Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Snake Between the Tanks (il Serpente Tra Serbatoio di Stoccaggio)

It's hot outside here in the Lone Star state today and the scientists who study snakes (herpetologists) are conjecturing that they become more 'bitey' when it's hot. The slithering lizards have never bothered me as much as say, spiders. Just look at that smiling smug scary bastard...

But, I still shun snakes in the wilds on the extremely rare occasions I actually see them.

Even though I'd lived for a while in a tiny oil drilling town west of Fort Worth as a teenager where the snake-to-people ratio was around 3:1, I had only seen one water moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus) in the three years there. And that was just at my granddad's artificial fishing lake I went out to to fish all day and play guitar (they call them 'stock tanks' round these parts).

Just for future reference, at 80 yards, it is really difficult to peg a snake in the water with a .22 lr. Or at least it was back then, but I might be a better shot now.

I had heard rattlers in the scrub brush while out on dusty oil leases, sure, but never actually met up with one. My uncle was not so lucky.

One hot day he was out on a lease adjusting pressure at two of the wells flowing into a group of 'tank batteries'. The tank batteries are basically huge steel silos connected to the flow pipes from the wells, whose primary reason for existence is to hold oil until a local processing company drives a truck out to purchase the oil. Sometimes there is also a balsamic vinegar tank so you can make a huge salad with the farmer's lettuce.

Anyway, getting back to the story, another purpose of the tank batteries apparently is to attract diamondback rattlesnakes. My uncle went walking by the point where two tanks came together towards the stairs up top so the fill level could be checked (all part of making sure the oil purchasing trucks are not getting a free lunch of any kind). He heard the rattling noise and when he instinctively turned towards it, he saw the snake partially coiled between the tanks.

From the snake's perspective, the distance to my uncle must have been too far away for a reliable strike. My uncle stared at it for a fraction of a second which I'm sure seemed like forever, and the snake *rapidly* slithered out towards him. He described it as one of those instances in which you don't have time to get turned around because the snake was moving towards him so fast.

He started running backwards to keep the snake from closing the distance too quickly. The snake slowed enough where my uncle could turn around and finish running away properly. After that, my father usually checked that particular lease.

At this point, I'm compelled to mention that in ancient Pompeii, snakes were typically painted on the walls as a weird sort of guardian spirit for the family painted or sculpted around the 'house shrine' called a lararium.

I think I'm ok with ancient art snakes, I'll just be avoiding the Copperheads and other living poisonous snakes this weekend. You guys do know that a pointy or triangularish snake head / skull usually (but not always) indicates that the snake's venom is toxic? What snake stories do you have?

Oh also, Heather gave me a meme for six things I'm a 'master' at.

I guess I have to pick in no particular order:
1) sculpting / carving things (I really wish I could paint and draw better, but still working on it)
2) music related stuff - I compose, have perfect pitch, etc.
3) I have inexplicably strong curl strength, being able to do several sets of 160lbs (and not just with my dominant arm, haha).
4) I have uncanny balance, skateboarding, snowboarding, it's all innate, init?
5) I love anagrams and completely dominate any game of scrabble I'm in.
6) Because of my time working with restaurant managers in a large corporate office, I can grill and cook better than most.


  1. At least you don't have to worry about a snake tipping his hat to you like that scary spider is doing.

  2. I used to work with a 13 foot python called Caligula. True story. It was at a zoo, where we looked after it for some guy who used to be in the circus and neglected it otherwise. Me and a guy I worked with had to bathe Caligula once a week in a giant industrial sink. We'd have to do it section at a time because he was so long and thick he didn't fit. But he liked the warm water a lot. He'd go in a trance. It took four people to lift him.

    Anyway, he lived in a big enclosure with a faulty catch. Every now and then I'd get in first thing in the morning to hear blood curdling screams coming from the snake room and run in to find the cleaning lady backed up against the wall while a giant python swayed around in front of her face. Poor woman. He was actually pretty friendly and that was his greeting, but if you didn't know that, you'd swear he wanted to eat you. Sometimes you would go in there to check on him, get to the enclosure then realize he wasn't in there. Then you'd be all "Oh shit, where in the room is he hiding?" Inevitably he'd end up right behind you so you'd turn around and he'd be right in your damn face.

