AE 363 – WWP Story Time:
That Time I Caught A Deadly Snake!
G’day guys, how’s it going? Welcome to this episode of Story Time, Walking with Pete. I am walking around, I think it’s Princes Park, Princes Park, which is a park across the road from Melbourne University to the north of the CBD in Melbourne. (It’s a) really beautiful park. (There are) loads of people walking around, running around.
But today, I want to talk to about that time I caught the second most deadly snake in the world. This was an eastern brown snake, when I was probably nine or 10 years old. So, I was a very stupid kid.
But, yeah, so Story Time! I thought, again, just to remind you I’m trying to do these episodes to mix it up a little, give you give me some different vocab, tell me some stories about me. But, when I was a kid I used to love fossicking. I used to absolutely love fossicking. And “to fossick” is to, like, look for things. So, I used to lift rocks up, push logs over, lift logs up, pull bark off trees up at the farm, where my grandparents had a farm. And there were loads of animals. There were always heaps and heaps of really cool little animals hanging around the cabin. We had a wooden cabin up there that my parents used to drive us up to with the whole family. And, yeah, it used to be amazing. So, we had this cabin because my grandparents, probably back in the 50s or 60s, I’m not exactly sure when but probably the 60s. They bought this log cabin and built it on a piece of land near Bendigo, up in the northwest of Victoria. I think it’s sort of central Victoria really.
But, it was a beautiful bit of land. And they used to have sheep on the land. They used to have the sheep shorn once a year before summer. So, they’d get all the wool from the sheep and my grandfather would sell it. This was his sort of little hobby.
And so, it used to be a full family event. The whole family would go up. I’d have cousins, uncles, aunties there, my parents, my sister would be there, my grandparents, obviously. And my grandfather used to hire a shearman, or a shearer*, to come to the farm to shear the sheep. And we’d do it all in a weekend. I think it’d usually be one or two days. I think my grandfather only had maybe 200 sheep, and so a good shearer could probably get through that in a day or two, obviously.
And so, yeah, the guy we had used to smash it out in a day, and it was a really good fun event. We’d be collecting the wool and everything, but usually the kids would be off doing stuff, entertaining themselves, hanging around the farm, whilst the parents or the adults were all involved in the shearing process.
So, we had, I guess, an old shed, a really big old shed where the sheep would be brought in, and then they’d be shorn and pushed down a ramp out into the field again, and my parents and grandparents would be going through the wool, making sure it was good quality, pulling all of the seeds and everything out of it, and then bailing it into a big bale to send off and be sold at auction. So, while they were doing that, every… all the little kids, I mean, we could be involved. Sometimes we were asked to be involved, but you know what little kids are like. We get bored pretty quickly. We’ve got the attention span of a bee.
That’s a really big tram coming past that you can probably hear. I’ll just wait for it to pass.
And so, quite often we’d help out in the morning and then disappear outside in the afternoon and just, you know, run around the farm and entertain ourselves.
So, I used to do that. I’d be lifting up rocks, pulling off bits of bark off trees, rolling logs over, and just looking for mostly lizards. I used to really like reptiles. I really love lizards. I’d love to see snakes, but I was educated pretty quickly in Australia, as are most kids, especially, those who go out of the city and are likely to come in contact with snakes, that they are dangerous, and that you should not touch them. You shouldn’t pick them up. You leave me alone and they’ll leave you alone. Make sure you make a lot of noise when you walk around. They’re kind of the equivalent of Australia’s bears, I guess, in that respect, where you’re meant to sort of stomp around and not creep through the grass for fear of sort of stepping on one while it’s trying to sleep or sunbathe.
And so, one summer, I was there and we were outside the cabin, and I was looking around under a bunch of different big rocks that I hadn’t lifted before, and I lifted up one and there was a little snake curled up under it, and it shocked me. I think I jumped back like 10 feet, ’cause I wasn’t expecting to see a snake under that rock. And it disappeared down a little ant hole. It was only a small one. It wasn’t a, you know, fully grown adult snake. That I would not have got near, I would have shat myself, run away, and screamed, probably.
