Careful What You Hiss For

I tuned in to the Jeff Corwin Experience religiously as a child, awestruck at his bravery when handling the most venomous snakes and oblivious to his provocative jokes and short shorts.

After observing his snake-handling techniques for at least one season, I knew it was my calling to do the same.

One sunny afternoon on Fox Run, I was playing in the grass when I caught a sliver of movement out the corner of my eye. A skinny, long garter snake had landed in my midst!

I found a long, discarded stick and, as if I was professionally trained, slid it underneath the serpent’s head, lifted it, and then grabbed his tail and held it away from my body.

18 years later, things have not changed much. Before I go on bike rides, I send a little wish out to run into a fork-tongued creature in hopes of playing in my own version of the Kelsey Corwin Experience.

I was pedaling along on a warm, rainy April day when I pedaled past a long, fat stick on the side of the bike trail.

“Hey, that was a snake,” I said aloud before parking my bike and galloping back to the creature.

It sure was a snake. A fat, gray one with faint red diamonds on his back. Let’s call him Ian. Ian was sunning himself on the hot asphalt trail, his diamond-shaped head raised graciously in the afternoon sun.

This is the kind of snake Ian was...I think... (rat snake)

This is the kind of snake Ian was…I think… (rat snake)

A fear I did not have at six years old enveloped me immediately. But I fought the feeling and searched for the proper stick. I settled for a crappy excuse for a snake-handling tool and moved it toward Ian’s head when he snapped back and assumed striking position.

At this point, my heart started beating fast and the sweat trickled down my forehead. But six-year-old Kelsey egged me on deep inside. I tried to slide the stick under his tail end, but he slithered away quickly until he was out of sight.

Disappointment set in. I had wished to find a snake, and the universe delivered Ian to me, but I was unable to fulfill my goal of picking him up.

Then I realized I might have saved Ian’s life. He was sprawled across the bike trail, willing to risk being run over to bask in the first sun he’d seen in a week.

I decided Ian’s purpose was to help me get over my ego and do the simple job of getting him off the path. With that in mind, I jumped back on my bike and pedaled happily onward.


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