    Another time the dude I worked with took him home during a long weekend and let him roam around his apartment. While he was out running an errand, Caligula almost gave the mail man a heart attack by swaying in front of the letter box (this was back in the UK where our mail slots are in our front doors). The guy had knelt down to force feed a large envelope through the slot and come face to face with a python.

    It was funnier than it sounds. Well, not for him, I guess.

    I kind of miss that snake.

    You did ask for snake stories.

  3. Wendy B,
    Spiders are just awful, even in animated form. Your interview was great by the way.

    Vegetable Assassin,
    Those are great stories, it always seems like the 'surprise' snake is more shocking to people who don't like snakes. Hah, I have to admit that the stories were quite the innuendo-rich environment, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it all on two levels at once. x

  4. Aww, I rather like snakes ... but then I've only ever seen a tiny little grass snake once, it was on a class trip to one of those places they take towny kids to commune with nature for a few hours. The snake was adorable and if he'd only co-operated with me by going quietly into my pocket when I tried to steal him it could have been the start of a beautiful friendship.

  5. lol.. your Uncle was scarred for life. Or smart, eh? I'm not a spider fan at all. Do you know if you take a picture of a tarantula with a flash it'll chase you? Honest .... I know first hand lol. As for the snakes, you may keep your copperheads and silent venemous types to yourself.. I'll keep the plethera we have of the rattling kind. (guess that's what happens when you live in the boonies) At least they don't sneak up on me. I a nice encounter with one a couple weeks ago, the second so far this summer, I don't think it appreciated the outcome.

    oh.. and I really am working, I swear! lol

  6. I HAD ... grrrr where is the edit button???

  7. Are you joking about the balsamic vinegar? I have thing for it and that would be the perfect job for me.

    I hate snakes..I even scream at the dead ones. Freakin' awesome award by the way.

  8. No snake stories here, thank God. The only snakes we have are at the zoo.

    It is always fun to read a meme.
    #3: I wouldn't want to start a fight with you, but I could always make you trip over my feeth.

  9. I came home to find a snake coiled up in my living room when I was about 16 years old. I grabbed my shotgun and blew its head off before it could pose any harm to me or my family. I then burned the remains in a sacred ritual.

    No, really, I shrieked like a girl and ran. I think my dad took care of it later.

  10. Those were some cool stories, although "snake between the tanks" has an entirely different meaning where I come from.

    P.S.: I also become more "bitey" when it's hot.

  11. I dated plenty of snakes trying to pass themselves off as humans, but that's not what you were asking about I take it.

  12. Here is my most recent snake story that I wrote over in Myspace.

    Whiskers and I heard a noise. I checked the mouse pad, nothing. A few minutes later we heard it again. I looked to see where Whiskers was looking, under the stove. I pulled the bottom out and he crawled in there and was ready to pounce if it dared peek out at him. I went to find the mouse pads in the kitchen closet. As I was looking I saw something move next to my head. There was a snake wrapped around the water pipe!!

    Bill was asleep! I tapped him on the leg, nothing. I tapped him on the shoulder, again nothing! Finally I shake him and repeat a half a dozen times "snake". He jumps up and grabs a flip flop! LOL! What kind is it? I don't know or care, it's a SNAKE, in the house. I didn't look at it long enough to tell what kind!

    Well, I woke him up for a rat snake that was probaly after the mouse!

    Loved your 6 things that you are a master at! Thanks for playing along!

  13. Girl Interrupted,
    Snakes don't seem all that bad, but then I've never been bitten so that could maybe change my mind. A snake in your pocket is a big responsibility, heh.

    I'm going to get a strobe light and see what happens. Hey the Dallas CP convention is approaching soon?

    Yes, I was joking about balsamic, but I can dream can't I? I'm like that with spiders, except the screaming, I just kind of shudder.

    Dutch Donut Girl,
    Hah, good to hear there aren't many snakes around there.

    It is weird to see them in unexpected places. They are kind of quiet and sneaky?

    Haha! I was going for something vaguely innuendous with the title. 'Bitey' is one of my favourite words.

    Everyday Goddess,
    Um, no, it would have been weird if my uncle had seen one of your former dates crouched down between the tanks shaking maracas, then quickly scrambling out after him.

    Better safe than sorry! It's not like you wanted to spend time examining the snake before formulating a plan to kill it?

  14. More 'bitey' in the heat?

    Sounds like my ex.