Snake Country

What a February! It’s finally warming up and any minute now we’ll be into summer, a huge relief for those of us who would rather hibernate than subject ourselves to bone-chilling sub 20ºc temperatures. This month I’m revealing the real reason for most of our problems in life: we make unfounded assumptions. In my particular field, a snippet from an article I read recently highlighted this phenomenon. The writer, posting contact details of a ‘problem animal removal’ specialist, told readers that “Unfortunately payment is usually required for (their services) as there is time, materials and travelling involved”. Huh? I’m only asking, but when last did anyone get a free dental consultation, an internal from a proctologist or a 30 minute chat from a lawyer, in their own home, without being asked to pay for the expertise, time and cost required to carry out the task?

Still on the subject, I’ve had a great couple of weeks, working with field workers, giving them some insight into how snakes behave and what to do when we come across one. There is a pretty universal belief across just about every cultural, sex and race group, that all snakes are spring-loaded and spend their lives sliding around the bush, looking for someone to attack! At one of the areas we visited, an unknown person had just killed an adult rinkhals that had been crossing the road– it was still in the death throes. I asked the gathered crowd if they thought that the snake had recently arrived on a bus for a weekend of mayhem in the forest, or if perhaps it had been living in the vicinity for about 10 years, minding its own business and steering clear of humans. Undoubtedly the rinkhals is potentially dangerous, but then every man on this earth is potentially a rapist. During these talks, when we get to the big moment of actually handling snakes and asking people why they fear them, I get all the usual reasons – they bite, they’re venomous, they’re evil (Biblical connotation), they kill people etc. but I’m happy to say that the turnaround in mindset comes when someone breaks ranks and steps forward to stand next to, or handle a snake for the first time in their life. This is a huge moment for anyone who has lived their life with an embedded, unreasonable phobia, and it’s amazing to see the change that comes over the person as each of those unfounded ‘fear boxes’ gets ticked off. Just so you know it’s not a kid’s party thing, in the talks and demos, I use a mixture of venomous and non-venomous snakes to illustrate what I’m talking about. During my travels, I came across a revolutionary new protective device that helps people to overcome their fears and enables them to get up and close, without being attacked. It’s called a cellphone.

© pat mckrill. 2014
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