Perhaps My Dumbest Purchase Ever

Posted: under Large family.

You know how the saying goes:  “there are two kinds of people…”  I have my own take on that one.  There are two kinds of people.  There are those who, when hearing someone call, “Snake!”, run and hide.  Then there are those who run for a closer look.  I belong in that group.  My mother-in-law belongs to the first group.  She is physically active and an avid hiker. But she is terrified of snakes.  She limits her hiking season for when the snakes are dormant.   I recently stood, dumbfounded, as she described to me a hiking trail she could no longer take because, during a warm winter spell, a black snake crossed her path.  I just don’t understand.  It’s not like the snake was going to chase her down and bite her.   The  fear of snakes baffles me.  It always has.

Much to my mother’s chagrin, I spent many a happy hour of my childhood in my suburban neighborhood taking apart the neighbors’ firewood piles in hopes of catching a snake.  And often I did.  Then came the day she asked me to stop doing that because it wasn’t “lady-like”, and so I complied until adulthood.  I’m a big girl now; I can do what I want.

A couple of years ago I changed homeowner’s insurance companies. The new company sent out an inspector who told me I had to trim back the vines from my porch.  Reason?  Because they might attract  SNAKES!  I thought he was kidding; he was serious.  I dutifully complied, but I didn’t tell him that already a nice black snake lives under my porch.  He is welcome there.

Let’s be honest.  I’d rather have a snake than rats or mice ANYDAY.

Of course, let’s be clear.  I am not talking about venomous snakes.  There are only six venomous snakes in Georgia, and teaching your children to recognize them is right up there with teaching them to swim or tie a bow knot.  It is a practical life skill.  So whenever the children see a snake in the yard, they call me, I identify it, and we try to catch it (another delightful skill, but not essential).  My husband is the other of the “two kinds of people”, and flees, nonchalantly.

Yes, I have been bitten before.  Always the palm of my hand.  No, it didn’t hurt. It was my own fault and it just made me mad.

But you get the idea, right?  A nonvenomous snake is welcome in my yard.

Which brings me back to the point of my story.

My sixteen-year-old son has a special relationship with my four-year-old.  Most nights he tucks his little brother in bed and reads him a story, with lots of animation and all sorts of crazy voices.  It is adorable.  In fact, the four-year-old calls him, “My-friend-Nate”, as if it were one name.  When Nate went on a mission trip to Japan this summer, the younger one wandered about the house rather helplessly, sucking his thumb, rubbing his belly with his silky blanket, and declaring,  “‘My-friend-Nate’ needs to come home.”

I was shopping with the four-year-old around Nate’s birthday, and he saw a colorful book about snakes.  “Could you buy this book for My-friend-Nate?  I want him to read it to me.”  I merely glanced at it.  A book about snakes.  Colorful illustrations.  Not expensive.  Okay, I tossed it into the cart.

Well I HAD NO IDEA the book was, essentially, filled with HORROR STORIES of venomous snakes attacking people accidentally or intentionally, and was filled with graphic illustrations of horrible deaths.  I shall include a few snapshots.

The herpetologist, bitten by a three-week-old snake, dies before completing his emergency call. Nice.

Man brushed against a resting snake and is rewarded with a fanged bite directly to the jugular. Sweet.



Oh, yeah. Everyone’s favorite nightmare. Especially the part about “sprawled in a pool of his own blood”.

The effects of the book were pronounced and immediate. Instead of one child listening to a bedtime story, all the little boys and baby sister crowded around.  They were engrossed.  Then it happened. Kids couldn’t sleep.  The two-year-old  needed a night light, the door open, and a white noise generator to make it through the night.  The seven-year-old, one of those kids who rolls all over the covers, started coming into my room around 2 a.m. on multiple nights to get me to tuck his covers back in because “they were lumpy”.  Everyone got nightmares.  Everyone was cranky and sleep-deprived.  I had no choice.  I had to confiscate the book.

Then my thirteen-year-old went to Uganda for a nine week mission trip with Teen Mission International. He spent about six weeks building “squatty potties” near Jinja, and worked on a film project about a village school.  Of course Uganda was one of those snake-infested areas described in the book.  Nick was fearful.

But we are a supportive family and mailed letters to my son daily.  Even my little boys added their “letters of encouragement” to the daily out-going mail:

“Dear Nicholas, Right to me if you get chased by black mambas. Or tell me.  P.s. If you do run for your life thier the fastess snake in the world.”

“Dear Nick, I hope you don’t get bitten by a black mamba.”  Complete with illustration.

Thankfully Nick returned home alive, well, and unassaulted.

Meanwhile, I have shelved the snake book high in my book shelves.  You’ll find it  right next to Poe.

Sigh.  Talk about unintended consequences.

Comments (1) Nov 05 2012