Recently I caught a Diamond Python on my daily prayer walk in the rainforest at Mt Kembla, near where I live in Wollongong, Australia. Someone asked me, “Why did you catch it?” That is a good question.
If the truth is to be known, I cannot help myself. I love snakes. Think of it as an unusual addiction. It is part of our Marsh family heritage. It must be embedded in our DNA.
Let me explain. As a boy, my dad used to tell my brother and I stories before we went to bed. We would even sing a song, “Tell me a story” if he forgot. It was a night-time ritual.
Our favourite stories were ‘Dad’s Snake Stories’, most of them real. They would always end with Dad saving the day, killing the snake and putting the dreaded killer snake on a nearby ants’ nest. The ants then threw a party and had snake pie for weeks on end.
Somehow or other, when we were in our late primary and early high school days, we seemed to catch a bit of Dad’s DNA, but with a slight difference.
We didn’t kill deadly snakes; we caught them alive and exhibited them to all the other children in our neighbourhood.
You see I lived in Blackheath in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, in NSW, Australia and there were lots of snakes in our region. My brother Cameron and I became budding herpetologists.
We had a large collection of snakes and lizards. That is until we accidentally lost our pet poisonous black snake in the house.
Thankfully we found it under the steel hearth in the fireplace. Luckily, it was summertime, otherwise our pet black snake could have been burnt alive by our fire. We were very thankful!
My brother and I thought we did pretty well. It only took us 48 hours to find the snake. Mum did not appreciate our love for poisonous snakes and the science of snakes and lizards.
We had two Tiger snakes, which are very deadly, being the fourth most deadly snake in the world. We had a large 1.5 metre black snake. Several other non-poisonous snakes and lizards and a small 800mm pet black snake.
Even though black snakes are poisonous they are reasonably docile. They certainly appreciate some tender loving care. We handled him daily without any problems.
Tiger Snakes get their name for two reasons. Firstly, they usually have yellow bands around them, reminiscent of a tiger. And secondly, they are very aggressive snakes.
I once chased a Tiger Snake in the Kanimbla Valley, trying to catch it. My endeavours stopped suddenly when the tiger snake turned around and started to chase me.
I remember how I sprinted 50 metres across a paddock, dived through a barbed wire fence, jumped back on the road, leapt on my bicycle, and furiously pedalled out of there. Not every snake hunt was successful!
According to Reptiles Magazine Australia has some of the world’s most dangerous snakes. The Inland Taipan, found in Western Queensland is officially the deadliest snake in the world.
Interestingly, we actually had some of the top ten deadliest snakes in the world in our backyard snake box.
Looking back, I am amazed that Dad allowed us to have the snakes in the first place. He was very patient with our adventurous ways and put up with our love for snakes and even encouraged us in our quest as budding herpetologists.
Mum was not quite so supportive. The day we ‘lost’ our pet black snake in the house seemed to tip her over the edge! The fact that we found our black snake under the hearth didn’t seem to help.
We came home from school a week later and found that Mum had given our whole snake collection to a real herpetologist from Bathurst. We were broken hearted, but it certainly didn’t squelch our love for snakes.
Whilst I loved catching the Diamond Python, I could not keep him. So here is the recent video of our Diamond Python being released into his natural habitat.
Why would I enthral you with such stories of adventures with snakes? Because children need adventure in their lives, especially boys. Thankfully, we had a Dad who realised this and was supportive of our boyhood exploits. Perhaps he was too supportive? Mum certainly fixed that, one way or the other.
The reality is that children need a combination of a father’s love, which allows risk and a mother’s love, which curtails risk. The truth is always in the tension.
As boys we were broken hearted when ‘our’ snakes were taken away but thankfully we had input from both a mother and a father, however different, and maybe that’s the reason we are alive to tell the story.
I wanted to share some of that snake story and our Marsh DNA with my grand-children. What better way to do that than with a beautiful nonvenomous Diamond Python?
Interestingly, my 7 year old grandson had been bugging his mother for a pet snake. He was very glad about his Grandad’s love of snakes. His mother was not so enraptured.
The above video shows my grandchildren and I releasing our friendly Diamond Python back into the rainforest where he belongs. He was very happy to be back in his natural habitat. Soli Deo Gloria!!!
Every family has its own DNA. In many cases this is passed down in story form as well as real life experience.
Why not share these stories with your children? You can even record them on YouTube. However you do it, audio, video or written. Just do it!
Happy Story Telling!
PS: Watch out for more information about a FREE webinar on ‘How to be a Great Dad’, coming up at 8PM on Tuesday 28 March 2023.
Also don’t forget the Courageous Fathering Course starting online on Zoom 2 May 2023. Booking information here.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
A woman’s prerogative..
We both grew up in the bush Warwick, did I hear you say – and your point is ?
30 years ago I had a vivid and unforgettable dream about a snake just like the one in your video, except it was much much bigger. Its colour was so vivid it was almost a disguise. I thought I must have been mistaken when I described it as a python so it’s good to have confirmation that the only aspect of exaggeration in my dream, was the size of the snake…but then again everything is relative.
Like you, my brother also liked snakes and ferrets and other smelly things but as a child I did not have the judgements I acquired as an adult female.
The differences between men and women are endless and wonderful.
Thank you for all that you do.
Thank you for your incredible encouragement. We obviously have more in common than we thought!