…and a familiar slice of movement warns me that FINALLY, I might have found the little bugger. I shift my balance and curse loudly as the inverted bell shaped terracotta pot that was resting lightly inside my left ankle, gives up its battle with gravity – slips off one of it’s little terracotta feet – and completes a tightly controlled tumble, right over the front of my booted left foot.
As it does so, it builds up an amazing amount of momentum in a very short arc of travel. Rolling with what appears to be a ‘crystal clear’ sense of purpose, it ends up violently flicking its somewhat prickly, dry and mostly dead contents, up and into the frantic face of the ‘lady of the house’ who also appears to be ‘velcroed’ painfully to my left side. To test my hearing – obviously – the lady then screeches an absolutely piercing wall of sound that has so much ‘body’ in it, it’d fair give my mum’s home-made gravy a run for its money. THEN – to my utter amazement – she does what any normal person usually does after a really good scream; she takes a good, deep breath!
This is the part where she quickly realises just how much of that horrid, dry and desiccated mulch – slash sand (This is Perth, Western Australia, after all!) – is still caught up in her gob and, whilst this results in the immediate cessation of all high pitched caterwauling, it fast heralds the commencement of a such a horrible bout of coughing and retching I fully expected to see her vital ‘inside body bits’, landing on the ground wetly in front of her.
So I wait, as she noisily attempts to spit out the rest of the muck often associated with used terracotta garden pots. Lovingly, and in her obviously palpable need to share this moment with – somebody – she turns towards me and projects a mouthful of soggy pot debris with the sort of force one can only associate with cat coughing up a stubborn hairball – YUCK! As I look down at the odd mess dribbling down my waist and onto my boot, I thank all of the relevant Gods and Saints available, that I chose to wear my ‘daggy’ overalls today. It’ll be a ‘hose-down’ moment later.
This blatant and violent ambush by the TPGG (Terracotta Pot Guerilla Group), quickly becomes the very last straw for her. The tension up until this moment on the hunt had already put her well over the edge, so – quick as a flash – she legs it! Gawping madly, she dashes off towards the rear entrance of the house like a chicken possessed; flapping, squawking and pulling faces the likes I have never seen before. The last lot of noise I hear from her is the SLAM of the back door – cutting off all the vocal expletives, frantically attempting to escape the confines of her ‘newly aquired’ Sailor’s mouth.
FINALLY – I’m actually left alone to do the job I originally came to do. You see, I have a Date with Pseudonaja affinis – or as it’s more commonly referred to in South Western Australia – a Dugite. A common ‘backyard’ brown snake! Madam (said lady of the house) unfortunately – really wasn’t up to helping me catch the little fella, but then I guess you sort of got that now – didn’t you?
So, what brings me here then, scrabbling around in a complete stranger’s backyard, chasing herpetological beasties? Well, one of the many things I do when needed is called ‘Snake Busting’. I catch and remove them there pesky snakes, from places where they shouldn’t – normally – be! These days though I have to admit, I don’t do anywhere as many as I once used too. The role is a voluntary one and we don’t get paid by any wildlife authority or any other government body, to remove these potentially dangerous critters from people’s backyards, houses, cars, couches, swimming pools, false ceilings, workshops, kitchen sinks – and where ever else these little buggers can get themselves into.
Snakes in Australian are in fact a protected species. It’s against the law to kill one – technically. Doesn’t stop a whole multitude of scared or silly people from trying though, and – as per most critters – it’s when they’re threatened, that they become their most dangerous. In fact most snake bites (and sadly, fatalities) have occurred when people go and put their STUPID hat on. Their often on the receiving end of a bite because they tried to handle the snake, catch the snake, kill the snake or were simply playing silly buggers with it – showing off like some stupid tosser, or trying to ‘make friends’.
I blame TV and various wildlife celebrities for some of that, the rest I put down to pure macho mug-dom! Blokes; young or old, do some bloody silly things to impress – I’ve met quite a few of them… silly buggers! Picking up a pissed off Tiger snake down your local lake for a laugh, is a sure fire recipe for pain – the like of which you simply will not believe. If you realised what a Tiger snakes venom could do to your tissue and muscle structure, really wrapped your brain around it – believe me, you’d think twice!
Different snake venom’s have different ways in which to impact on the body of their ‘tucker’. Some knock out your vital organs or your motor function via your nervous system, some actually have a venom that starts to break down your tissue as soon as it’s injected into you… none of these options appear at all pleasant to me – so I NEVER encourage treating these animals like toys or pets. Unfortunately – this isn’t the message I see splashed all over the television – all to improve ratings, and I’m sick and tired of cowboys playing silly buggers with our wonderful native wildlife – just to impress! So I ‘Snake Bust’ on the side in a vain attempt to prevent a nasty accident happening out there – I’d hate some poor innocent snake getting smacked over the head by some raving pillock with a shovel.
As to this lady and her garden, well… I’m happy to report a Snake Bust with a 100% success rate. Both the snake and the lady are doing well. I neglected to mention that the hardest part isn’t actually dealing with the critters themselves. No, no, no! The snakes at least, are completely true to form. The less predictable factor in this is the punters themselves – the people – as they bloody well are everywhere else in this world! It’s the people I come to rescue the snakes from – not the other way around.
People bag snakes for being slimy, cold, and evil critters from the very get go – but sadly; from where I stand, it’s often the other way around. Give me a venomous snake any day – I at least know where I stand with one of these fellas on most occasions. I wish I could say the same for their human counterparts – the true Snakes out there. Sadly folks – these people have given our little elongated reptile friends a bad name, and a crap reputation. Or was that Samuel L Jackson… plane trip anyone?
Belongum – Out!