“Quick kids! Get inside! There’s a Black Snake out there. No! Don’t run. Just walk. Watch where you’re going. Think!”
Isn’t that how any normal parent would react if there was a venomous Black Snake anywhere near their precious kids?!!
But…NOT yours truly! I all but yawned and kept eating my Weetbix. I didn’t raise the alarm at all!! Without my morning caffeine boost, I was “non compos mentis”, mostly dead but still somehow alive….a virtual zombie.
Out of the corner of my eye, I’d seen a sliver of Black Snake slithering through the freshly mowed grass and under the barbed-wire fence and into the cow paddock next door. Australian Geographic rates the Black Snake as Australia’s 10th most deadly snake and while unlikely to kill you, the venom causes blood-clotting disorder and muscle and nerve damage, enough to knock you off your feet http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/science-environment/2012/07/australias-10-most-dangerous-snakes/
Although I registered seeing the snake, I blinked and it was gone. It didn’t seem real. More like a hallucination or apparition than the potentially life-threatening emergency it was…a deadly snake!
I kept eating my Weetbix.It takes a long time for me to wake up in the morning and switch from my surreal dream state into someone remotely functional.
Although Geoff had driven the entire way to Byron Bay, being a passenger also took its toll on me. Even after a good night’s sleep, I could still feel the car’s rumbling vibrations pulsating through me, the long-distance driving equivalent of “sea legs”. It also takes me a good day to adjust to my new surroundings, even though Geoff’s sister’s place is our home away from home. Just call me “slow”…even cold-blooded.
Anyway, Geoff stuck his head through the door, probably to check whether I was still alive, when he spotted the snake out the window. A man of action, unlike his more philosophical wife, he went straight outside to raise the alarm. The kids were out there picking mulberries and while they weren’t near the snake, there were no guarantees that “Joe Blake” (Australian rhyming slang for snake) didn’t have a few mates also sunning themselves out there in the grass.
What nobody usually tells you about Byron Bay and the surrounding regions is that they’re populated with snakes. Sure, they might not be found grinning on local postcards and there certainly aren’t any “Beware of the Snake” signs anywhere either. These are the sort of thing you leave out of your tourism brochures and “Welcome to Byron Bay” greetings. Not good for tourism.
However, that doesn’t mean they’re not there.
Geoff grew up on a farm in NE Tasmania where his Dad wasn’t the only one who boasted “the only good snake is a dead snake”. Dad’s brother had been bitten by a snake out in the bush when he was a boy and in Tasmania, any kind of snake is deadly poisonous, especially to a kid. So, this was quite a serious, life-threatening incident, which stayed with him for life. There was another story where Dad had spotted a Tiger Snake in the paddock at work. Dad was heading for the shed to find his gun but the snake, who was equally spooked and looking for “an out”, also took off down the paddock. Indeed, the snake was apparently keeping pace with Dad in what must have been the incarnation of his very worst fears, although I can’t help seeing it as a cross-country race with a difference. Yikes! They’re made of strong stuff down there in Tassie!
So, when it came to dealing with snakes, Geoff was no novice.
Although Geoff was quick off the mark to warn the kids, he didn’t press the panic button. He walked calmly because you don’t run around snakes. You stand still and pretend to be a tree. Besides, we’re quite used to snakes being around the farm. That said, when it comes to live snakes out on the loose, we’ve only seen the more benign carpet snake, which used to be curled up in the rafters in the garage, looking about as energetic as Homer Simpson in front of the TV eating donuts. Yet, just because we haven’t seen snakes out in the grass, that doesn’t mean we haven’t seen the evidence such as a six foot snake skin left dangling from the barbed wire fence overnight. There are also the stories and I’m not talking about the bush equivalent of the urban myth but first-hand, local accounts. One mum we knew had found a snake curled up underneath her son’s Tonka truck one morning. She found it because locals check under everything. Snakes don’t discriminate. Anything could be a potential “home”.
Anyway, the kids were outside picking mulberries and I can just imagine the deep purple juice staining their lips and running down their fingers. Mulberry picking is such a quintessential part of childhood like Twinkle Twinkle, wobbly-falling out teeth and Summers at the beach. Of course, none of these glorious visions include a poisonous, potentially deadly Black Snake lurking in the grass and an ambulance ride to Emergency.
Turns out the kids weren’t keen on any close encounters with snakes either. Once Geoff had told them about the snake, they promptly decided they had enough mulberries and came inside to eat the fruits of the harvest. Phew!
Unfortunately, this didn’t mean the snake saga was over as such. It was more like a mutual stand off. After all, the snake probably didn’t want to see us anymore than we wanted to see it…a form of mutual “respect”.
Have you had any encounters with dangerous local wildlife? Do tell!
PS I’m now home and in the process of typing up all my tales from last week. I didn’t have a computer with me and they’re all hand-written in the journal which might sound rustically romantic but it’s a pain getting them sorted out.