Friday, January 25, 2013

Close encounters of a slithery kind

A few days ago, my husband asked me if I had noticed that our front doormat had been terribly ruffled. That morning, I had rushed off to work and had not really noticed this.

Why, I asked?

He said when he went to work (which was after me), he saw a dead snake with a triangle head (that's the poisonous kind, right?) near our shoe rack.


I screamed.

How come I did not see it on my way out? Yikes, yikes, yikes!

"It was only a very small one", he said, consoling me.

But how did it get there?

1. One of the outside cats must have taken it from somewhere else and brought it back as food. We often see dead lizards on our doormat too. It's the cats' food offering for us - that's what cats do as a gesture of appreciation - they bring back food for us. And of course, we don't expect them to bring back vegetables, right? They would bring back what they think is nice, which would be lizards, cockroaches, rats, etc.

2. One of the cats could have killed the snake at the shoe rack. Not very likely, I guess, but still, the possibility is there and if so, hey, the heroic cat saved our lives! Now, who could it be? My first guess would be that it is our very own Timmy (Dalton). It must be Timmy, I said. Timmy's our hero! He saved our lives!!

Very quickly, I checked and all six were okay - Daffodil, Rosie, Ginger, Timmy, Star Wars and Willy of Orange. Okay, good, nobody is harmed in any way. What a relief!

A dead snake brought to our doorstep, about a month to the Year of the Snake?


You know what they say about the Chinese Almanac? The 12 zodiac animals go in a 12-year cycle and there is a bigger cycle of 60 years comprising 5 zodiac cycles. After every 60 years, history is supposed to repeat itself, so I'm told (but I stand corrected, my knowledge of Chinese culture, sadly, isn't very well-informed). And if your family keeps the Chinese Almanac (called the "Tong Sing") for 60 years, hey, you would have got the destiny and fate of the next 6o years right there in the palm of your hand and you could actually predict what is going to happen when, provided you know how to interpret the Tong Sing, which isn't as complicated as Nostradamus' 4-languages-written-backwards Les Prophecies. And, step aside, Mayan geomancers, the Chinese have had it all figured out aeons ago in their Tong Sing, or so it seems.

Sorry, I digress.

Now, what happened 12 years ago, in January 2001, around the same time?

I cannot remember the exact date, but I'm definite it was in January 2001 because it was shortly before Chinese New Year too (and yes, it was just before the Year of the Snake).

On that fateful one morning, at about 4.30am, I was about to go for a morning walk when I opened my front door and saw a "long creature" lying right there against the door. Luckily we had the rubber tape for the door, so the "long creature" could not get in. Now, that was a LONG "long creature" and it was sleeping. The stomach was large - it had probably eaten something and was taking a siesta.

Bobby was with me then and Bobby had always been a little "not so alert" all his life. He did not see the long creature. I did.

The long creature was about 4 inches away from my feet.

Instinctively, I grabbed Bobby and very gently but surely, I closed the front door.

To calm my nerves, I sat myself down with Bobby and started telling myself it isn't what I think it is. It is just a large earthworm, I told myself. There are large earthworms, you know, like large millipedes, right? Yes, we go into denial to prevent ourselves from freaking out and collapsing in fear. I think it's an inbuilt mechanism.

After telling myself that it was just a "large earthworm", I knew I had to do something about it so I called the nearest friend I had. I told her that I thought there was a snake at my front door, though I'm not sure if it is one. It could also be a very large earthworm.

This friend was a lady and coincidentally, her father used to catch snakes, so she said, "Never fear, I've seen how my father does it, I'll come catch it for you. Don't worry!"

She arrived shortly and asked me for a plastic bowl.

I gave her one and she proceeded to catch the thing.

To cut a long story short, the thing slithered away to several places, including underneath a few flower pots and lady-friend declared, " got away!"


By then, I had to take my son to school, so we somehow got out of the house safely and headed off to school. On my way back, I stopped at the local medicine shop and bought a large pack of sulphur. The largest they had.

Came home and smeared sulphur all over the porch.

Then, I made some phonecalls and husband said one of his generals from the Air Force lived down our road and he was an expert snake-catcher. He could catch a life baby cobra, put it into his pocket and go around frightening people with it. And he'd been bitten so many times by various snakes, he was already immune from snake-venom.

Okay...sounds like an expert alright.

General Snake Catcher soon arrived, armed with a picture book of snakes.

He said I had to identify the snake as different snakes required different catching techniques.

Oh dear...please, do I have to look at the pictures?

"YES!!", he bellowed in his military voice. "You want me to help you or not?"

Yes, please, I whimpered, already so traumatised by the whole experience.

So my husband held the book far, far away and I had to peep at the pictures (with my hands covering my face), page after page until I saw the culprit.

Yes, that's the one, I announced.

It was the triangle-headed (or was it diamond-headed, I cannot remember now) one.

"That's a viper!", the general bellowed. "You could have been dead in 20 minutes if it had bitten you!"

Sobs...thanks for letting me know....sobs. There would have been no way I could have got to the hospital in 20 minutes had the sleeping slithery one bitten me, so I thanked all my guardian angels.

But the thought of having been up close (4 inches, to be exact) with a viper gave me the shivers.

"Ular Kapak", the general said. "Very deadly."


And General Snake Catcher looked around and concluded that it must have come from its nest nearby when the people uprooted a certain tree.

What are we going to do, I asked. It could still be somewhere in our garden...

General Snake Catcher had a plan. He would lay his famous viper-trap, he said. So he went home and started building his trap.

Meanwhile, we smeared another layer of sulphur all over the porch and the garden.

