Thursday, April 5, 2012
I just finished reading a news article about a pilot of an Australian airplane forced to make an emergency landing when a snake slithered itself onto the dashboard. The pilot said his heart started beating so fast because the snake was resting on the transmit button he needed to push to make his May Day call. He landed safely and a snake handler was there to greet him but I bet he will have nightmares.
It's stories like these that make me shiver because I'm not ashamed to say that I'm scared of snakes. I don't care how important of a role snakes play in our ecosystem by keeping us from being infested with rats, insects, and other creatures. There are several caves that house these hideous reptiles; I wouldn't mind if we bombed every one of those caves.
I guess being afraid of snakes is something I was born with and never got over it. I remember when I was in Fort Polk, Louisiana there were signs warning us not to sit down because snakes were prevalent in the area. Years later, I quickly left a roadside park that had a similar sign. I was born in the city; I was not used to the country critters, especially snakes.No,I won’t ever watch movies like “Snakes on a plane” or “Anaconda.”
I was first exposed to a lot of snakes when I was working for the Texas Highway Department and three incidents stand out. My first encounter with snakes came while I was driving a sickle mower that had sharp triangle blades that went in a rapid in-and- out motion to cut tall grass. I was on loop 175 atop a large embankment of an overpass when my sickle blades stopped; thinking it was a piece of wood, I raised the long blade housing in a vertical position and pulled another lever to release the object. I looked up and saw a very large snake on its way down toward me. The badly wounded snake fell right on top of my tractor and I quickly jumped off the tractor causing it to smash against the railing. My boss was patrolling the area so he saw the whole thing. As he was approaching me, he kept asking me if I was all right; I'm told him that I didn't care if he fired me for the tractor damage and then he burst out laughing and said that he couldn't wait to tell the rest of the guys.
Everyone had a snake story at the highway department and they were all funny.
After hearing the about my snake encounter, the jokesters in our crew couldn't resist their pranks, whenever an opportunity arose. They used rubber snakes, ropes, and rattle noises to spook me. We had a special crew from Yoakum that operated the real heavy equipment and they brought with them their Bohemian/Czech humor they were known for. One particular day we were cleaning bar ditches alongside the Port Lavaca, Hwy and I noticed that the crane operator was putting some dirt aside, instead of just filling the dump trucks. I was third in line but he motioned for the other truck drivers to move so he could fill up my truck. Silly me, I thought he was giving me a special privilege of some sort. I thought nothing else about it until I went to dump my dirt load, looked back and saw three snakes wiggling themselves out the dirt towards the cab of the truck. I quickly rolled up my windows, locked the door,raised the bed, slammed on my brakes and then looked back to make sure every ounce of dirt and snakes disappeared and at the same time, put the truck in forward while the bed was still being lowered. You can only imagine all the belly laughs I received as they saw my truck returning to the work area.
Those first two incidents were good- natured fun but one day my natural instinct took over when a new hand tried to scare me with a real snake. I've told him in a serious and loud voice to stop but he kept coming at me, so without thinking I picked up a hammer and threw it at him barley missing his head. The other guys chastised him for going too far. I thought the incident was kept quiet but a week later we had a rare safety meeting where our boss played a couple of videos: one was an about horse play in the work place and the other was about poisonous snakes in our area..I wonder if our crew boss reported the incident to our real boss? That's the way we used to take care of incidents back in the good old days.
This is south Texas, so I know everyone has a snake story, so feel free to share.
Here is the link to the snake and pilot story.