Chapter 4

Snakes and their Portent

I’ve also collected a few more weird stories but this time about snakes.


I’ve been bitten. My wife was bitten in my presence. A workmate I was working with was bitten. The previous owner of my farm, eldest son was bitten and died. I’ve seen a cow die from snake bite in only twenty minutes. The result of the autopsy from the death of a neighbour’s horse was snake bite. To watch tv in the neighbour’s house, the noise of all the snakes slithering in the ceiling is a distraction. The last time I walked the walking track circuit here I saw 4 snakes and also on the previous walk. I’ve stepped on snakes with bare feet, I had them slither over my foot, I’ve picked them up by mistake and I’ve had them fall on my head. I’ve even swum into one while swimming. I’ve seen one strike the window in the kitchen and the venom has run down the full length of the pane of glass and I’ve seen my dog almost bitten, but not quite. A kid in my class at school had seen so many of his dogs die from snake bite that he believed that a dog always gave 3 kicks before finally dying.

While driving along one day in the rain and eating a meat pie with my left hand and steering with my right and I peering through the windscreen wipers backwards and forwards motion, I saw this thing appear from the grill of the car. I couldn’t work out initially what it was, whether it was a piece of bark or what as it was sticking up about a foot and swaying about in the wind and the rain. It then climbed on to the bonnet and I could see clearly that it was a snake. It then lost its “grip” and flashed past my driver’s window.

I have the occasional visitor from overseas where visitors do some work in return for keep. They sometimes ask about snakes and if I tell them some of my stories, they wonder if they will last the distance. I say that if I have done so, so far, they shouldn’t have any trouble.

What I’ve said is all true but it isn’t really as bad as it may seem, but then again I haven’t told all my stories either. The visitor who found a snake in her bed I’ll keep to myself though, at least for a little while yet!

A Reply to Snakes

I’ve been questioned about my story “Snakes” and so this is my, “Reply to Snakes”. I’m told that there have been some people who have been going to visit my farm and haven’t done so because of this story. What was meant to be an Australian story of ironic humor has been misunderstood as literal and so I’d better give a bit of an explanation an antidote. I have to repeat that although it is all true, it isn’t as bad as it may seem! Some people have no sense of the ironic!

To begin with, the statement that, “I’ve been bitten”, is only just true. Some things that have happen in my life are not necessarily to my credit. Many years ago, a few of us were fooling around with a carpet snake, a very docile and harmless snake, which swung around and one of its fangs [I’m told that this is a wrong word as a carpet snake which has no poison does not have fangs, but teeth] and one of these razor sharp teeth just nicked my thumb and sliced my skin and a drop only of blood was the spilt.

“My wife was bitten in my presence”, is also true but the snake was a completely harmless grass snake.

A work mate who was bitten only told me this after we had finished smoko so that he could then tend the minor wound with some disinfectant from a harmless carpet snake bite. This is what he told me anyway. I didn’t question him at the time.

The death of the previous owner’s eldest son is tragically true but really there is more to the incident. It wasn’t here but on a nearly farm. A group of them were blowing up stumps. They placed the stick, lit the fuse and ran back to take cover. It blew up and in the confusion, they eventually noticed that he was missing. When they found him he was convulsing but because he suffered from epilepsy, he was left unattended and by the time assistance was given it was too late. Running in longish grass is always dangerous because you can come upon the snake before it can get out of your way.

Yes I have seen a yearling calf, quite a largish animal, die from what I presume was snake bite. This is I believe the only animal to die in this way on my farm in over 30 years. I first saw it when it was panicking and running around. It slowly became paralyzed in its back left leg and so could only run in a circle and bellow hysterically. The rest of the herd were curious and stood around in a circle staring in dumb bewilderment. The running became slower and slower until it just fell over dead! Yes a sobering experience. Coincidentally, this animal was to have been sold and butchered later in the afternoon.

Yes there are plenty of snakes in my neighbour’s house which has a ground floor and an upstairs and is right beside a piece of rainforest. All of them are harmless and only sometimes is the slithering in the ceiling a distraction.

Usually when I walk the walking track circuit, I don’t see a snake but at the time of writing, I happened to see a sleeping carpet snake and three harmless rock pythons sheltering in a fissure. When I walked the circuit again the next day, the three were all still sheltering in the crack and the carpet snake was still asleep in the same place as is their habit.

Yes I’ve stepped on them, had them slither over my foot, picked them up by mistake. The one that fell on my head was again a carpet snake that was resting on top of the door going under the house when I opened it without looking and it falls on to me. Yes I was swimming in a neighbour’s dam with some friends when I was momentarily distracted and I suppose it swims into me. The impact was over in a moment and I then watch it swim away. My theory is that if you stay calm, and I’m sure I’m correct, all will be well. Basically none of this worried me at the time and probably I’m worried even less now.

The one that struck the pane of glass in the kitchen, I don’t really know what caused it to do this, maybe its reflection, but I was inside and it was outside the window closed. It was a brown tree snake which has poison but again harmless as its fangs are too far back in its mouth to be any risk.

The class mate of mine and his theory, this is what he said but you need to appreciate that this is from the late 1950’s when everyone was much more gun ho and red neck in outlook than today. Maybe he was just making it up, I don’t know but I know that on the front fence of his farm, his father used to tie up wedge tailed eagles that he’d shot.

Yes the second paragraph about the snake on the bonnet of the car is totally true but it is so quirky that I wanted to include it somewhere in one of my short stories.

Yes I have the occasional overseas visitor and they do ask about snakes. Yes, we frequently see snakes but the dangerous ones much less often. In fact the danger from snakes here is just nothing compared to the dangers of city life that my visitors take for granted from things such as car accidents, plane crashes, street muggings and so forth.

The lady who found a snake in her bed is true but in all my years here, I’ve never had one in my bed or anyone else’s bed. The snake was only a tiny baby snake. Maybe she had picked it up in her clothes that she left on the lawn and carried it inside this way. I don’t know but it gives my story a quirky conclusion.

Many alienated humans have an unnatural phobia of snakes and other harmless creatures and sometimes even of much of the natural world. How can we become the god like custodians of the planet with a mental outlook like this? Fears and phobias are maybe real enough in the ethers that plot our lives but not these beautiful and mostly harmless creatures. The carpet snake, which can grow to 14 feet [4m] [according to one of my books] is one of the very few creature that has incredibly no fear of humans [the green tree frog is another]. How this is possible I don’t know after the many thousands of years of brutality at the hands of humans? A most wondrous thought.

Today I think the only snake that I saw leapt out at me while I was cutting a dense vine on the shed beside the house. I thought for a moment that I’d cut it in half. The one that I nearly stepped on between the house and the dairy I think was yesterday morning.

P.s. Strange to relate but just after I have finished writing this reply, I hear that my new neighbours but one have just moved out and their place is now on the market, because of, “too many snakes”. Strange eh?