee couldn’t be ignored any longer and I headed across the paddock to a stand of trees nearby.

Relief turned to shock when I noticed to my left, less than half a metre away and cleverly camouflaged among the leaves, a snake!
I froze – in every sense of the word.
Here I was, squatting down with my overalls around my ankles, my backside as bare as the day I was born, staring right at a Dugite. A member of the highly venomous brown snake family.

There we were. Me transfixed on this dangerously beautiful creature, looking into his glassy dark eye, and he, seemingly fixed on my very close and exposed position.
My ability to hold an awkward pose in freeze mode, when the desire to stumble and run instead, was commendable to say the least. I've since learnt that the "freeze mode" is the best method to choose when one comes too close to a snake, it gives them the chance to move away without panic - a panicked snake is not a good thing!

Those few moments, indelibly etched into my mind, seemed like an hour. Upon realizing I posed no threat in coming closer and with a clear way out (thankfully), the snake slowly unfolded himself from his convoluted rest and glided swiftly through the brush and disappeared from sight.
I was trembling and strangely exhilarated - the adrenaline was pumping hard!

This encounter was to be the start of a healthy, inquisitive respect for reptiles. And, the knowledge that we represent far more danger to them than they do to us.
This was to be more than confirmed in the coming years.

 image by quadrapop via Flickr

Unfortunately, back in those days, my chance encounters with snakes always happened when I didn't have my old camera. So unlike these days of the digital camera/iPhone.
And of course, they'd never be there when I'd double back and return to them.


  1. OH OH OH
    i cannot believe how you kept you head . . .
    and remained calm. and let him make the first
    move. and thank god he chose . . . away.
    which after watching your fellow countryman,
    steve irwin (i loved his show and his work). . .
    'they're more afraid of us than we are of them'
    but still . . . OH!!!
    powerful images. both written and pictured.

    here for the most part . . . unless you're in
    their territory (the rattlesnakes and copperheads and moccasins) are the only ones to fear. in australia i think it's more that the venemous ones are closer by and more prevalent?
    i remember the scene in the movie 'crocodile dundee' with the brown snake in their camp.
    not for me thank you!!!

  2. Over here, snakes are an 'accepted' part of the flora and fauna in the country. And, with the urban sprawl spreading further and further, it's inevitable that their habitats are disturbed at best, destroyed at worst.
    There are many accounts every season of snakes in suburban estate backyards, sunning on doorsteps and even inside houses.

    I feel very sad for them as they don't choose to live with man. Man has abruptly moved in on their (and other wildlife) territory.

  3. I will have to remember your "freeze mode" advice, Vicki, should I ever encounter a snake...this is now burned into my brain! I've not met a snake up close & personal before, which is probably OK, as just the thought of them spooks me... But can't deny their skin is a marvelously beautiful thing. :o)

  4. Yes, their skin is lovely. And contrary to belief, not "slimy" at all :) I've had a few pythons around my neck and it feels like a wonderful, warm, silky, muscular massage :)
    Lovely to hold.
    Now, everyone has run screaming from the room :D


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