When I was a young whippersnapper, some folks probably thought of me as being a mite looney. I considered myself a dedicated Boy Scout, a woodsman, a student of wildlife and an animal lover.
Anyway, I was young, brave and inexperienced enough to enter the forests of Penna, armed with a forked stick cut from one of the many hardwoods, looking for rattlesnakes. When I came across one, I would listen for his rattle, pin his head to the ground with my stick and then reach down and pick him up by the head for display to my friends. Good sport, huh?
In my senior years, I've learned better. I can tell you with a great emphasis that I'm out of the snake-hunting business and that is why I have not volunteered to join the state of Florida's bounty hunt for Burmese pythons in the Everglades. This wiser old-timer is not the slightest interested in trying to make big bucks hunting pythons. You could not get me to enter wetlands in Florida looking for any kind of critters, let alone a python. It matters not that pythons are non-venomous. I don't want to be squeezed to death unless by a loved one.
Folks are coming from all over the U.S. by the thousands to comb the Everglades to meet Florida's python challenge. The snakes have become a menace to native wildlife and have to be eliminated.
My youthful snake hunts have cured me of ever hunting snakes again. As far as I am concerned -- and naturalists would not agree with me -- the only good snake is a dead one. Oh, I know they are an important part of the ecosystem, but they give me the creeps because I have come across so many in the wild and have so far escaped harm.
The rattle of a rattlesnake chanced upon can cause terror and panic. A bite might be fatal. My scout leaders taught me to be careful, be calm, call for help, wear high boots, carry a snakebite kit and do not self-medicate. Back in my hunting days, I was taught to apply a tourniquet, cut an X over the bite and suck out the venom. Today it is suggested not to incise the bitten site. Wash it with soap and water if you have any out there in the woods. Applying a tight ligature may prove dangerous. Before going rattlesnake hunting it is suggested the hunter update himself on the latest treatments. What we were told to do in the old days may no longer apply.
So, I'm content to sit here in my easy chair and watch from a distance as that armed crowd of python hunters searches the Everglades trying to flush out their prey. We hope no one gets bitten, squeezed to death, shot, injured or insect-bitten while spooking the Burmese invaders. I am so glad I'm too old to remember where I disposed of that forked stick I cut and shaped so many years ago.
Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.