Poisonous and Venomous Things

I’m afraid of snakes. I probably should have thought about this when we purchased our home on three acres surrounded by the woods. A year ago when I found a tiny snake pressed up against the baseboard and the carpet in the basement I realized that I had moved into their habitat. Then this spring Maurice and I received a frantic text message from our daughter Kelly. We arrived home to find a large black snake in the basement. Actually Kelly's foot narrowly missed him perched on the top step to our basement and by the time we got home the snake had retreated to the lower level. Two snakes in two years isn't an indication that my environment is going to change anytime soon. I needed to change.

“Do you know where I can touch a snake?” I started to ask some of my friends. I decided that maybe if I touched a snake I wouldn’t have this huge fear. Touching a snake became the next item on my “bucket list.” Well, one day after running the trails at Rockwood Reservation we noticed a conservation staff person walking into the Visitor’s Center. My buddies, knowing my quest, flagged her down and asked if she had any snakes I could touch. She didn’t have any at the moment but gave me a copy of the upcoming Conservation Department events. This prompted me to put “Venomous and Poisonous Things” on my calendar.

Here is how the Missouri Department of Conservation described the event:

Scout Discovery Table: Poisonous & Venomous Things

(All Ages) Come and learn about the poisonous and venomous plants and animals found in Missouri. We will be looking at and learning about snakes, spiders, bees, wasps, hornets, scorpions, mushrooms and everyone’s favorite, poison ivy. There will be live examples of venomous animals found in the area. Stop by any time during the four-hour period.

This looked interesting and I thought maybe I could find a snake to touch of the nonvenomous variety. Saturday Kari, Tonya, Liam and I all had great time learning about the animals that live in our area.  We had the opportunity to see a copperhead and timber rattlesnake.  A knowledgeable conservation department volunteer explained the difference between poisonous and venomous. Poisonous is something you ingest or contact and venom is what gets injected into you.  We learned many interesting facts from this gentleman and you can imagine my delight when he asked Liam “Do you want to touch a snake?”

Liam did not but yes, yes I did! So he reached down into the corner and picked up a white pillowcase that was wiggling.  Inside was a small snake, sorry I don’t remember what kind it was but I touched it. Using two fingers I was instructed to rub in the direction from his head to his tail. The snake was cool and felt like a belt. Then our volunteer says “Would you like to touch a big snake?”

I suddenly felt this big grin come over my face as I said “Yes, I want to touch a big snake.”

On the table was a plastic box with a handle that looked like a dog carrier, actually it was the size of a cat crate which housed the bigger snake.  I touched that big snake too. Did you know that snakes smell with their tongue? I noticed that the snake’s tongue was as big as his head. Looking at his tongue darting back and forth I gained a new appreciation for this reptile that can strike terror into most folks.

We were also treated to a demonstration of owl and hawk calls which I found fascinating. It was fun to look at the mounted birds and then hear what they sounded like. I walked away with new insights about the living things of Missouri.  More importantly, I faced a fear and touched a snake. Now what’s really weird is that by facing my fear and doing this, I felt happy. How odd is that? Face a fear and replace it with happiness. Hmm, wonder what other poisonous and venomous things are in my life that I can face and replace?