I never got around to seeing "Snakes on a Plane" but why should I? Nothing on celluloid can match the sheer heart-pounding thrill of nearly stepping on one of the damn things out in your backyard. Talk about zero to sixty. Screams, debates about calling the fire department, frantic search for implements of destruction, analysis of snake type, freak-out over sound of rattle, etc.
Apparently, it's still snake season here in California and rattlesnakes seem to be out in force. Some people say it was all the rain that creates an increased rodent population which spurred on more snakes. Or maybe it's just another sign of the apocalypse. Or maybe the rain was the sign of the apocalypse and now this is only a symptom, I can't be sure.
All I know is that they are out there and even the Los Angeles Times reported this summer that a poor chimpanzee in our zoo died after being bitten by a rattlesnake. Zoo director John Lewis commented:
"Our staff is constantly on the lookout for rattlesnakes. Typically when they find them in the zoo or the exhibits, they relocate them to the park."
Good plan, John. Let's put them in Griffith Park so that families who are having a picnic with their kids can have a little excitement.
Anyway, yesterday, we found a baby one out in the front driveway and attempted to decapitate it with a pooper scooper ordinarily used for our dog. It did not have proper severing power, but it did crush the head sufficiently. Today, we got one out under one of the bushes in the backyard and managed to separate head from body. The body twitched for half an hour before it settled down. Too graphic? Sorry, this is our life. Of course, we could have tossed it across the fence so it could live and grow and kill our dog once it built up its strength. We decided to draw the line.
Our gardner Tom, an ex-Simi Valley police officer, found one in August and showed up at our front door holding it... ALIVE! He had gotten the reptile by the head between his thumb and forefinger so that we could all get a good look at those fangs. Wow... they were not something I would want nipping at my ankle, let's just leave it at that. Tom actually threw this mutant over the back fence before I could tell him to beat it senseless. This was actually very kind of Tom, given the fact that last year he got bit and ended up in the hospital for several days with an arm the size of Burbank. Apparently, he'd been reaching in some brush and got bit, but thought it was a scratch and so didn't seek help immediately.
By the way, other than getting to the hospital ASAP, they also recommend that you do not elevate whatever limb that was bitten above your heart. My reaction is that if you have to think about where your limbs are in relation to your heart, then you probably should be in a hospital, you know? Anyway, here's what else Wikipedia had to say on the subject of First Aid:
"It is important to keep a snake bite victim calm in order to avoid elevating their heart rate and accelerating the circulation of venom within the body."
Calm? After being bit by a rattlesnake? We have people freaking out just seeing one. If they got bit, man, I really think most people I know would start calling in airstrikes.
So far almost all the neighbors in our cul-del-sac have found one of them and called the fire department. On one call, for example, two trucks and four firefighters showed up, complete with snake wrangling equipment. I think they're getting a lot of calls these days and, at least where we are, handling more snakes than brush fires.
Then there's my running partner, Zach, who found one up by his horse barn. He used one of these extendable tree trimmers to grab the varmit and then his wife and son ended up beating the thing into a bloody pulp with garden tools. Based on the zookeeper, I'm pretty sure this is not the politically correct way to deal with a rattler, but it did prevent that particular snake from terrorizing Zach's horses any time soon. By the way, he reports that snake blood is bright red, like ours, which was our observation, too.
Now the snake web-sites will tell you this is an unnecessary overreaction because snake bites are a part of life in some parts of this country. If you get bit, besides not elevating or panicking, they also recommend you don't use a tourniquet or cut it or anything. Get bit, go to hospital. Check.
One of the reasons I don't hike in the Santa Monica mountains this time of year is my fear of getting bit by a rattlesnake. Imagine being several miles from trailhead, getting snagged by a long pair of fangs, but remaining calm and avoiding raising your heart rate while hiking back in to your car. Pass.
My wife and I were watching an episode of "Animal Planet" last year about a father who came in with a snake bite. We watched out of curiosity to see how long it would take him to recover and what kind of ordeal it was. You know what happened? The poor bastard died!
Maybe that's why Zach and I march to a different drummer. Out here in the Southern California desert, when it comes to snakes, it's kill or be killed.