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If you’ve ever seen a snake wrangler in their comfort zone, they probably don’t look like this. There I was in a lovely Santa Monica apartment with nice people in Los Angeles.


They seemed like nice people, then I saw the snake in a cage.


“Do you like snakes?” someone asked.


It’s a simple question, a yes or no question. So I said yes. I didn’t say, “Yes, as long as it stays in the cage.”


I probably should have said something about the cage by what happened next.

“Do you want to see him eat?” one of the owners asked.


I’ve never seen a snake eat, let alone strike it’s live dinner and swallow them whole. Some people I know eat the same way. No, watching a snake eat has never been high on my list.


The only time I saw a snake eat was coming up on one on a trail walk near a river. The snake had a frog halfway down when my band of brothers came up on it.


Like good boys, or bad boys, we pulled the frog out of the snake, gave that serpent a whiplash and tossed it into the river. The frog looked relieved.


From the bank below a fisherman yelled to stop throwing sticks in the water. We yelled back that, “It was a snake eating a frog.”


So the guy came up, asked to see the frog, then drove his hook through it’s back and used it for bait. What was he really fishing for that would eat a dazed frog?


Talk about a jerk move in front of a bunch of kids. Sweet memory or warning sign?


Years later I’m in a lovely living room where owners of a big snake want me to ‘get to know’ their snake. While they were opening the cage I had my chance to run to the bathroom and lock the door and fake diarrhea for the next three hours. The snake was at least that inspiring.


comfort zone


But this was a party full of LA people and I was the big Oregonian, like that’s something special when it comes to jungle snakes. Still, I wanted to represent so the Angelenos wouldn’t go home talking about the snake panic night.


They took the top off the cage so Nume could slither out. He took a lap and I was sitting right in the home stretch. I kept thinking, trying to remember, ‘Do snakes smell fear? No, that’s dogs. Can this snake tell if I’m terrified?’


I was spooked, but standing my ground. Okay, sitting my ground.


Nume the snake popped it’s head above the far arm of the couch and came for me. It took me out of my comfort zone.


“He’s really friendly,” the owner said. “He likes you. I can tell if he doesn’t like someone.”


I didn’t ask how since it wasn’t striking me in the face. I kept a forearm ready to block, just in case. But it didn’t seem like enough.


We sat together, snakey Nume and I. Finally I helped it move along.


‘Here’s the deal, Nume,’ I communicated telepathically, ‘get off me or I’ll pound your snake head with a beer bottle, as soon as I polish it off.’


The snake gave one more look, rising face to face while I repeated my warning about a beer bottle beating, and away it went.


At the end I felt like Jim on Wild Kingdom when Marlin Perkins got in over his head with animals. I was in my comfort zone.


comfort zone

About David Gillaspie
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