The Watering Hole; Friday October 31 2014; A Diversion . . .

I was originally going to put up a pre-election post on current electoral “abnormalities” such as voter suppression, the money = speech nonsense, and . . . well, you know. Problem is, I couldn’t find the time in the last few days to pen a 5000 page book. So . . .

I checked my email instead and noticed a fresh one from my old college buddy-now-turned-wildlife-photographer Denny Green with subject line “Rattlers.” Following a quick peek at the attachments, my focus immediately shifted from “human” political snakes to the real thing.

Mojave 3054

And wouldn’t you know, the photo perusal wound up reminding me of another old friend, a retired educator-become-poet who called himself Grandpa Tucker, a gifted gentleman who spent his last few years working with middle school children and helping them gain an appreciation of poetry AND in the process, an understanding of life as well. He spent a year or two interfacing with a 7th grade class (in another state) via the internet, via email. He wrote an entire book of poetry in the process, including more than a dozen long story poems that featured the hero — a special critter named Sammy Snake. Sammy was one of the good guys, a snake with an attitude that, for some mysterious reason, meshed with the collection of attitudes commonly attributed to seventh graders. 😀

Anyway, to make a long story short, several Denny Green photos of a cool and calm Arizona Mojave Rattlesnake quickly merged with those poetic Sammy Snake ramblings by the one and only Bob Tucker. I’ll not try to cover the entire scope of Sammy here, but I thought it might be fun to mix up a few of Denny’s photos with a handful of verses from the first of Grandpa Tucker’s Sammy Snake poems.


Sammy Snake had a dozen brothers,
But he just wasn’t like the others.
They were nice and crawled real straight,
While Sammy moved like the figure eight.

Mojave 3057

Sammy was a problem child
Whose wiggle waggled kinda wild.
This little guy rejoiced in seeing
A badly frightened human being

Once in a while, for stuff to do,
He’d hide in some girl’s empty shoe.
When she looked in, he’d holler, “BOO!”
Sometime he scared old ladies, too.

One time in church, he went in late,
Hid out in the collection plate.
And as they passed it down the aisle,
He flicked his tongue and hissed a smile. [. . .]

That’s how the poem begins; it continues for another 18 verses, then concludes with these final thoughts:

He changed and lived “The Golden Rule,”
And tried his best to learn in school.
Then earned a Smart Old Snake Degree,
At Wiggle University.

His article, “Be Nice, Not Mean,”
Appeared in Playboa Magazine.
Sammy had reformed, it’s clear,
Was voted “Serpent of the Year.”

So, all you other little snakes,
Be good, no matter what it takes.
No one’s perfect, but believe,
It just gets worse if you deceive.

So live a life that’s good and true,
Make other snakes believe in you,
And you’ll be doing what it takes
To fill the world with happy snakes.

(See Below) 😀

Mojave 3061

I can’t help but think it’d be a grand thing if our politicians could somehow elevate themselves to reflect the forthrightness of a Mojave Rattler with the intellectual acuity of Sammy Snake. But then, well, you know . . .


Note: Photos © Denny Green, Tempe AZ; Sammy Snake poem excerpts from Grandpa Tucker’s Rhymes & Tales (1999), ISBM 1-929146-00-0, by the late Bob Tucker; R.I.P.

44 thoughts on “The Watering Hole; Friday October 31 2014; A Diversion . . .

  1. I try to respect all creatures but Florida has exposed me to more snakes in a few years than I have seen in my entire life.
    I’ve had a coral snake slither past my feet inches away while wearing flip flops.
    And, yes it was a coral snake. When you see one in real life you will know.
    Something in the primal part of the human brain says “that is not a snake you want to screw with”
    The colors are vibrant and it really does set off an alarm in your head.
    A cottonmouth almost had an encounter with my dog. The cottonmouth lost due to my intervention.
    A rattlesnake in the driveway experienced a Michelin tire several times.
    Ordinarily I would let these creatures be but, they were right outside the house which is a little too close for comfort.
    I had a pygmy rattlesnake under a box in the garage. Fortunately it was cold and it couldn’t move fast. I was going to put it in the freezer but for some reason I let go far away from the house, free to pursue its own religious freedom.
    There are a lot of black racers but usually they are headed away from you as fast as they can go.
    I’ve also seen several of them get picked off by the local hawk population.

    • Yep, I understand the problem. When I lived in Az I encountered lots and lots of “them”, including diamondbacks (snakes, not baseball players), Mojave rattlers, even a Sonoran coral snake (and yes, they are INSTANTLY recognizable). None of them got close enough to do any damage, however, and since I was in their domain rather than the other option, the encounters were brief and we each went our separate ways. Had they been close in, I’d have tried to capture and return them to the wild, although the other option always remained equally valid.

      I respect snakes and their right to exist. I don’t fear them just because the bible says they’re evil. Respect need not equal fear. Plus, snakes are more intricate to nature’s balance than I am.

