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Snakes alive……..and some not.

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Brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) rear fanged, mildly venomous

Brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) rear fanged, mildly venomous

Each one of us enters the world with a special gift to bestow upon the remainder of humanity.

Franz Liszt enriched the world with his music. Nigella Lawson was endowed with multiple gifts, one of which involves the preparation of food, and Homer Simpson iced the cake of responsible parenthood with lashings of paternal wisdom.

Now let me tell you about my gift.

I just happen to instinctively know, even with my eyes closed, that a snake has weaseled itself out of the jungle and into my living room, mistakenly believing it to be GOF’s Refuge for Homeless Serpents.

Just one example of my extraordinary sensory ability;

Last Monday night Mrs GOF and I were watching the big bash cricket (the game….not the insect) on TV when my gift suddenly kicked in.

It’s hard to explain to mere mortals exactly how my instinctive faculty works.  It probably has something to do with my rare ability to detect the subtle sounds of cups, plates and framed photographs being dislodged from display cabinets and crashing onto the floor, or hearing Mrs GOF’s “Eeeeeek! Snake!, Snake!, GOF get rid of it!” echoing in the vacant recesses of my cranium, or smelling the carpet-burns on the soles of her feet as she accelerates like a bipedal drag racer into the bedroom before slamming the door shut.

Anyhow, suffice to say I detected a snake in the room last Monday.

It’s my perceptive gift.

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I did not always have this finely honed gift of snake detection.
It was a late-onset gift, deferred for thirty years, perhaps as a consequence of the botched forceps delivery which saw me skidding headfirst across the linoleum floor of the birthing suite like a bar of soap in a bathtub, until I came to a shuddering and whimpering halt against the varnished redgum skirting board of the nurses station.

Or perhaps not.

Anyway, forty years ago, giftless, on a balmy moonlit night at Pindiu in Papua New Guinea I strolled the 100 yards from my house to the office, stepped inside, and thought very little about whatever it was that slithered across my bare foot.

Returning to the light in my house I was astonished to find two distinct puncture wounds on my ankle with blood oozing out of them. They looked just like the photographs you see in medical books under the heading; “Snakebite”.

Being all-knowing, (as is the wont of the young) I immediately thought “This is not good.”

I’m living alone. No medical facilities. No communication with the outside world. No chance of evacuation by plane until first light the following day. Having established that I didn’t want to die alone, I motor-biked across the airstrip and up the hill to stay with the only other expatriate who lived there.

He refused to suck the venom out of the wounds on the grounds that my foot was unhygienic and smelled vaguely of manure.  Having been the recipient of basic first aid training he guaranteed that application of a tourniquet for 12 hours would result in the onset of rampant gangrene followed by the amputation of both my legs and some other important bits as well.

We concluded that I’d probably only have another hour to live, and that it would be best spent drinking beer, an activity in which he’d obviously been engaged for quite some time.

That I am still here today indicates one of two possibilities.

1. It was a non-poisonous snake, or
2. Beer is a powerful anti-venom.

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

Footnote;  I could have been saved from this shitload of anxiety had I known then that bites from venomous snakes normally don’t bleed as profusely as those from non-venomous snakes.
 
In the interests of responsible journalism I should point out that in 2013 compression bandaging and limb immobilisation are the preferred primary treatments for snake bite.

Sucking, limb-strangling with string, and riding around in blind panics on motor bikes are no longer acceptable practises.

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

Brown tree snake 2I have no idea why WordPress published this picture sideways.  Please tilt your neck 90 degrees to the left.

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About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

47 responses »

  1. Roz is currently laughing, this post reminding her of the day Mrs. GOF and Roz came across a snake in the bush. Roz has never seen anyone run so fast. 🙂

    Reply
    • Yep, Mrs GOF is a real mover when she sees a snake. She’ll happily shower with huge spiders and other intruders, but she’s yet to come to terms with snakes.
      Maybe she should spend more time with the kid next door who has a pet snake.

      Reply
      • There’s no need for anyone to further develop the theme ‘other intruders’ (in the comment above) Perhaps I could have worded it better.

        Reply
  2. A great tale GOF! Snakes used to get into the house I grew up in – quite often we’d come across one of the cats playing with one. My mother was excellent at dealing with them with a shovel.

