African Tales – In Which We Refer to the Python

May 8 – A couple of nights ago I was watching a program on TV about catching Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades. I found it both interesting and exciting, and thought how I would have liked to be one of those snake-catchers.

Some of those pythons grow large; there was one shown that was 20 ft long. They are not native to Florida, of course, but have descended from pets released because they either grew hostile or just too much trouble to maintain. They are multiplying rapidly and are swallowing much of the smaller wildlife. These snakes have large mouths with many teeth, and the program showed them striking at their captors, who had to do a lot of dodging and leaping about to avoid being bitten.

Eventually the would-be captor would suddenly grab the python by the neck just behind the head and then step rapidly to avoid the coils encircling his legs. My own plan would have been to carry an old shirt or large rag and wave it in front of the python until it struck and got its teeth tangled in the cloth, and then it would be easy to seize hold of the neck and be safe from at least one end of the snake.

I was reminded of a time long ago when I was a boy growing up in Southern Rhodesia as a missionary’s kid. A younger friend and I were exploring around the dam that provided water for the mission a mile away. The soil was a grey clay that colored the water, and it was not good to drink, just useful for washing and watering house plants. Sitting in a bathtub of water appeared to cut one’s lower half off and leave just the upper half showing. But back to our exploring around the dam.

160508_RockPythonI was standing in some weeds near the water’s edge when suddenly the ground whereon I stood began to squirm. I quickly changed my position, and discovered I had been standing on an African rock python. Fortunately it was only eight feet long or I could have been in trouble. Grabbing the snake’s tail, I began to drag it out onto bare ground but it objected and began striking at me with its large mouth open.

Changing tactics, we began throwing stones and sticks at it and eventually killed it. We heaved it up and coiled it around my bicycle and pushed it back to the mission, where we proudly displayed our catch. Dad was not at the house, being over at the school teaching, so we decided to play a trick on him and coiled the snake on the front porch so that when he came home he would receive a big surprise at seeing that snake on the porch. And he did receive a big surprise, for that snake was crawling away. It had only been stunned and had revived. Well, I had to “kill” it again, and then skinned it and had the skin for some time until small tropical insects devoured it. – DALE

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