Last week we journeyed to Little Rock to read for Tales From the South, an NPR program broadcast in Arkansas and a few other places. Requirements for reading include that it be, of course, a story out of the south, it be a true story of the writer's experiences, and that the writer be a "southern writer."
I'm not sure if I'm a southern writer, but I managed to qualify. I was born in Arkansas, left when I was six and returned to live almost 40 years ago. I guess you can go home again, though it's been claimed you can't, and you can once again become a native. Though in the small town where we now live, we may forever be those people who moved in from New York. Even though we live a scant 15 miles from where I was born.
If you're of a mind, and want to see my reading, you can go here for a bit of entertainment.
At any rate, I experienced this particular tale in 1990 after I went to work for a small weekly newspaper here in Arkansas. And if you had any notion of how terrified I was of snakes prior to this experience, you would understand just how much courage it took for me to visit the snake man and his many slithery pets.
This video is hard for me to hear, though I had my volume cranked up, so hope you have better luck there. Otherwise, I'm afraid you won't enjoy it.
I returned several times to visit the snake man, taking with me our then 10 year old grandson Daniel. Unfortunately, he inherited a gigantic fear of all things crawly from his father who will stomp anything down to the size of a worm and often goes out of his way to slide the tires of his car over any snake crossing the same road on which he drives.
So, Daniel was not in luck when he asked if he could go with me. The snake man loved to tease with his snakes, and when he "accidentally" let a shoebox full of baby snakes loose in the house, our Daniel left out. I don't think his shoes touched the floor, the flew through the screen door and didn't land till he was out in the middle of the yard. To this day, and he's almost 32, he remembers Fred dumping several cobras out in the driveway and dancing around amidst them while they spread their hoods. "The man was crazy," he says with a shudder.
Fred told me later that it was so cool outside that the cobras couldn't strike. Being a showman, he loved his little tricks, and toured the countryside entertaining people with his feats of daring-do. I lost my fear of most snakes after a few visits, but never have been able stay in the same mile with a copperhead or rattler. They're both prevalent where we live, but we seldom see them.
Once I watched dozens of baby pythons cut their way out of their rubbery egg shells, and soon learned to walk among their 30-foot parents with no fear. This is only one of the many experiences I had while writing for the paper, and one I shall never forget. I hope one day to write a memoir of all those exciting, jaw dropping, and often terrifying experiences.