Levity Break: When Nightmares Come to Life :: By Nathele Graham

(Editor’s Note: A bit of levity for our readers.)

In my younger days I did some traveling and saw many wonderful places in God’s creation. One day, a lady I worked with asked if I’d like to take a cruise to the Bahamas with her and her two sisters. That sounded like a fun way to spend a vacation, so I joined them. The ship left from Miami and since we California girls hadn’t been east of the Rockies we decided to get there a couple of days early and see some sights.

The Miami Zoo was featuring a pair of white Bengal tigers, so we decided to go see them. We caught a cab by our motel and we were off on an adventure. We seemed to travel for miles but eventually arrived at the zoo. Imagine our shock when the fare was over $20 for each of us! Oh well, we were on vacation and having fun! The zoo was very nice and the white Bengal tigers were beautiful.

After walking for what seemed like hours we decided to take a break and watch one of the animal sideshows. We watched as the handlers brought out crocodiles, turtles, and other fascinating creatures and told us about each one. Then it happened. The emcee asked for volunteers. I had seen the critters he brought out and there was no way I was going to volunteer for anything. Well, so I thought. My friend kept pointing to me and the emcee called me down along with about 20 other “volunteers.” Oh no! What was I getting into? I told myself that it wouldn’t be that bad because the emcee had also called upon a young boy.

We were ushered backstage for instructions and everyone seemed a little leery of what lay ahead. As I went through the back entrance I spied it. Gulp. I was staring at the largest snake I have ever seen. There were other smaller snakes in cages, but the big one was loose and it look as if it had a real bad attitude. I was certain this was a mistake and it couldn’t be waiting for us, could it? Wrong.

The nice young men who worked for the show seemed to be on friendly terms with this gigantic boa constrictor, which made me question their sanity. With a big smile the main handler instructed us to stand in a line with our arms out and yes, they would drape the snake over our arms and we would walk out onstage with Mr. Snake. Now, my mind went into survival mode.

I saw the size of his head and I’m sure the mouth could easily swallow a small elephant. Maybe a not-so-small elephant! I opted to stand on the opposite end from the head. The young boy had the same idea, so he stood at the very tip of the tail. As the handlers lifted the monster onto our arms, the main handler gave his instructions:

“The constrictor has been fed so there’s very little chance that he will be hungry.”

What did he mean by a “very little chance?” Still, I was on the far end away from that head with its huge mouth, so I was sure I would be able to run before it got to me. By this time the little boy decided he didn’t want to touch the snake. Smart kid, but that left about 4 feet of snake tail that was ominously moving around. I tried to encourage the youngster that it would be fun, then the instructions continued:

“Boa constrictors crush their victims by wrapping them up starting with the tail.”

WHAT?!? I chose the wrong end! Where was that little boy? Why was there snake tail left over? The handler assured us that even if the snake was in a bad mood and began to wrap us up with his tail, there would be plenty of time for the assistants to unwrap us before any real damage was done. Oh, that sure made me feel better.

Even though I wanted to grab the little boy’s hand and run for the hills, I frantically began pleading with him to grab hold and hang on for dear life. Eventually he was convinced to hang on and we paraded Mr. Snake out to an amazed audience—where my friend and her sisters were roaring with laughter at my predicament. We all survived the nightmare and I will never forget having the imprints of snakes scales on my arms.

With the adventure at the zoo behind us we headed back to our motel. We found out that Miami has a monorail system that travels around the entire city and there was a monorail station right across the street from our motel. Yes, instead of paying another $20 each for cab fare back to our motel, for a mere 25 cents each we toured the city and ended up back at our motel. The rest of the trip held many more adventures, but after carrying around a boa constrictor I was up to any challenge that came my way.

God bless you all,