Butter Rum Cartoon

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Monday, January 23, 2012


One of the most unusual experiences I had as a mailman was when I went up to deliver a package to a house in Branson, Missouri, and saw a huge snake, several feet long, wrapped around the porch railing to the right of the door. I thought it was a leftover Halloween prop. As the woman answered the door, I noticed the snake's head wobble a bit back and forth while its tongue shot out and in, and I said in surprise, "That's real!" The woman saw the snake and screamed!  She hurried me into the house with her for moral support while she telephoned for help. I identified the snake as a boa constrictor, but was still leery of it, for the reason I'll come to in a minute. I suggested she call my friend, Jeff, at animal control, and she did. I waited around a bit, but had to continue my mail route, so eventually slipped out past the snake and left. It turned out that it was indeed a boa constrictor, obviously someone's escaped pet, and a neighbor told her that a few days earlier she saw it crossing the street. Jeff had no luck finding the owner, but they finally donated the snake to a museum for a live display.

Thirty years before this porch episode, I bought a pet boa constrictor at a pet store in Fayetteville, North Carolina, while I was in the Army.  It was a thoughtless act.  I had always wanted one, and finally had the money, and there it was, so I bought it...although I then lived in an Army barracks in Fort Bragg.  It was the beginning of a weekend off.  The pet shop guy said the snake had recently eaten, and that it needs only one rodent a month.  I had fun that Saturday, winding the constrictor around my neck and carrying it around town.  And that night I rented a motel room, to relax in private while learning to know my new pet.

I was on the couch (a sofa bed) watching TV, with the boa constrictor lying in my lap.  Suddenly its head darted right up to my face!  I looked and saw that the snake was coiled in my lap with its head raised, like a cobra without the hood, and it looked like it might strike again!  As quickly and smoothly as I could, I slid sideways out from under the creature and jumped up and away.  To my dismay, the snake then slithered through the crack and into the couch, out of sight.  What now?

My Pet in the Motel Bathroom
I was now afraid of the big snake, seeing that it had the gall to snap at me.  But I couldn't very well leave it in the couch for the next motel guests.  After getting up the nerve, I finally, carefully, began unfolding the sofa bed, worried that the mechanism might injure the animal.  As I held the end of the bed up, I saw that the snake was wrapped around the frame right by my hand, and I yelled and dropped the bed.

It was a long time before the boa constrictor decided to crawl out on its own, and when it did, I threw a T-shirt over its head and grasped onto its neck, handling it as though it were poisonous, and put it back in the carrying sack.

From then on, I treated it like a dangerous snake, picking it up that way each time.  Back at Fort Bragg, I kept it in the bottom drawer of my locker, impressing the other guys in the barracks, but knew that an inevitable inspection would occur, and then what?

In the Headquarters Platoon, though, we were largely unsupervised, and so I carried my "dangerous" constrictor around in the large, two-story barracks, followed around by interested G.I.'s.  At one point, I had the snake coil around the stairway banister, and a big, black fellow began going up the stairs, not noticing the snake.  He grabbed onto it, thinking it was the banister, and yelled and jumped away. We all had a good laugh, and fortunately he, too, after the shock, thought it was funny.

When I realized it was simply too impractical to keep a boa constrictor in an Army barracks, especially when I was afraid of the critter, I tried to return it to the store. They wouldn't take it back. So I brought it to the new Aqua Rama Pet Shop halfway to Fayetteville and gave it to my friend the manager as a gift. He examined the snake, and said that it hadn't eaten for some time. He said that's why the snake struck at my face.  It wasn't trying to bite me (it would have bitten me if it wanted to); it was just letting me know it was hungry and in a bad mood.  I asked if boa constrictors do bite (I had always thought they only squeezed) and he said sure, explaining that it's no big deal---feels like getting hit with a wire hairbrush.

And so endeth my career as a large snake handler. It was back to garter snakes and pet tarantulas for me.

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