Smokey The Bear Says Only You Can Prevent Snakebites

Everyone has a phobia.  The fact that I made it through life immune to childhood fears gave me an overblown sense of victory.  That was before I moved to Namibia and realized that poisonous snakes don’t live behind thick walls of glass at the zoo they live in nature. As in the tall brush that I walk through every day.  Fortunately Namibians share my fear of snakes and are prone to taking any means necessary to kill a snake regardless if it’s a black mamba or a garden snake. 

One morning I learned that the commonly accepted method of killing snakes is fire.  As I grew up in Texas, where Smokey the Bear taught us that even the smallest spark could cause a forest fire that would take out the entire Southwest and singe Smokey’s ranger hat, I was a bit apprehensive.  However I figured my host family knew what they are doing so I stood back and watched as the fire burned mere feet from the homestead.  Fortunately the flames burned down leaving in their wake charred ground, which everyone immediately started circling with sticks , hoes, and intent looks on their faces. 

Me: “Um, what are you looking for?”
Host Family: “A poisonous snake. I think it’s over there.” (Pointing mere feet from where I stood.)
Me: (Hopping around nervously and peering at the ground) “Oh, ok. Great.”
Host Family: “Don’t worry, it’s only mildly poisonous.”
Me: “Awesome. So I’ll die more slowly.”
Host Family: “Just slowly enough to get to the hospital. Maybe.”

 Sufficed to say I still have a fear of poisonous snakes but fortunately I’m more likely now to run into a black mamba in the zoo than in my backyard.



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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.