      Interesting tidbit — the reason Bob Tucker used Sammy Snake as his poetic “hero” was well thought. He was working with 7th grade kids in a rural Tennessee classroom, many of whom were encountering typical identity problems, as in “everybody thinks I’m different”; there were also some typical reading/comprehension difficulties that needed a means to help turn the testing corner. He used Sammy Snake as his ‘hero’ because he thought the youngsters would realize that snakes, too, are seen as ‘different’ and ‘scary’, much as they figured the world looked upon themselves. Bottom line, the thesis worked wonders. The kids followed the poetic tales and saw themselves in the process. They gathered in the hints that even something as scary as a snake, if it followed some fairly standard rules of behavior, would find acceptance in return. Also, the rather simple poem construction — the iambic pentameter rhythm and rhyme — captured their attention and the slow readers suddenly learned how to read and understand — and in a few weeks or months were actually writing their own poetry, revealing their own attitudes and opinions. The overall result was, in the modern vernacuiar, a significant improvement in standardized test scores. They also shed much of their religiously-inspired fear of snakes, enough to upset many of the local Baptists (read: fundamentalist Republicans) in the community. But that’s another story. 😀

    • Among my other varied interests I am a amateur herpetologist. All reptiles are cool but I have a particular affinity for snakes. Dad, who had an innate fear of snakes he couldn’t hide, opined that I liked snakes because it helped foster my image as an eccentric. Whatever. My collection of pet snakes ensured that Dad wouldn’t visit unannounced and the evil stepmother never set foot in my house!

      One of the few things I miss about living in California is the diversity of the reptile population of the Southwest. I soon learned what particular habitats would hold rattlers and became friends with virtually every scaly critter in many desert gullies. It’s easy when there’s a snake and/or lizard under virtually every rock.

      Here in Minnesota one needs to search harder but that makes finding them more rewarding. I’m pretty sure that I’m the only person who knows the location of several colonies of timber rattlesnakes. I even learned to “milk” their venom during my brief employment at the Minnesota Zoo in hopes of setting up a show that never came to fruition. I also found a small population of massasagua living well outside their known range around one of my favorite trout streams but, small snakes being much more difficult to catch on film or in hand than larger ones, never managed to convince the experts that they are really there.

      The best thing about genuine rattlesnakes, as opposed to their human counterparts, is that they won’t seek out opportunities to bite just because they have venom. Some do bite if they are stepped on or accidentally cornered but almost all snake bites are due to human silliness. If you do run across a snake in the driveway I humbly encourage you to allow it to slither off, find a very long stick with which you can gently goad it to the nearest hiding spot, or call animal control. You will probably never see it again.

          • Yeah. On the other hand… If there are small children who can’t be trusted to leave them alone then harsher methods might be appropriate and I do understand the panic that an unexpected snake can cause. I had a harmless water snake wrap around my legs while I was engrossed in trout fishing hip deep in the stream and I think I managed to actually run on the surface of the water while I covered the 20 feet to shore!

        • I asked a guy once how to tell the difference between a raven and a crow. He said it’s easy. Crows shout “caw caw caw” and ravens say “awk awk awk.” I paused, then said “How do you tell a raven from a crow, really?”

          He said the easier way is to say to the bird, “Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!” and if the bird says “Nevermore” it’s a raven, not a crow.

          • Now that’s funny! I know that some people have taught crows to talk but I’m not sure about ravens. Of course; even a crow taught to say “nevermore” would probably scare the crap out of someone who is well-read but prone to panic.

  2. Israeli cartoonist, under fire for drawing Netanyahu flying a plane into an American building:

    “I wasn’t sufficiently aware of the great sensitivity that 9/11 holds for Americans.”

    Hey, I’ve got a great Holocaust joke…

    • Well I spent maybe $40 on TomtT’s second-hand suit and fedora and maybe $40 on beer ingredients….. and yes that’s it…. and I spent $0 on malaria, unless you count the $5 I spent on a spray bottle of ‘Off’ at the start of summer…..

      … so yes that’s correct. More on Halloween.

  3. Finally, a spade is called a spade:

    Santorum Profits With His Imagined Christian Persecution

    Recently, Rick Santorum told the Christian Post that we are possibly one generation away from Christian persecution in America. He made a movie called One Generation Away which I’m sure is bought by Churches for a fee. Santorum encouraged pastors to show this documentary at their churches at a ‘special event,’ rather than at movie theaters. This way, patrons can pay as much as $25 a head to see this film.

    His historical justification for believing this persecution is possible is the saga of the anti-Nazi, Confession Church founder, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was persecuted for objecting to the genocide and his involvement in a plot to kill Hitler, not because of his belief in god. Santorum mistakenly uses a man who was against fascism to illustrate his imagined war on Christianity.

    Santorum’s legacy as a Senator was anything but anti-fascist. He had a 100 rating (highest possible) by the Chamber of Commerce on his pro-business, anti-tax stance. This way, the corporations will run the country, and if that isn’t fascism, what is? These extremist theocrats actually believe they are chosen by god to impose their selfish agenda.

    FINALLY someone properly calls out the Sick Rantorum wingnuts for what they really are — Fascists! First time I’ve seen it done!

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