If only all snakes were lollies (that’s what Australians call ‘candy’) or at least all snakes stayed well away from me! Now, I understand enough about ecology to comprehend that every single creature in our environment has a purpose and should be left to do so.
Snakes though, freak me out. Yes, they scare me. Fear – is described as an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain or harm. Well, when I encounter a snake, oh my goodness I demonstrate – loudly, very loudly and with a salty mouth – fear!
F. E. A. R or false expectations about reality, comes from the perspective of education and counseling – my domain. So I have decided to take stock of my snake encounters to better understand my ‘fear’ and to ascertain if I might indeed have false expectations about the reality of snakes.
I am a city kid – firstly Glasgow (5 years) then Brisbane (17 years) and NO snakes. We lived with bush at the back of our house between our backyard and the railway. As kids we made cubbies in this long grass (no snakes were seen). The Brisbane river and its undeveloped banks were our playground (no snakes ventured our way). These were the times of seemingly abandoned houses – yes, we explored them, and you guessed it – no snakes. Now, I do know that there were probably plenty of snakes, pythons at least – but I did not see a single one.
At twenty-two I married and moved to Townsille. I was soon to encounter my first, but not my last snake.
Driving our Datsun 200B onto the driveway I saw a snake (turned out to be a Brown) skitter under the car. UNDER MY CAR! As I was half way out, the only place to go was up on the bonnet. As though the slippery buggers cannot move vertically and horizontally…and quickly. I knew it was still somewhere under the car and I was not moving. For once, my military husband was home and he extracted me from on top of our car. Bless him, he was convinced it was long gone and to ‘prove’ this to me (as I was fully intending to never touch the car again)he shimmied mechanic style under the chassis, rear to front. No snake was seen – well until about an hour later when I called him out to our little veranda to see the Brown poking its head out from the front wheel. Shovel and chase ensued and it took itself off into the bush which surrounded our house. When Mr Husband recalls that story he does wonder what on earth he was going to do if he had encountered the thing whilst on his back and inspecting under the car – ‘just to prove it was not there anymore.’
The next snake was also also a brown, not so long after the first one but this time on the University campus. Crossing a small, (really small) patch of grass to get to the concrete carpark I stepped on this fella and he/she reared. Every book and my bag went up in the air and my reverse speed was epic. Luckily for me, but not so for the poor groundsman passing in his ute – he stopped and retrieved my things, carefully!
Those two encounters alone would qualify me to be wary of snake likely situations.
Sadly for me, it continues.
The next one, still Townsville – was inside the house. It was on a subsequent ‘posting’ and enough years later for our family to include our 4 year old daughter and 2 year old son. I was quite pregnant with number 3 when the simple task of closing a sliding door turned the afternoon into chaos. When the door resisted I looked down to see a thick snake caught in the tracks with the screen and glass door creating a trap of sorts. (Clearly, I did not know snakes very well – as that was no trap, it easily could have decided to exit and delve further into our house).
I had the common sense to realize that I must keep my eye on it and thankfully my kids were amazing and did exactly as I instructed so I had them safely secured. I put myself between the snake and where the kids were (I was big bellied and up on the kitchen bench). As luck would have it, that is also where the wall phone was located. Short version, I called both a snake catcher and my husband. He, being the hubby, confessed later that he hoped the snake catcher would arrive first! It turned out to be a python – and the catcher used the opportunity to educate the kids. Whilst fear was present in this situation, I knew for sure if that snake had decided to move in the direction of my kids I would have pounded it senseless – no doubt.
During the intervening years there have been visits to zoos including snake enclosures at least a few times and I have curbed my tension with the legless creatures so as not to project my dislike of them on to my kids.
There was a two year post in Hawaii – yes, no snakes. It was wonderful to enjoy hiking the ridges, parks and forests of the islands without having to even think about snakes.
Green Tree snakes – I have almost have lost count! Living in the centre of a reserve base being converted to parklands meant epic disruption to all manner of wildlife. I chose to believe that they were pythons or the helpful tree snakes.
At our front door. I got back in the car and drove away.
On the fence and viewed from the kitchen window, thank goodness.
Out on the patio. Why oh why do they come up onto patios?
In the cracks of the pool fence chasing down a screaming green frog.
So, four – four that I saw over a time frame of eighteen months. Seeing four meant many more were out and about. Our sweet cat Jilly, would flinch vertically up in the air if the hose twitched so we assumed she had ‘known’ a snake or two!
Snakes are not on my mind in an unrealistic manner. I don’t think of them at all until I am confronted with one or I am in a situation where they are likely to be present. When we finally left North Queensland for the much cooler southern capital of Australia – well, we just had to have one last fling with a NQ snake.
Deep into the unloading of the truck, a poor wiggly fellow who had hitched a ride was woken! Luckily one of the crew was an avid snake fan and bagged the creature for its new life thousands of miles from the tropics.
We almost had a few ‘snake free’ years in the national capital although the territory is known for its high prevalence of snakes due to the massive amount of preserved bush land which weaves throughout the suburbs. I say almost, because I was chilled to know that my school had to deal with a poisonous snake found in the playhouse in the kindergarten playground. It was removed safely but it adds to a personal repertoire of dealings, sightings and knowledge of these critters and whilst of course they do not pursue people – they do have a bit of a habit of turning up in my orbit!