That night, the trap was laid and we closed all our windows. I objected to the use of any animal as bait, so I think he used an egg, if I remember correctly. Anyway, no live animal was used.

The next morning, we saw distinct slither marks all over the sulphur! It was so scary.

Mr Slither-V had come back. It had probably come back to look for food...yikes!

There were even slither marks all over the window.

It had tried to get into the house through the window!

"This is one persistent guy", the general said as he came by to examine his trap. " attempted entry into the trap at all".

"This is a smart snake", he said. "We shall try again tonight".

That night, again, we closed all the windows.

The next morning, guess what?

Yes, Mr Slither-V had come again!! There were new slither marks all over the sulphur again.

Oh gosh, I thought, how much longer is it going to keep coming?

By then, I had desperately consulted as many friends as I could.

Some said I must buy the snake lottery number because it would soon be the snake year, so surely you'll hit some prize, they said. Er, no, thank you. Not helping, guys.

Some said perhaps it came with a message for me and it was trying to get the message through, hence, the persistence in coming into the house. What...some courier service, is it? Well, whatever its message is, my message to it is, "I mean you no harm at all, so shall we go our own separate ways in peace? Please?"

Another friend, a former headmaster who had worked in the outskirt schools where there were plenty of slithery visitors said, "What sulphur?!!  Sulphur doesn't work at all! They will crawl all over it. Use Chlorox, that'll frighten them away!"

True...our slithery visitor would have probably laughed and said to himself: Stupid humans! Don't they know we would have evolved many times over to grow immune to sulphur! Still using sulphur? Ha ha ha...hiss...hiss...

That night, we did the same thing again.

By the fourth morning, there were no more slither marks.

No more on the fifth morning too.

Nor the sixth, nor the seventh, etc...

And that was it. The Mr Slither-V had come three nights in a row, in January 2001, just before the Chinese Year of the Snake, and the visits stopped after that.

And now it's January 2013, twelve years later....history repeating itself, but this time, with a twist? A dead one, thankfully!

I'm not superstitious, of course, but I would want to be safe than sorry.

Still...There are more things in heaven and earth, that are dreamt of in our philosophy...

THE END (I hope!!)


Joy E. Saga said...

In my home in Kuching, we used to have dense rubber estate (not anymore) and snakes are common visitors in our home :-) My dad is the only one in the family afraid of snakes. Common visitors were python (my mom rears chicken/ ducks), green grass snakes and cobra (yet the ones that can 'stand up and stare at you'). Only when the cobra visits,we will run. Otherwise, my mom will catch (pythons mainly) and release them back to the jungle. Even today, we still have pythons coming by and cobras. My dogs would kill the cobras if they come close but my mom worries for them, in case they get bitten.

Just don't panic when you see a snake. Stop, stare (so you can see it's next move) and slowly back away. You do not want to startle the snake into attacking. Observe the tongue. If it is still, then you be very still :-) If the tongue is flicking in and out, you are safe... ;)

chankahyein said...

Hi Joy, How do you chase them away? I too grew up in government quarters with large compounds, so we had these slithery visitors quite often. But my father would be around to take care of things back then.

Joy E. Saga said...

For pythons, we will just catch them with our hands and stick LOL. For the poisonous kind, we carry a long stick and try chase them away with the stick. Most times they will run when they see us. Unless provoked, they shouldn't attack us.

And yes, sulphur doesn't work. It is also harmful for the environment, hence when I go camping, I do not put sulphur :-)

chankahyein said...

The problem is, when you chase them, they might slither into hiding, which can be worse! And since they are so fast and pliable, you won't know where on earth they have gone, right? I've seen my father chase one before. These are amazingly "elastic" creatures and can slide into any gap even underneath flower pots. I've even seen one sliding in between two pieces of glass.

Chen said...

Errr ... I think snakes are cute too. I had a live cobra in front of me once and it was gorgeous. I was not afraid because I had a company of loyal farm dogs who promptly chased it away. And I once observed an interaction between a python and its handler once (he was a snake charmer operating under a bridge out to get tourist money) - businees was bad that day, and so he spent some time "talking" to his snake instead and it's obvious for me both man and snake love each other very much.

Amy said...

at least cat bring back lizards and small insects.. my fatso brought back a pigeon without its head (think Fatso ate the head??) .. needless to say she got a lashing from my mom.. she never bring anything back now..

chankahyein said...

Previously, my cats had brought back dead birds as well. Cats are predators, it's in their nature.

Chen said...

Although my cats are fed on raw meat since kittens, they will bring back live birds, lizards, toads, insects and mice too. They won't kill them or bite them, just tease them. So each time they bring home one, I have to do a quick rescue mission, chuck the poor victim out and lock all doors and windows to prevent the cats another chance to have a go at it.

chankahyein said...

Mine bring back dead ones.

Chen said...

The dead ones are shoelaces, strands of mop-fibre, clumps of hair, feathers, underwear - little trophies that they bring home proudly and lovingly deposited on my slippers.

chankahyein said...

Oh, Tiger was a sock-thief in my previous neighbourhood. He brought back socks and had a collection! His favourite was those that were rolled into a ball!

Yen Ling said...

I hope all is well at your home. Yes, viper / ular kapak is the most venomous snake in Malaysia. Strange to have them at Subang.

My late cat brought back jambu air and had a ball with it, his favourite. Another time a dead brown bird (the common one). He took it all the way from the front porch into the kitchen and presented to my mum. Yes, my mum(scream first)gave him a good lecture. It is their natural instinct. My bro and I do applaud at whatever he brings home (to respect the mafia cat).