Australia has more insects, reptiles and animals that can kill you than any other country in the world. 🙂
And although great white sharks and saltwater crocodiles get a most of the bad press these are only just two of the many that flourish within Australia.
Growing up in the bush the one that was most obvious to us were snakes.
Not just one variety but quite a few varieties lived in and around our house especially since we lived on the edge of town surrounded by empty farmland.
Growing up you had to keep your wits about you and watched were you put your feet. This was especially true during the late spring and summer.
These weren’t just ordinary snakes; nope these were some of the most deadly and venomous in the world.
Mostly Tiger snakes, Brown snakes, Copperheads and the red bellied Black snakes.
We were seemingly inundated with a myriad of these incredibly dangerous reptiles…
After growing up in this environment and then working in the sugar cane fields of North Queensland for many years my Dad had no fear of snakes…
Yes, the photo above is of him in the cane fields…
Incredibly his first season in the cane fields he had no boots and so worked in bare feet armed only with a hat, pair of shorts and a cane knife.
Surprisingly he navigated both the insidiously sharp cane stumps, and the hundreds of snakes and other vermin that inhabited the fields all without major mishap.
Even after he could afford boots I’m not sure he was keen on them given the extreme heat and constant sweat. Seemingly they became more of a hindrance than a help.
During my childhood the one thing that almost every household had was a “snake killer”. This length of twisted fencing wire was shaped into a shepherd’s crook of sorts.
These were hung on a nail by the back door in most houses around town.
Measuring some 5 – 6 feet in length they were incredibly sturdy and robust. These were our primary weapon against snakes that ventured too close to the house.
The intent was to break the snakes back, thus making it immobile before zoning in on its head and killing it outright.
Not surprising we’d get between 2 – 5 snakes per year, mostly around the yard or by the back door.
Sometimes Dad would also use a shovel or fencing picket if they were more handy.
The most common snake we’d get was the Tiger snakes, which were relatively large and grew to about 3 – 4 feet in length.
There were two things that distinguished a Tiger snake from its contemporaries.
It was easy to spot with its yellow & black stripes across its back. The other notable thing about the Tiger snake was that it was very aggressive. It would rather fight than slink off like many of the other varieties of snake.
You learned at an early age that snakes were not to be trifled with under any circumstances…irrespective of type.
I remember coming home from primary school one day with my brother James. As we rounded the bend in the road beside the house (where we used to race our billy carts) there was a black snake sunning itself across the road.
The scary part was that the snake stretched almost the entire width of the road. Yikes!
We tried throwing stones at the snake to try scare it away, but it remained completely unfazed by the attention and continued to sun itself happily, its red stomach bright in the afternoon sun.
Our only alternative was to turn around and walk back the half mile to another road so we could get home.
One afternoon I walked out the back door only to be confronted by a Tiger snake sitting on top of the rock wall, within a couple of feet of where I stood.
At which point I let out an almighty scream.
Fortunately for me dad was close by, ran down from the back garden and grabbed the snake by the tail.
Turning away from the house he instructed me calmly to hand him the wire by the back door.
The snake was as mad as hell, and clearly didn’t like being man handled by the tail. He was trying to strike but to no avail.
I passed the wire to Dad and he killed it with a single blow…
After making sure it was dead he’d walk nonchalantly up to the back fence dragging the snake behind him.
As he’d hang the dead snake from the fence, as he always invariably say “as a deterrent to other snakes”…
Some summers we’d have quite a collection of snake carcasses hanging along the back fence line.
As I said to him one day after another carcass had been added to our ever burgeoning collection “Dad, I don’t think the snakes speak english”.
Even he thought this was funny. 🙂
I think the “pièce de résistance” to my snake stories is the one about mum and the snake.
Arriving home from secondary school one afternoon I came in the back door and was confronted by a surreal scene…
The kitchen floor was a bloody mess. Not to mention something spattered all over the white kitchen walls besides the blood.
Mum sat sobbing at the kitchen table, the bloody wire lying amongst the mess on the kitchen floor.
It took a few minutes, but mum finally calmed down enough to tell me the story.
She told me that she’d been pottering around the back garden and had come into the kitchen only to find a Tiger snake sitting in the middle of kitchen floor.
Apparently, it had made a hole in the corner of the fly wire screen door and pushed its way into the house. Mum slowly reversed the couple of steps to the back door and grabbing the wire set about hitting the snake.
Not only had mum killed the snake, but in her heightened state of emotions had literally pulverised it into a thousand pieces.
What was left of the snake was now spattered all over the floor and walls.
Can you guess who had to then clean up the kitchen? 🙂
Trust me I found snake bits everywhere!
Growing up in the bush you get used to lots of things, but never snakes!
Until next week