COLUMN: Snakes hiss me off


It’s springtime, and I knew it was bound to happen with all this warm weather we’ve been having. Today, I almost stepped on a snake during my morning walk. For those of you who think an overweight old man can’t jump, I beg to differ. Put me in the path of a snake, and I will show you a vertical leap that would make LeBron James proud. Followed closely by a high stepping dance and a scream so shrill you would think came from a falsetto opera singer.

Later in the day I told a friend about my early morning encounter. He asked me, “What kind of snake was it?” This is the standard question you get from anyone when you tell them a snake story. Like I care. It was a snake. I don’t know the variety. Let’s just say it was a copper-headed rattle moccasin. That should about cover it. Look, I know there are good snakes, but I just can’t get there. I hate snakes. Hate them. The good Lord said snakes are bad and that’s good enough for me. And they scare me. If I run over a dead one in my car, I raise my legs up.

Of course there are people who like them. Some of them even own exotic “pet snakes.” Pet snakes, indeed. In my opinion, the words “pet” and “snake” should never be used together in the English language.

They’re not fluffy, cute or adorable. They look evil. And why would you want to own something that can kill you? What is the thought process that even goes into that decision?

“Honey, I was thinking – it sure would be nice to have a pet around the house. But what should we get? Hmmm. You’re allergic to cats, and dogs are just high maintenance. Wait! I’ve got it! What about a venomous reptile?”

Whenever I hear talk about pet snakes, I always think about a guy in Moody, Alabama – a little suburb just outside of Birmingham. Several years ago, he had this whole community terrorized when the “pet” spitting cobra he owned escaped. This was a serpent so lethal that you would die within 45 minutes of a bite without antivenom. As if that wasn’t enough, it could spit poison accurately up to 10 feet, causing blindness if it got in your eyes. Sounds like the perfect pet, right? Just one step below a Golden Retriever. I’m sorry, but in my opinion, this man was out of his mind. This is what happens when the snake and its owner only have two teeth each. He said the cobra knocked the cardboard lid off the top of the aquarium, which allowed the snake to make a break for it. So the only thing between this guy and something that could kill him was a piece of an Amazon shipping box. How reassuring.

They looked for weeks and never found it. That bothered me. See, I think the spitting cobra bred with a southern rattlesnake. Do you know what that means? Now the woods may be full of snakes that can hock poison loogies.

I also remember how crazy the local news reporters were when this story broke. I suppose it’s difficult not to talk about a missing spitting cobra scaring a bunch of people half to death. For several weeks it seemed that every broadcast was chocked full of footage showing teams in protective gear searching for this missing reptile.

But what I will forever remember is what one of the broadcasters said. It was undoubtedly one of the most useless pieces of advice that has ever been given. This guy said that if you are in the area and spot the snake, cover your eyes so it can’t spit venom in them. Let me tell you something. If I saw that snake, the only place it would spit venom on me would be the back of my pants.

That’s because when properly motivated, an overweight old man can also run really fast.

Joe Hobby is a barbecue-loving comedian from Alabama who wrote for Jay Leno for many years. Find more of Joe’s stories on his blog: Follow him on Facebook at Joe Hobby Comedian-Writer.