    In high school we had Golf as a sport option and one of the boys was bitten by a brown snake out on the fairway. Terrified, he ran a long way to the club house, thus hastening the poison around his system. An emergency airlift to Sydney and 2 weeks in ICU. He was lucky; and we all got a lecture on the importance of keeping a patient calm and quiet.

    Reply
    • Thanks Emjay. There are so many snake stories we’ve accumulated over the years. Fortunately most of the snakes around here are not highly venomous like the ones where you grew up and in the more arid areas of Australia. Supposedly there are Death Adders here, but in 30 years I’ve never seen one.

      The well-used ‘snake stick’ I’m holding in the bottom picture always resides near the front door. (easier to wield than your mothers shovel, and does less damage to the crockery) 🙂

      Reply
  3. Good stories. I am very glad the bite 40 years ago was not venomous. I would be missing out on many a good story. 🙂

    Reply
  4. So I have to ask, do you still walk across the jungle in your bare feet?

    Reply
    • Well it was mostly lawn….and yes I still pad around at night without shoes.
      Snakes don’t strike a man twice you know. Lifetime immunity.
      (Why do I think I just might regret making that statement…possibly as soon as tonight) 🙂

      Reply
  5. Now there’s an exciting business opportunity, GOF. I understand that there’s an increasing demand for snake oil from our politicians.

    Reply
    • All I’ll need is one of those old round Simpson wringer washing machines Snowy.
      You find the Simpson and I’ll supply the snakes. We’re going to be wealthy before September.

      Reply
  6. I’m not one of those women who shrieks and runs at the sight of a snake. I find them kind of interesting. Around here we have a lot of poisonous copperheads that seem to slither across one’s path quite unannounced. Perhaps if you can spare some of that beer I will survive any possible snake bite. It will be a noble offering, GOF.

    Reply
    • Most of the snakes around here slither off into the bush too as soon as they hear you coming, and I don’t mind having a couple of these tree snakes in the ceiling to control mice, but I draw the line when they come inside the house.
      The beer I drank was New Guinea’s South Pacific Lager which may well cause more ailments than it would cure Elyse, so it might be better if you test a few of your American beers instead. 🙂

      Reply
  7. That’s one incredible skill you’ve got there, GOF. It’s amazing that you can pick up on such subtle clues as smashing plates and screaming wives. Remarkable. Have you ever thought about joining a circus? People would pay good money to see such an amazing act.

    Reply
    • Lance, for a brief moment there I thought you were being slightly sarcastic, until I came to understand that you are a true believer in my gift and have spent a considerable amount of your precious time planning my financial future. I forsee a place on television whereby I could share my clairvoyancy with all the world. Circuses would be a circuitous route to achieve the same objective. Not that I’m doubting your good judgement Lance. Not at all.

      Reply
  8. Am I right in thinking that Oz is home to the world’s most belligerent snake, the name of which eludes me? Far from slithering off into the brush as you approach it will instead chase you relentlessly and attack regardless of target dimensions, as far as I can recall from long-past David Attenborough programmes. Sort of like a reptilian honey badger and extremely venomous…

    Reply
    • “World’s most belligerent snake”
      I think you nailed it Simon. When I went looking for facts on this snake, experts spoke of it’s ‘tendency to occupy places of human habitation’, and other sorts of scientific gobbledegook. It IS a belligerent bastard. On one memorable night I removed eight of ’em from the roof…..4 pairs mating. When they’re ‘at it’ they bang around entwined for hours on end thumping into the tin roof and keeping us awake.
      They can be rather aggressive, hence the need for my snake stick to remain within easy reach.

      Reply
      • Ah, so I am on the right track, then? But what’s it called? It’s not the Black Mamba ‘cos that’s African, AFAIK (but equally nasty and capable of 20-30mph, I read once (although that might have been Wikipedia which probably means it’s BS. I did pace a rabbit up the lane in my car once and my GPS said we were doing 37mph, though, so I s’pose it’s possible)).

