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About A Week: Snakes Alive!

Peter Hinchliffe tells a couple of slithery snake stories.

The snake lady wandered into the Wichita Falls Times office in Texas one lunchtime.

The only reporter on duty went down to the front office to see what she wanted.

“Thought you’d like to write about my hobby,’’ she said.

“What’s that?’’ asked the reporter, not anticipating much of a story.

“I catch rattlesnakes.’’

The reporter’s face worked like a navvy’s biceps. The woman misinterpreted his odd series of expressions.

“I catch ‘em with my bare hands. Don’t believe in hitting ‘em with a stick. Are you interested?’’

“Sure,’’ said the reporter, trying to be blasé. “How many have you caught?’’


She was a good-looking lady. Aged somewhere around 40. She looked as though she would hesitate about putting the lead on an alsation, let alone catch a rattler bare-handed.

“How long is it since you caught one?’’ the reporter asked.

“This morning. I’ve got a bagful in the car trunk. Like to see ‘em?’’

“Er…how many?’’

“A dozen maybe. Fifteen.’’

“Hold on,’’ said the report, apprehensive yet enthusiastic. “I’ll get a photographer.’’

The woman’s car was parked in front of the office. She had already lifted the bag out of the trunk.

Something inside the bag was moving.

She opened the mouth of the bag, an inch, two inches. A snake’s head thrust forth. She grabbed hold of the snake, just below the head, yanking it forth.

The photographer went to work.

A crowd gathered. Office workers, eager for a free and fabulous lunchtime cabaret.

Still holding one snake by the neck, she tried to extract a second snake from he bag.

Then she dropped the bag.

A torrent of slithering life poured forth.

Never ever did a crowd disperse more quickly,

“Sometimes a good feature story runs away from you,’’ the reporter told me, grinning after the event. “Mind you, we got a good news story for page one. Never did find the snakes. They just disappeared.’’

My wife Joyce had a close encounter with a snake when she was teaching at a boys’ school in Nairobi, Kenya. Some lads at the back of the class were behaving furtively.

“What have you got there?’’ Joyce demanded. “Bring it out here.’’

A boy sauntered up to the front of the class, clutching a small snake.

“Is it venomous?’’ Joyce demanded.

“Well it bit Smith this morning Miss, and he’s still OK.’’

“Give it here,’’ said Joyce.

Clutching the snake in one hand, holding a piece of chalk in the other, she calmly continued to teach.

An unusual way to win the respect of a class of boisterous boys.


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