I’m a serious animal lover. Not only did I stop eating them more than two decades ago, I also don’t wear them or buy products made from—or tested on—them. I’ve even implemented a comprehensive catch-and-release program for any and all vermin captured in our house, including stinkbugs.
Like I said, I love animals.
But snakes are different.
From their scaly coolness and flicking tongues to their And-Starring-In-The-Role-Of-Satan theatrical résumé, snakes have an endless capacity to freak me out.
So when my 9-year-old son, Sam, asked if he and I could take the “For Goodness Snakes” class at the new Catoctin Creek Nature Center in Middletown, I did what any other overworked, overtired parent-who-just-wants-five-minutes-of-peace-at-the-end-of-the-day-for-crying-out-loud would do.
I said, “Sure,” while secretly hoping he’d forget all about it.
Well, he didn’t.
Which is why we found ourselves sitting cross-legged on the floor of the immaculate new Frederick County facility not long ago as a knowledgeable staffer introduced us and a dozen fellow participants to some of Maryland’s indigenous slitherers.
Boasting species like the black rat snake, corn snake, milk snake, and Eastern garter snake, the Free State is literally crawling with all things unholy and reptilian.
Not that our instructor used those exact words to describe her charges.
Inexplicably, she threw around adjectives like “sweet” and “adorable” as the various critters knitted themselves around her arms while I scooted waaaaaaaaay back and mentally calculated my vertical leap.
Calm and enthusiastic, she reminded the excited, chirping kiddos and their squeamish moms and dads that snakes are much more afraid of us than we are of them.
(Unless the snakes, too, needed a glass of wine after class, that last part clearly wasn’t true.)
Still, the program itself was fun, interesting, inexpensive, and a pretty cool way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Did it make me want to get in touch with my slithery side or spend more time around Mother Nature’s legless wonders?
But did it reinforce my already firm “live and let live” ideals and give me newfound respect for snakes’ ability to adapt and thrive around skittish, bombastic humans? Absolutely.
And did it ultimately, upon further reflection and personal growth on my part, cause me to revisit my no-snakes-as-pets policy for Sam?