Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Gaboon Viper

You can actually buy viper mugs at a site called I'm not making this up.

Back in 2005, when blogging was still new and fresh to me, I wrote post called Horned viper. I had randomly opened a dictionary and wrote about the first entry I found. It happened to be "horned viper." I managed to ramble on a few paragraphs about the horned viper and that it shouldn't be mistaken for the gaboon viper (which I thought sounded very cool).

Well, on Saturday, while at a picnic with my family, I saw a gaboon viper. Gaboon vipers come from Africa and aren't normally found slithering around parks in Washington. In fact this one wasn't slithering around at all. It was actually hanging out in a large plastic bin waiting for his turn to be displayed to a large crowd of "oohing" and "ahhing"  people as part of a show put on by a man who calls himself "The Reptile Man."

The Reptile Man obviously has an affinity for reptiles. I've seen his name on the entertainment rosters of countless community fairs and festivals, but this is the first time I'd actually seen his show. And despite my naturally aversion to snakes and other slimy creatures, I have to admit the show was pretty entertaining. The Reptile Man opened bin after plastic bin and retrieved various snakes, lizards and one pretty large tortoise. He he debunked the defaming myths about each one of the critters including a rattle snake which I had pretty much been raised to fear and try to whack to death with a stick if I ever saw one. He pointed out each of the creatures important place in the eco-chain and the benefits they provided (including eating mice, rats, slugs and various other vermin that I imagine someone called "The Rodent Man" would have taken umbrage to).

I was pretty impressed (from a distance). But it was when he pulled the gaboon viper out of its storage bin that I felt a chill. Here was this random snake I'd referenced in a blog post some six years ago crossing my path in a park in Washington. Who says it isn't a small universe after all?

Despite this cosmic connection, I didn't feel compelled to hug the gaboon viper. Because regardless of whether the Reptile Man had removed the snake's venom glands, gaboon vipers still have a nasty habit of chomping down on their prey and stubbornly not letting go until they are dead. And they have a reputation of being able to swallow pretty large animals whole. Reportedly one in the wilds of Africa swallowed an antelope. I've never had any strong desire to see the inside of a gaboon viper, so I kept my distance. But I did raise my fist in a salute of solidarity when he was being dropped back into his plastic bin.

I think the gaboon viper kind of liked me in retrospect.

Regardless, I wish my wife had allowed me to name my son Gaboon. She wasn't buying my explanation that it was a family name (i.e. my great uncle Gaboon). It would have made my son's formative years a bit rough, but in the long run it would have made him tough, kind of like the boy named Sue.

But I'm sure he'll have other things to resent me for.

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