Fun Family Stories about adventures with snakes that helped forge strong relationships and made for cherished Father's Day Memories
Pictures: Left: Keith, Maria, Andrew and Maria-Therese at Audubon Zoo with gigantic Boa; Right: Andrew, Maria and JP at Dave's Snake Exhibit
Recently, Shannon sent me this email about a reptile opportunity that brought back a flood of fond Father's Day memories:
“Hi Friends and Family,
We are looking for a good home for our 6 year old, beautifully marked red, black and cream colored, mountain king-snake. He is a child's pet, very docile. Our son got him at 10 years old. Now he just doesn't have time for him. His name is Rocky, about 3 feet long, and won't get much bigger. He comes with aquarium, logs, water bowl and fresh bedding. He is low maintenance and eats frozen mice that are thawed. He needs to eat about once a week in summer and about every 2 weeks in winter. If you or someone you know is considering a pet snake please call me.”
When Andrew, our son, was younger, he was always fascinated by snakes, and we eventually got to share many fun times learning about the often misunderstood and derided creature of God through the experiences we shared. Sure, we know what happened in the Garden of Eden and how snakes have been portrayed only negatively over the years. But we must remember that they must have been allowed on board by Noah, since they're still around and have evolved into so many neat variations.
I have to admit that I didn't know much at all about snakes and had a rather high fear of them as a child and adult until I learned so much from and with Andrew when we would go to educational events at Audubon and Baton Rouge Zoos, as well as the BREC Bluebonnet Swamp. We went to many neat forums particularly at the BREC location where we could actually be able to hold non-venomous king-snakes
It was also a lot of fun on some Saturdays to go to the LSU Museum of Natural Sciences where there are some neat exhibits. As noted by their website link, “The herpetology collection is worldwide in scope. The snake skeletal collection is among the largest and most diverse in the world.” I would have a real hard time getting Andrew to leave there – even harder than from Toys "Я" Us!
At our former house which was next to the road that led to where people used to go for the Kleinpeter Hay Rides for birthday parties, including feeding the cattle and milking a cow, we had a little ditch that Andrew would constantly be using to search for snakes. While I certainly emphasized all the necessary safety precautions I could with him like wearing high boots and staying away from venomous snakes, he would occasionally come across some water moccasins and the like. Being distant cousins with the Kleinpeters who lived next to us, Andrew and I would be allowed also to go and do some exploring through their property towards Ward's Creek and find all kinds of creatures!
Once, when I was cutting our grass right next to that ditch, I was perplexed and startled as I looked down and saw what appeared to be a 4 foot snake that seemed to be half king snake and half moccasin. Ben, my neighbor, came to the rescue, as he obviously had more of a familiarity with snakes. He showed me that I had actually witnessed a king-snake eating up moccasin!
After that, Andrew and I took a tip from Ben on how to tease Maria, my wife, by having Andrew hide the king-snake under his shirt and to open it quickly in front of her after we secretly went inside the house - much to her screaming chagrin! I have to say, Maria was a good sport with all those years Andrew had pet snakes and she would, at times, make the trip to “Noah's Ark” for me to get the mice needed for their meals!
I once got a free 4 ˝ foot Boa Constrictor for Andrew per an email announcement that I got when I worked at the Baton Rouge General. I did have to make sure that Andrew would not go around carrying that boa around his neck as he would have fun showing it to his neighborhood buddies. Micheal, a PCA from SNF at the Baton Rouge General, gave me a giant aquarium he didn't need anymore for the boa. After we gave away the boa, Andrew kept a large amphiuma (with those tiny hands and feet protruding from it) that he had found in the ditch in the aquarium.
Another neat king-snake memory is from when Andrew found on on Bluebonnet near Highland. Andrew would sometimes ride his bike with me early on Sundays when I took my long jogs in that area. As we were turning onto Bluebonnet from Highland near to where the Mormon Church is now located, he spied a beautiful king-snake, which he quickly snapped up and brought home for awhile before we released it.
Also, not far from that same location, we used to hunt snakes in a canal off of Highland. Once, we chanced upon a bunch of what appeared to be venomous snakes there near a culvert and stayed a safe distance just watching them sliver around. All of a sudden, we hear this big hawk quickly swooping down to the culvert area – we will never forget that sight of the hawk flying away with one of those big snakes clutched firmly in its hands; I wish I'd had a cell phone back then to have captured that Kodak moment!
And how can I forget that expedition we took to Alligator Bayou once on snake prowl. With March and April being very active months for being able to find snakes, I used to sometimes take Andrew and Will, his buddy, there and also to the canal next to Lowe's off of Siegen Lane for adventures. I couldn't believe how we once had to work together quickly as a team to capture a king-snake at the Bayou, and also how we came upon at least 6 snakes when we lifted up an old discarded fence on the shores of that Creek – talk about some quick foot-work running away from that scene!
Another Saturday Snake adventure for Maria, Andrew, JP and I was about 10 years ago when we went see snakes and other critters at David's apartment. He was nurse I worked with on SNF at the Baton Rouge General who had told me that he had a big collection of exotic animals, but little were we prepared for what we saw! Not only did he collect all kinds of snakes but he also had spiders, including tarantulas! It was so fun seeing his wall-to-wall collection, and he enabled the boys to hold the nonvenomous types!
Lastly, it was neat to schedule a birthday party for Andrew when he was about 9 at the then open “JB's Snake Farm” that was located in Port Allen. It cost next to nothing for me to invite Andrew's friends, and JB allowed us to bring in cake and ice cream. The kids had a blast checking out all of the venomous and non-venomous snakes that he had on display in aquariums! Of course, Andrew got to pick a reasonably priced king-snake for his birthday present. I don't think I have to tell you how the cake was shaped and looked!
While I passed on that recent email opportunity from Shannon to reacquaint myself with the reptile world, I was subsequently glad to find out that Rocky had found a new home in New Orleans. Let's hope it also finds a “Gideon Bible,” like the famous “Rocky Raccoon” was noted to have done by the Beatles, so that it will “help with good Rocky's revival” in 'Yatsville!
And I will always treasure those snake memories with Andrew and the family as we all learned a lot about those creatures, God, ourselves and, of course, how to make great Father's Day Memories!
Keith John Paul Horcasitas, 1133 Knollhaven Drive, BRLA 70810, khorcasitas.yahoo.com, June 11, 2011.