Snake Bait

“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?!!

Of course!

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.

Stopping to photograph the sugar cane and the approaching storm clouds near Grafton.

Stopping to photograph the sugar cane and the approaching storm clouds near Grafton.

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.

Yummy mulberries.

Yummy mulberries.

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!

The kids eating the mulberries they'd picked on the farm, while I spotted a snake.

The kids eating the mulberries they’d picked on the farm, while I spotted a snake.

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!

xx Rowena

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.

28 thoughts on “Snake Bait

  1. annabellefranklinauthor

    I’d love to visit Australia one day, but I think I’d be freaked out by all those dangerous creepy-crawlies! We get the occasional adder where I live, but nothing deadly. I worry more for the dogs than for myself, as an adder bite can be a serious matter for a dog.

  2. roweeee Post author

    Most of the time, Australia sounds more deadly than it is and we naughty Australians play up to it as well. We’re a nation of story tellers and no averse to hyperbole. That said, there are quite a few deadlies out there and like so many places, it’s more of a risk to visitors than locals. Dogs are susceptible to quite a few nasties here too…especially ticks. A tick killed my sister-in-law’s dog, which was sad. There are plenty of safe places to visit and such beauty and less people. Not unusual to go to the beach and be the only one there or just a handful of people outside the major beaches. I love that!

  3. New Journey

    I was raided is rattlesnake country up north….but they won’t bother you if you don’t mess with them and the let you know if you are to close….no close run ins for me…but I have seen my fair share….I was out horse back riding as a teenager, (up north) and the horses started acting skittish…I was looking everywhere for a snake and then I finally heard it, a cougar up on a rock about 50 yards ahead of us….I told the girl with me, to loosen the reins and hang on let the horse go….so off they went back to the barn….not sure how much danger we were in but scared the crap out of me….and only one other time, I lived on the Calif coast with my folks, I was in high school…we were out swimming in the ocean, I always swam out beyond he breakers where its actually flat and you can swim without the breakers beating you to death, so we were paddling back and forth, when I looked out beyond my friend and a huge shark fin appeared…all I could do was yell shark swim for shore….we were out way over our heads… I don’t think I have ever swam that fast before, we made it back without incident, and then we ran all the way up the hill to our homes her mother was a park ranger, so we called her and come to find out that was a great white. as we were calling in several other people were calling in to advise they had also seen a couple whites off the shore…Tamale’s Bay is famous for them….needless to say that was the last time I have ever went in the ocean…I wade at ankle depth, but that’s it…I am not sure what danger we were in, but knowing that I was that close with a big shark was to much for me….kat

  4. merrildsmith

    It sounds like you had a lovely holiday, snakes and all. We’ve had snakes in our backyard–although none recently that I know about! They were just common garden snakes though.

  5. maxwellthedog

    Here all along I thought the problem of black snakes was handled in Straya by the crazed drop bears, rabid wombats and vengefuk ‘roos not to mention the deadly spiders, scorpions and 1,007 other deadly things that walk around the neighborhoods.

  6. roweeee Post author

    Ssh! Don’t tell anyone. We’re having enough trouble suckering tourists out here with recent shark attacks and every night there’s news coverage about snakes somewhere in Australia, those monster ticks are top secret. I appreciate the use of metric by the way. Well done!

  7. roweeee Post author

    Not always. Sometimes the snakes slip through their grasp. Actually, the farmer is probably the snakes arch enemy. A common farming mantra is that “the only good snake is a dead snake”. This of course pre-dates modern environmental concerns. Self-preservation before snake preservation.

  8. roweeee Post author

    Merril our holiday was pure bliss and I’ll have to write more about the beauty peace and serenity we found as well as my creepy snake stories. We have definitely struggled to adjust to the return home.

  9. roweeee Post author

    Oh my goodness, Kat. My heart is racing just reading your story let alone living through it. Those Great Whites seem to bite first and think later. My second cousin died after being attacked by a Great White off Port Lincoln in South Australia. I didn’t know him personally but I knew his grandmother and she naturally took it pretty hard. He was a diver and fisherman so it went with the job but awful to lose him like that.
    Your horse riding story is also memorable. It sounds like you know your way around horses and that you were better off getting off. When we go skiing, I mention that I’ve been horse-riding in the snowy mountains and my husband comments about how I’m prepared to trust a horse over a motorbike. It makes no sense to him.
    Thank goodness this week is almost over but next week promises to be busy too. I am coughing again but without the muck and think it could well be Spring allergies. Have been resting a bit and taking things more slowly. I’m off to the gastro specialist in Sydney on Monday and Tuesday I have a calcium transfusion to help my bones after taking so much prednisone. Take care and hope to catch up for coffee over the weekend. xx Ro

  10. roweeee Post author

    I think I was in denial. I was se3eing snakes for the rest of the trip and when we got home and I heard my son made a loud noise after opening his suitcase, I even thought he’d brought one home.

  11. New Journey

    look forward to have a bit of java with you…..and a horse over a motorbike any day of the week….LOL rest my friend and no climbing Mt Everest in Sidney …..keep to the flat streets…xxkat

  12. cindy knoke

    We have had 11 rattlesnake encounters at The Holler. Only in the last two, had I learned enough not to over react, thanks entirely to my son, who studied rattlesnakes and introduced me to several. I wrote a post about it called “Riding in Cars With Rattlesnakes.”
    But Australia’s snakes are so much more potentially deadly. A rattlesnake bite can definitely kill you. But you have snakes where the bite WILL kill you and that is a big difference. Plus you have some more aggressive one’s too. You have my full empathy.

  13. roweeee Post author

    Thanks very much, Cindy. My husband spent three months living on a ranch in California and the medical advice there on the rattlesnake bites was to seek medical attention within 3 days. We must treat immediately. Straight to hospital. My brother-in-law was doing some fencing and he kept a crepe bandage and his mobile phone in his pocket in case of a snake bite because you immediately need to stop the spread of poison and also stay still. They’ve never been bitten but they are very careful.

  14. derrickjknight

    Thanks, Rowena. Of the list of common Australian rhyming slang expression, four are Cockney too. The interesting one is Captain Cook for look. Ours is Butcher’s (Hook)

  15. Dean B

    I’m like you, slow in the morning and takes me awhile to wake-up, but if I see a snake at the corner of my eye, I would loose it and totally freak out! I’m terrified of them! Would love to visit Oz, but somehow I doubt if I’ll ever be on your end because of my fear of snakes. 😉

  16. roweeee Post author

    Dean, you’d be fine. I’ve been going up to Byron Bay for over 15 years and this is the first snake I’ve seen in the wild. They’re there but they largely keep to themselves. Australians, including myself, are notorious for beefing up the dangers of our native wildlife but you have to be very unlucky. There are also excellent antivenins to combat the snake bite. Roads are more dangerous but OI do recall you don’t drive…

  17. roweeee Post author

    That’s interesting, Derrick. My husband uses rhyming slang a lot more than I do. He and his mates even made up their own words at uni. He calls the Ford Falcon a “chook tin” for example. He grew up in Tasmania with much more English heritage than I did. I’m a mix of Irish, German and Scottish stock. Both our families have been in Australia since pretty early on too. Our kids really are too Heinz Variety to come from anywhere. They’re Australian with Anglo-Celtic German origins. Hope they don’t send us back to where we came from because we’d be arriving in bits.

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