I’ll never forget it. I was 7 years old and playing with my legos when I heard the phone ring. My mother answered it and her eyes quickly grew wide as she heard what the caller had to say. Listening closely, I recognized the voice of Katie, our neighbor. She sounded surprised and a little scared. The words tumbling out of the phone’s speaker were jumbled and mixed up, and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t make out many of them. However, there was one word I recognized: “Snake.” Now my eyes grew wide - not out of fear but rather out of uncontainable excitement.
Without a word to my mother or anyone else, I scrambled down the stairs, nearly tripping on my own feet. I dashed into our garage and fumbled through our heaps of unorganized items. My eyes rapidly scanned through the shelves and boxes, looking for one object in particular, my mind sharply aware that time was of the essence. Finally I saw what I was looking for; a small empty trash can. I snatched it up and sprinted outside. My favorite PVC pipe was outside and I grabbed that with my free hand. Now equipped with my makeshift tools, I scampered my 2nd grade legs over to the neighbor’s house without a hint of hesitation.
I knocked, feeling my heart beating inside my little chest. My best friend met me at the door, his expression somewhere in between my excitement and my mother’s apprehension. He opened his mouth to say something, but I didn’t wait to hear it and rushed through the door.
I was inside. Adrenaline pumped like wildfire through my veins. I felt alive. From the kitchen Katie noticed me, and glanced uncertainly at my trash can and PVC, as if she wasn’t sure if I should do what I was about to do. She wasn’t going to stop me, however, and gestured towards the hallway. I took a deep breath, and then turned and peered down the hallway.
I saw exactly what I was expecting, but that didn’t diminish the thrill that pulsed through my mind. A long creature lay sprawled across the floor. Black and yellowy-white bands alternated down its back, and a long pitch colored tongue flicked nervously in and out of its scaly head. The California king snake. In my 7 short years of existence, never had I seen such an amazing creature with my own eyes. I held my breath and simply watched for a second or two. I heard my friend mumble something behind me, but was two focused on my quarry to pay attention to what he was saying. It was time to make my move. Not breaking my intense eye contact with the serpent, I lay my trash can down on its side, the opening facing the mighty king. For the first time I felt a twinge of uncertainty. It didn’t slow me down or diminish my resolve, but nevertheless the twinge was present.
From the other side of the trash can I reached my PVC over towards the beast. The snake jerked back in recoiling surprise as it was touched by the pipe, but refrained from striking. I gently, meticulously, cautiously nudged the snake towards the mouth of the can. Moving painstakingly slow, I felt as if eons could pass as I manuvered the animal. F Once it was inside, I grasped the edge of the trashcan and flipped it upright. I exhaled heavily and felt an intense sensation of satisfaction, slightly numbed by the awe I felt as I peered down at the California king snake.
And thus I caught a snake for the first time. That particular adventure is one of my favorite and dearest memories. After becoming comfortable enough to handle the beast, we measured it to be about 5 feet in length. While I most certainly went on to apprehend larger and more dangerous serpents, this particular king snake holds a special place in my heart. It signifies the beginning of a passion that roars inside of me to this day. Before that day I spent my time catching little lizards and frogs, both of which are certainly fun, but snakes had only existed in the pictures creatures in my reptile book. Snakes, majestic in design and fascinating in personality, seem to have a habit of captivating one’s imagination. Simply put, they are unlike any other animal I have ever encountered. For as long as I can remember, I have dreamt of working with them. A quick scan of my resumé will reveal this dream, directly as well as indirectly.
I may have GPA of 3.9, and several years of camera experience, but such attributes were attained with the end goal of a reptilian related career. My nice grades or dedication to certain skills may show that I have focus and work ethic, but they fail to show the flaming passion that drives them. They don’t reveal how exhilarated I felt when I stumbled across a six and a half foot rat snake on spring break, or how my heat skipped a beat when I relocated my first copperhead nearly two years ago. Countless hours I have spent wandering the woods alone, longing for that majestic glory that has captured my soul. I have hiked through heat, rain, and spiderweb, across desert, coast, and forest. How many times I have found a reptile when people least expect it, behind a gas station or in a friend’s suburban backyard. Those close to me have come to expect it at this point. I am known among my acquaintances as “that snake guy.” I can tell you the best time of day, time of year, weather, and location to find a multitude of species. My list of species I have encountered is greater than 100. I could say more, but the point is this: reptiles, particularly snakes, hold a significant place in my life, more so than a hobby or even a career. It is, in all blunt honesty, who I am.