I have a new roommate.
My last one left me in June to go get married (sigh…the nerve). Since then I’ve whiled away many a lonely evening in my one bedroom apartment quite alone.
Until now. I have a new roommate.
He is very, very quiet but keeps himself tidy, doesn’t eat much and makes for nice company.
He’s a snake!
That’s right. I now live with a snake.
Yep. Every night. Just me and the snake. Hanging out.
Actually, he’s a busy, little guy. Nearly every week said snake travels with me on our little “Tour of Missouri” to share Bubble’s story throughout our state’s schools.
Quite frankly, he’s not a bad ambassador either. In the book “Bubbles the Dwarf Zebu” Bubbles feels different because of her flap and her hump before eventually learning that these differences are what makes her so very special. Since I can’t fit all of Bubble’s 600 pounds into my little Camry, what better replacement example of this principle than a snake!
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard both at the Zoo and on my school visits, the phrase “the only good snake is a dead snake."
People hate snakes. I mean, seriously hate them.
Two months ago, I decided to spend my birthday weekend at the lake in Ste. Genevieve. My boyfriend, John, drove down to meet my parents and myself for a few days of relaxation.
Bear with me as I set the stage, here, for a moment. John is a people pleaser. He is very friendly and people like him. It comes naturally to him, yet if there is one person he loves to please and whose admiration he most strives to acquire it would be my father (who likes him very much, just for the record).
My dad has three daughters and has waited a good quarter century for the opportunity to acquire and intimidate son-in-laws and potential candidates for the job. At my mother’s father’s funeral in 1998, my dad gave the eulogy. In it he painted a picture of my grandpa as Archie Bunker and himself as the "Meathead” son-in-law.
The man played the meathead for many years. The time is well ripe for him to have a few meatheads of his own.
Back to the story.
John drove to Ste. Genevieve from his graduate school in Jonesboro, Arkansas State. Here, he is working on his masters in conservation biology, specifically, herpetology. In case you weren’t sure, herpetology is the branch of zoology focused on the study of amphibians and reptiles. Reptiles, like snakes. Let me just spell it out for you…the kid loves snakes. Loves ‘em.
Upon John’s arrival to the lake, my dad discreetly attempts to sneak John to the side of the house to identify a snake. Great! John loves to identify snakes!
Except this one was a bit hard to recognize.
As my dad had chopped off its head.
Because he was working in the yard and the snake was in the way. And besides, he reckoned, when I came upon the scene in a fury, snakes don’t have feelings or backbones anyway, right?
For the record: I love my father and he is an educated, hard working man with a law degree and a long and lustrous career as a lawyer. But, yes, snakes are indeed vertebrates. They do have backbones and nerve endings and, as a result…feelings.
Essentially, when I discovered the murdered snake I threw a fit. John, who was likely equally disturbed could only awkwardly stand there torn between his true feelings for snakes and his overpowering will to please my father.
My dad apologized for his actions, though begrudgingly, and suggested we all go inside to relax.
“I’ll be right there,” John said. “I just have to get one more thing out of the car.”
“I’ll help you,” my dad suggested. “What is it?”
John could only stare at his shoelaces.
That brings me to my new roommate. That day, John was bringing me Herbie, his thirteen year old corn snake which he bought when he was of the same age, so that I could borrow him for my school presentations.
And so, it comes full circle.
Why would an educated man, the father of a zookeeper no less, chop off the head of an innocent snake?
Well, because snakes are different.
They have no legs (or arms, for that matter). They are ectothermic reptiles (not exactly warm and fuzzy) and they are carnivores. They stick out their tongue and strike quick as a flash, swim in water or hide in the woods.
They are different. An animal that many people do not understand.
And so people hate snakes.
But just like Bubbles, these differences are what make snakes so very special.
They are an important part of our ecosystem, keeping rodent populations low and seriously just minding their own business. That snake my dad killed? Probably just wanted to get a few rays on a warm, sunny day.
A good rule of thumb–if you leave snakes alone, they’ll leave you alone. You’re too big for them to eat. They don’t want to bite you. So just let them be and appreciate them for what they are.
And as I’ve learned, when it comes to being a roommate, a snake ain’t half bad after all!
If you want the roomie-snake and “Bubbles” story to come to your school in the spring semester, check out the “Khaki Shorts” website’s homepage!