During our time in Tampa, Florida I saw just one snake which was sunning itself out in the open on the base golf course. Whilst one needed to be mindful of a range of very venomous snakes in Florida – you also were keeping your distance from the ‘gators’. These impressive creatures frequented the waterways of the base and were to be treated with intelligent respect!
At dawn, to beat the Florida heat I would frequently walk the bush hugging path along the beautiful Tampa Bay (gators are fresh water critters so they were not waiting to pounce on me out of the salty bay) and would be mindful of, but not conquered by, the possibility of snakes.
Honestly, I am still going here and I do know plenty of people who have not seen a snake other than on the telly!
Moving into the hood, the beautiful beach, bush and golfing area that we have chosen to call home for our retirement where I was happy to hear from the ‘originals’ who had built on the cleared land – 3 snake sightings in what, about fifteen years. Now, that’s not too bad, right?
Less than four years later…
A mauled green snake on the grass out on the footpath of a house about six away from us. I did not like seeing it as all of a sudden, it was a reminder that they are indeed about.
A live skinny looking thing on the side of the lake – coming home from a walk, it turned into a jog after that!
A young brown in our pool area – hubby saw it first, and I had to pass him the shovel! I do detest seeing them in our living environment. “It was bound to happen!” I heard him say – not exactly confidence building.
Next, a young black baby snake at distance as the hose I was using sprayed the little bush it was resting within. Yes, I squeal, yes I exit – fast and yes, that’s me in for the rest of the day, well maybe the next day too. I eventually make it back outside again.
Neighbors on both sides have encountered five between them – I know, five! As I write that I wonder why I have not made good on the lovely high rise apartments I browse on real estate sites.
Surely, the list of encounters must nearly be at an end?
I rarely walk at night and when I do it is never alone. Strangely I have always thought that to come across a snake at night would be horrific. Sure enough, it happened. Of course I did over react. Walking a short loop with my neighbor, I spotted the large python stretching across the road ahead – not so far from us. It was huge and finding some last warmth from the bitumen of the road.
My neighbor was calmer and more curious – and even returned to try and get a picture, however it moved on, although I suspect not very far.
I rediscovered that I could actually still sprint, when required!
Following that sighting I have seen two similar large pythons. One was on the side of the walking path at White Horse, a short trek to an observation site surrounded by dense bush but well worth the ascent for the spectacular views. We stopped to observe the snake (at distance) and I was able to marvel at the sheer size and incredible markings decorating the creature.
My last python (if only, it could be – forever!) was observed during a visit to the Atherton Tablelands. After lots of bush walking where we saw NO snakes, this one was sighted beside the carpark digesting its recent hunt. I was able to set aside my uneasy history with snakes to be fascinated by the gift of this unexpected encounter – trust me, at distance.
So back to home ground and last week – just last week, I had two legless friends hang out in my space. I was simply heading out to water the garden when a long, lively green tree snake presented itself on my patio. (Again – why or why ON my patio!)
It still shocks me to see a snake in my every day. At least this time I saw it closely enough to know for certain that it was a green tree snake. I was still LOUD! Mind you, I would have bet the house that it had scooted off and was long gone. Twenty minutes later my neighbor and I discover it trying to hide under an army cap that was hanging from a hook outside. The tail hanging down from the cap was the clue!
My neighbor is a talented photographer and keenly interested in nature. She borrowed my phone to take a few pictures and we watched (yes, me at distance and inside) as it made its way up and around the post and on to our roof. Snakes, can go pretty much anywhere! It’s a bit unnerving to see this although it is highly evident that they do prefer to get away from us – then don’t come up to my patio in the first place!
A few days later I was down at our fire pit with my husband. Ironically, we had been talking about the snake encounter. I sort of had this false sense of confidence because there is usually a fair period of time between these uncomfortable meetings. I was wrong.
When he got up and moved towards and behind me – I was on instant alert. “It’s a long way away.” Well, those words set me off as I knew he was talking about a snake. I did not know where he was referring to and I screeched as I tried to get out of my chair, away from the fire and across the yard, up the stairs and into the house – achieved I believe within seconds.
It was a type of water snake, timid – so I am told. (So why slither out of the lake and visit us!) The next day was a good day for indoor tasks. Three days later we got stuck into a project of clearing some low lying bushes and creating a more open lawn. I was out helping by shoveling the rocks and whilst I was not thinking of ‘snakes’ the whole time – I was smart enough to put fast slither distance between me and the uprooting of bushes!
That’s it, no more ‘snake’ stories, for now.
I do not like seeing a snake. I absolutely react emotionally and out of fear when I come across them especially in my own living environment.
On my driveway, under my car, in my house, on my patio, on my fence, in my yard, across my steps, on my pool deck, in my street and at my fire pit – I feel I’ve had more than my fair share!
Do I have false expectations about the reality of living with snakes – perhaps so, and without a doubt I wish that Australia had been one super duper volcanic island! I do feel that I have a history which entitles me to get a pass on being a touch on the wary side.
As for loud, I am for sure going to be loud if and when I end up seeing another legless friend!