So, anyway, at the time that I was hitting this rock up my parents were actually getting ready to go. So, the moment that I discovered this thing sleeping under a rock, trying to hide from young boy predators, I had to leave. So, I had to put the rock back down. I think I remember screaming “Mum, dad, I found a snake! Come check it out!” but, they were like, you know, “leave it alone, get in the car, we’ve got to go. We’ve got to go back to, you know, real life and work”, ’cause it would have been probably Sunday, a Sunday afternoon.
So, that was in summer. So, this is when these things are the most active, right? And so, we used to come back to the farm every six months or so. And I remember, we came back six months later, just before winter, or just during winter, and the instant, the instant that we got there I had that snake in my mind, that’s what I was thinking about. I was like “Is he still going to be under that rock?”. And, as soon as I got out of the car I made a beeline for the rock. I went straight to it like a bee buzzing going straight to a flower. I made a beeline straight for that rock, lifted it up, and low and behold, the snake was there.
And so, it was funny, because instantly I had my little bucket that I used to carry around with me to put insects and lizards and spiders and stuff in. I would take it inside and normally keep them overnight. You know, look at them, put some leaves in there for them to hide in, and kind of observe how these animals behaved. And then, I would put them back outside the next day.
My parents were always very conscious of the environment and wanted me to take care of things, you know. They’d always be like, “Put the rocks back where you found them. Don’t leave them upturned. Put the logs back. Put the animals back exactly where you found them. Make sure they’re okay, and, you know, it’s bad enough that you’re picking these things up and taking them out of their homes, but just put them back afterwards and leave them alone. After they’ve, you know, gone along with their day”.
So, I had this bucket there and I picked up a stick, and because it was winter the snake was so cold it could barely move. And I put this thing in the bucket. I was so proud. And it was like probably really early morning, and I remember walking in to my grandparents’ farm (cabin*) and, you know, (I) had a massive smile on my face, (I was) incredibly proud of myself. I caught a snake, finally. I’d never caught one before, and I haven’t caught one since. Needless to say, my parents and my grandparents were not impressed. They were not impressed.
Yeah, so, it was pretty funny. I got to hold on to it. I remember Dad just sort of being shocked, and I remember looking up… we had a book there, a book with all the different reptiles of Australia in it, and this… the snake that we’d caught had these little distinctive markings on it. I think it was either on its head or on its neck. And I didn’t expect it to be, you know, an incredibly venomous snake. I expected it to be venomous, ’cause most of them down here are. We don’t really how many pythons down in the southern part of Australia. They tend to just be what are called “Elapids”, and they’re the venomous ones. But, when we looked up the book the snake that best fit the description of the one that I’d caught was an eastern brown snake, and they are one of the most toxic snakes out there. They have the most… second or third most toxic venom of Australian snakes.
The number… the place number one belongs to… what are they called again? (I’ve) Forgotten off the top of my head. These guys are killers, though. What are they called? Taipans, Taipans! So, you’ve got the inland and the coastal taipans in Australia. I’m not sure, I think they’re a different species, but they might be subspecies. But those two are the most venomous of all snakes. And then I think one of their close relatives the eastern brown, which was the one that I’d caught, is second or third on the list.
And so, yeah, that was a really a fun adventure. I remember we had it overnight, we took some photos of it, and then, unlike the rest of the animals that I used to catch, we did not leave this one… we did not let it go near the house where I found it. Instead, we took it across the road into the forest and let it go there, because, obviously, my grandparents and my parents wanted it as far away from where the children were going to play as possible.
So, that was the time that I caught one of the most venomous snakes in Australia. But, yeah, it is interesting. They’re… I can probably leave this for another story at another time, but people seem to have a big fear of snakes when they come to Australia, but, to be honest, you’re rarely, if ever, going to come across them, and when you are, it’s going to probably be because you’ve gone looking for them or you have, you know, gone out into the bush into a really stupid place. But yeah, they’re not going to jump up and hurt you.
Anyway, I we’ll leave that for another time. I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode, this Story Time episode of Walking With Pete, guys! Tell me about something that you’ve done when you were a kid that was equally as stupid or careless or reckless in a comment below and I will chat to you soon. See you guys!