        Personally, I get the willies big time when it comes to snakes. And scorpions. And spiders with bigger teeth than Janet Street-Porter. Ship’s sinking? No problem. Galley’s on fire? Fine. Switchgear just exploded? Well, that’s interesting. Being shot at by some Nigerians with a big outboard and rifles that look suspiciously like they were last seen in news footage of 2 Para during the Falklands conflict? No worries, Bruce! Snakes? Aaaaaaaaaaaghhh!!! ‘Byeeeee! I’ll be up the mast, er, inspecting the mounts for the GPS antennae. Probably a good thing I live in a country with only two indigenous breeds, of which only one is venomous (and very shy) – and that’s only a problem if you’re very young, very old or have an underlying heart condition. And live in what’s left of our middle of nowhere. In a tent. 😀 Despite my ophidiophobia I have to say hat’s off to anyone that can live amongst them to the point of happily photographing their diarrhoea without a second thought!!

        Whilst looking up your hunter-killer snake (and not getting very far) I came across this, which may be of interest since it involves snakes and PNG (sort of):- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20975601

        Apropos of nothing, here’s home for the next month-ish so you can be assured of not having your comments section rudely invaded by some unruly former-colonial-power type (yes, I know the liberati have outlawed patriotism here, at least as far as being English or otherwise Anglo-Saxon goes, but **** ’em – just makes me dig my heels in further) as the company operate very strict and restrictive policies on their internet connection (no blogs, social media, etc. – so I don’t have to chase my staff off Faceberk and on to work all the time, because they can’t access it. 🙂 ):- http://www.fugrosubsea.co.uk/vessels/fugro-symphony/

        I’m assured there’s absolutely no snakes onboard but there may be up to five separate client rep(tile)s on this project. The contract must be a lawyers wet dream. No wonder our petrol costs so much! On the plus side, the food’s bloody good and there’s free soft drink, which is always good news for someone with a severe (Diet) Coke habit… And it’s big, very big. Most ships I work on could dry-dock on it’s deck! 😀

        Reply
        • Firstly, thank you for the links. The python stuck in the aircraft flap gear originated from Cairns, my nearest town, and what a wonderful adventure you’re going to have on the fugrosubsea. I’ve always wanted to play with a knuckle-boom crane. 🙂

          We have very few nasty snakes on the wet tropical Tablelands. The worst buggers live in the dry country to our West and further out in the deserts….I believe Australia has 5 or more of the 10 most venomous snakes in the world. Our brown tree snakes only get aggressive when stoopid bastards like me interfere with their lifestyle.

          I’m going to miss your presence here during the time you will be away….you have added some much needed life and humor to my humble online abode, so I will look forward to your return. Enjoy your work and food and (diet) coke addiction. Take care.

          Reply
          • “I’ve always wanted to play with a knuckle-boom crane.”

            This one’s the deluxe model, with active heave comp. Sometimes we’re just spoiled… 🙂

            Reply
            • It’s an interesting life you’re living…..I forsee a book on the horizon. Take plenty of photographs.

              Reply
              • This is interesting. If, by virtue of nosing around the network, I find the settings to access the client’s wireless router I have much faster internet and less of the filter silliness. Thus, live from a rather lumpy North Sea… 😀 I’ve got gazillions of photos already. Myriad sunsets, sunrises, oil platforms – all sorts of fascinating tedium like that!! 🙂 All I can see on the horizon right now is a ferry!!

                Reply
  9. You did NOT go skidding across the birthing room floor… did you?

    And what about ingesting beer? Still acceptable practice? Better safe than sorry, anyway.

    Reply
    • No, to the best of my knowledge nothing went awry when I was being born Kim. I just get urges to write bullshit like this occasionally as you’ve probably noticed, and this was an interesting exercise for my imagination.

      I also don’t drink much beer (or anything alcoholic) any more….doesn’t agree with my metabolism. One carton of light beer bought at Christmas lasts me until the following Christmas. I’ll just have to avoid snakes. 🙂

      Reply
  10. I got bit by a water moccasin as a kid. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agkistrodon_piscivorus

    I think (hard to recall that far back into the last century) that it hurt immediately but as I do, I ignored it. I’m sure that I was Working in some manner on the ranch. If you stopped every time you hurt, nothing’d get done! Anyway…

    At some point, I think the joint (it was below my knee) began REALLY hurting. It swelled somewhat, was red and finally, I noticed slight ‘weeping’ in the puncture holes.

