Friday, August 26, 2011

Plain Snakes

The pretty young waitress approached our table with a basket of bread. His back to her, my friend R.'s son blurted out, "I would not put a snake in my mouth." The waitress raised her eyebrows in bewilderment.

"Way to impress the girls, son," his father said.

In truth, however, his comment wasn't out of place. To begin with, we were in Georgia, and who knows what happens there. More important, we'd recently left Florida and, as we'd just finished telling R. and his kid, there's definitely some odd stuff going on in that state.

As you'll recall, I'd insisted on stopping at the Skunk Ape Research Center on the way to drop off my oldest in Miami for college, accompanied by my youngest and his friend M. Sure, we did some other things on the trip. A visit to the Superman statute in Metropolis, Illinois; a Braves game in Atlanta; cruising South Beach in a minivan. All of those were fine, but none of them had the magic of the Skunk Ape.

One can therefore only imagine my excitement when I saw the sign along the side of Highway 41 through the Everglades.

"Look, boys!" I shouted. "Skunk Apes ahead!"

"This is stupid," said my oldest.

"This is stupid," said my youngest.

"Why is there a giant fake panther in front of the building?" asked M.

"Even better, there are giant fake people looking at it," I said.

I pulled into the parking lot and hustled them into the steel shed that serves as Skunk Ape Research Center world headquarters. It was everything one could hope for. Photos, newspaper articles, and most important, a gift shop brimming with t-shirts and magnets. I was in heaven.

"Welcome," a gentleman said, entering through a doorway in the back of the room.

"Hello," I replied. "You must be the head researcher?"

He shrugged. "No, I just work here."

"I've really been looking forward to this," I said. "What can you tell me about the Skunk Ape."

Our host rolled his eyes. "Not much to tell," he said. "You can read the articles on the wall."

"Oh," I said, disappointed in his lack of enthusiasm. "Well, what's through the door?"

He perked up at my question. "Reptiles. And birds. Want to see them?"

"I wouldn't miss it," I said.

Sure enough, through the door were reptiles. And birds. But not just any reptiles and birds. There was an alligator with a tortoise riding on its back. There was an assortment of parrots. There were tarantulas. There were snakes. There was even a kitten running herd on the entire collection.

"Whoa," said my youngest.

"Huh," said my oldest.

"Cool," said M.

"Have you ever had a macaw on your shoulder?" our host asked.

After twenty minutes or so of taking turns playing pirate our attention began to lag. Our host, who had been giving us a surprisingly detailed and accurate overview of the parrot family while rebuffing my repeated questions about Skunk Apes, noticed and beckoned us toward the alligator, which was resting in a pond out back.

"You boys ever seen a death roll?" he asked. He reached into a bag, pulled out a piece of chicken, and threw it in the pond. Sure enough, death roll. This entire experience was turning out better than I could have hoped. By the boys' expressions, they felt the same.

"C'mere, you'll like this too," he said. We walked past an albino python to a cage with a couple of smaller constrictors. Reaching into another bag, he withdrew the corpse of a guinea pig.

"Watch," he said, and threw the guinea pig to the snakes. They began curling around it and the boys and I shuddered with delicious horror.

By now we'd been joined by a vacationing French couple who appeared to speak virtually no English.

"Want to hold some snakes?" he asked them.

They looked at each other, then back to him, with total lack of comprehension and a clear sense of unease. God only knows what they thought we were discussing; probably fast food and serial killers, what with this being America and all.

"Here, I'll show you," he said, leading us over to a glass enclosure. He opened it and reached in, grabbing hold of a 40-pound boa constrictor.

"Who wants to start?" he asked.

Nobody moved, although even the French tourists had a pretty good idea by now of what was going on.

Finally M. asked, "Does he bite?"

"No, not at all," said our host. "She's very gentle. Look."


I don't any photos of spiders in someone's mouth for fish, but I can offer this shot of my oldest:


zombie rotten mcdonald said...


Next time they hate one of your vacation ideas, just remind them of the Awesomeness of the Skunk Ape Research Center.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

...and then take them on an architecture tour of Savannah.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

That giant panther looks awfully skinny. He seems to be regarding the tourists with something more than neighborly friendliness.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Our host, who had been giving us a surprisingly detailed and accurate overview of the parrot family while rebuffing my repeated questions about Skunk Apes


Now I haz a that you in the picture with the snake, Snag?

Smut Clyde said...

"I would not put a snake in my mouth."

Umm, what were the alternative options?

Pinko Punko said...

The whole time I was getting a "Deliverance" vibe- yikes!

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Umm, what were the alternative options?

Skunk Apes. Didn't you see the sign?

Kathleen said...

so a skunk ape is a giant wildcat? the south makes no sense to me.

fish said...

Now put a spider in your mouth.

Smut Clyde said...

Umm, what were the alternative options?

Kathleen said...


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

"Helping Jennifer"

I'll go tell her!

Substance McGravitas said...


zombie rotten mcdonald said...

somehow, I am not surprised that Rick Scott deep-kisses snakes.