I was living in Brisbane, a nice, sunny town just south of San Francisco, with the homeowner & roommate, Robert, and his Golden Retriever Maggie. Robert also had a penchant for keeping pets of the more exotic nature – reptiles, including iguanas, tortoises & a very scary snapping turtle. The snapper lived in a water tank, and every week we bought it a bag of feeders – small goldfish – which he would hunt relentlessly. Each snap of his jaw would cause violent tidal waves to splash across the surface of his aquarium. It was obvious that he could easily bite off a finger so I decided the tank was a no-petting zone.
All was well when I invited two friends to stay with me in SF at the house. As we got home, we noticed a new aquarium in Robert’s den, which doubled as his office & workout room. Inside this aquarium was a python, a rather mature & large one (its dimensions turned out to be 12 feet and a 4 inch diameter!) My friends & I had no experience handling large snakes, so we thought it better to leave well enough alone. We closed with wire mesh lid and went out for an evening in San Francisco. What we forgot to do is latch the lid…
So…when we got home, the python was out in Robert’s den, stretching & hissing & slithering (as pythons do). Since Robert was out of town for the weekend, and since he brought it into the house, it was Robert’s problem. We decided the best thing was to go to bed. Kate & I were dating, so we went into my room and closed the door. The problem was that my other friend, Jon, was to sleep on the couch, and there was no door from Robert’s den to the rest of the house. Jon made it clear that this was a problem, and he was not comfortable going to sleep in the clear path of this large snake.
So we went down to the basement and found a sheet of ¾ inch plywood, and blocked the den doorway with the plywood & 2X4’s. All was well until the middle of the night, when the sounds started, “Boom! Crash! Kaboom! Crash!”. The tinkle of broken glass, then more loud sounds – it sounded like the room was being turned upside down (which, it turned out, it was). In the morning Robert came home, and we explained what happened. Robert explained that his friend’s landlord found out about the snake in her place and gave her the ultimatum of getting rid of it or eviction, so Robert adopted a 12 foot python. We removed the plywood, and what we saw, I’ll never forget:
Robert’s multi-workout weight bench was turned over on its side. So was his desk. The curtain rods & curtains were pulled down to the floor, likewise the lamps & ceiling light fixture. In the corner, curled up in a snuggly coil was Mr. Python, sleeping it off. It seems, as we learned, pythons are very, very strong (they’re constrictors; they squeeze things to death). Their entire body is one, big long muscle. Robert called a friend, who came over and instructed us on how to handle, carry & hold the python. From that point on in our household, our life became “Fun with Monty!”
First thing we noticed is how pythons move. Remember that their entire body is a very strong muscle. So how Monty would travel is wrap the very end of his tail, say maybe a foot, around, a table leg. He would then stretch the rest of his eleven foot body in a straight line, out & upward to a curtain rod or ceiling light fixture (which would seem to him to be a tree branch) and lob his head over this next destination. If his weight held, he’d slither the rest of his body up & around this new location, and work his way to the next. If it didn’t, the fixture and Monty would crash down to the floor – no problem for Monty (it was a “broken branch”) and he’d start over in a new direction.
I’ve heard of snakes getting into walls, which luckily didn’t happen to us, but one time I was sitting in the library, and an entire row of books started undulating and falling to the floor. Monty had slithered behind the World Book encyclopedia and decided to take over shelf space. He also liked warm baths, which he expressed by joining us in the tub (not for the faint-hearted!) I won’t cover feeding him (again, not for the faint-hearted) but I was curious about the snake-human psychology: what was going on in his tiny little snaky brain:
If you were small enough to fit through his detached jaw (say, a mouse, rat, kitten or small dog) he would constrict it to death and devour it. If you were too large to eat, he was fine cohabitating with us, being “pals”. Being pals consisted of chasing Monty around the house (and limiting damage) and hugs. Hugs consisted of Monty coiling around me (he’s a hugger) and going about your daily chores. Knowing that he could constrict you to death was always a mutual trust: I was too big to eat and he enjoyed being carried around, while I enjoyed the novelty of having a jungle animal wrapped around me. This arrangement usually meant his head was right next to mine, but that’s where the communication stopped. I could never figure out what was going though his little snaky mind, and maybe he felt the same. Dogs and cats (and even ferrets etc.) are mammals and at least we can relate on that level.
Pythons & snakes are not furry or warm. Hell, they don’t even have paws/hands/feet or legs, they might as well be aliens from another planet. But then again, maybe he felt that way about me, assuming Monty had feelings (have you ever heard of a “snake whisperer”?)
I honestly can’t remember what happened to Monty. Perhaps I moved out (but not because of him). I never tried to carry him out in public to test if a big predatory snake could be a chick magnet. I was afraid of legal ramifications if he slithered away. But I’ll never forget sharing my house with Monty. This is a true story; I could not make this up.