    I don’t think that I bothered telling my parents. They’d probably have beaten me with the belt for Stoopidity/ Inattention to Snakes. It stayed swollen for a while and finally went down and itched as it healed. I think it peeled (the skin) as it healed, too. I don’t remember systemic symtoms but I bet I ran a fever.

    Overall, I’d not recommend it.

    Non-venomous snakes have bit me, too. I’m against that, as well.

    Glad that you survived your near-drunk experience so you could share it with us, today!

    Reply
    • That’s one scary story you tell Lily. I’ve seen some pictures of horrific damage done to the flesh after people have been bitten by snakes and spiders. I wasn’t aware of water moccasins until now…..I don’t need them here, but thank you for edumacating me.
      I’ll bet you were feeling very ill and sore for a long time.
      Apparently ‘slight weeping’ is symptomatic of venomous bites….mine bled quite profusely……if only I knew!

      Reply
      • I’m pretty tough for a big baby…Ya know I recently had that blood vessel infection, which is apparently life-threatening. I *did* say it was (what I thought) the worst lupus flare of my life. Not bragging, it only proves I’m pretty dumb. ::shrugs:: I’ve had worse and I tend to underemphasis most things, which is funny cos I’m SO LOUD that I bet people think I’m inflating things! I only inflate BS 🙂

        Reply
        • You have earned the right to be proud of surviving all the health issues you have faced in your life Lily. Plus hopefully others can learn from your experiences.

          Reply
  11. Footnote, get it? Har! Har, har………..sorry.

    Obviously, glad you’re okay GOF. I would have been scared sharkless. If I may, I have a funny story about the snake wound-bleeding thing.

    My coworker on the trails saw a woman who was cowering behind a tree because a snake was on the trail. My coworker picked up the non venomous snake, which promptly bit her. She tried to reassure the woman “oh, don’t worry it’s not a serious bite” while waving her arm in the air which was spurting blood all over the place.

    I don’t think that helped the phobia very much.

    Reply
  12. Back before I was born, my mom lived in Miami.
    Where they have snakes.
    Apparently she was out draping fine washables over bushes.
    Don’t ask me about this, I have no idea why this involved shrubbery.
    She didn’t do such things when I knew her.
    When I came to know her we always had a dryer, seeing as there were five kids by then.
    Anyway, back to Miami in the early 40s.
    That morning the twig she had just draped a hankie over proceded to move out from under it.
    It was a coral snake (“red on yellow, kill a fellow.”).
    Being my mom, she probably scolded it for dropping the laundry.

    Reply
    • That’s a scary story Lauowolf, and back then doing the laundry was a major operation and I think my Mum also draped the washing over whatever was available when the line was full……I like that your Mom was so in control that she might have berated the snake for invading her laundry space.

      Reply
  13. I would have said a bit more than EEEKKKK – and it wouldn’t have been printable either! You’re a brave man, Mr GOF.

    Reply
  14. Fabulous GOF. I’m going to have to repost this.

    When we were grey nomadding, I discovered a long held snake theory was actually BS. The theory? Make lots of noise walking in the bush and snakes will bugger off.

    In practice, 2 snakes coming through the bush off a rocky hillside where presumably they had been sunning themselves did not ascribe to this idea. One did but the other, presumably the gallant defender of his companion, thought the direct approach might see us getting out of the way. Liz was unimpressed as I struggled to get the ipod ready for a pic and I ended up missing a shot of an angry tiger snake coming in fast.

    A magical experience. Liz is such a fraidy cat.

    Reply
    • Thanks Pete….and also for the repost.

      I think your tiger snakes and other drier-climate snakes are more aggressive than the ones we have up here. Our most common ones are the brown tree snake and red-bellied black snake, both of which tend to disappear if you give them half a chance. We once spent hours trying to locate a tree snake which vanished into the stuffing of a sofa…..had to rip the sofa apart to find it.
      You’re a brave man fronting up to a tiger snake for a photography session…..I’d be disappearing down the road in a puff of dust.

      Reply
  15. Reblogged this on 1petermcc's Blog and commented:
    A brilliantly described snake yarn from GOF

    Reply

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