BY MELANIE MATTHEWS
It is not just because of the relevance I have posted these three memories but Moses has been too busy to post anything himself. We are close and I hope soon he will let everyone know what he’s been up to soon.
3. Reptile House
When I think of reptile houses, I think of zoos not some building off a dusty roadside east of Amarillo, Texas. Hand painted billboards promising “Biggest Reptile House in Texas,” and “Stop in and see a pit filled with over a thousand snakes, “ littered the roadside. It advertized itself as having the largest concentration of poisonous snakes in the continental United States. Oliver had to see it.
We followed the signs that led down a two lane road. The building was long, a single story with bright red trim. There were hand painted signs the size of cars depicting overly large and extremely viscous looking snakes. Not one accurate rendering but all had a nice sense of blood lust.
Before I could turn off the motor, Oliver was out of the car and running to the entrance. I was still concerned about his reaction to Dinosaur World the day before. But little boys do not worry about the same things their mother’s do. He wanted to see snakes. They were cool.
I paid the admission and we entered. The room inside was long with three walled pits, one on either side, the largest in the middle. Centered above the middle pit hung a stuffed two headed monkey dangling from a string. Oliver stopped and stared.
“Is that real?” he asked.
“I don’t know.”
Mystery solved and Oliver ran over to the pit. We looked over the edge and saw the bottom covered in snake. It was a mass of slithering bodies. The site actually made me a bit light headed. I don’t like snakes. Oliver pointed and said, “How cool is that, Mom?” It was a precious moment because I remember him so happy and engaged.
We looked at the other two pits and saw basically the same thing, snakes all twisted up together. We walked along the walls looking in cages filled with lizards, huge spiders, and of course more snakes. There was no one else in the building except the ticket taker. We had the place to ourselves.
“You may want to go look at the center pit. Feeding time,” the ticket taker told us.
So we looked over the edge once more. A door in the wall slowly opened and a man pushed the snakes away with a hooked pole. He wore some type of thick waders that the snakes could not bite through. This didn’t stop them from trying. He had a large bucket hanging from his arm. This was lunch.
The man took the bucket and tossed live mice towards the middle of the pit. Using the pole, he pushed snakes out of his path and left through the door. At first, there wasn’t much to see, writhing snakes with this mass of white mice in the middle. Then one mouse just disappeared. And then another. The feeding frenzy began. I have never seen anything as fast as those snakes striking their prey.
Oliver thought it was the coolest thing. That is until he watched one mouse closely. We saw the life just leave the little things eyes. I was afraid this was going to upset Oliver. He just turned and walked towards the door.
“That was gross,” was all he said.
“Yes,” and I left it at that.
I bought two bottles of pop from a machine. We sat on the hood of the car drinking in the hot sun. Dust was blowing up from the dirt parking lot but neither of us felt like driving yet. I said something to Oliver like, “Must suck to be a mouse around here.” He thought a moment and then said, “No. It’s worse for the snakes.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“It’s over quickly for the mice. The snakes, they have to live down there all the time. I bet they just want to go home. But, their stuck in those pits.”
Yes, my perceptive little boy had an interesting analysis of the situation. The snakes just wanted to go home. Like Moses and if he is correct, like Oliver, they just wanted to go home.
Not all of our adventures had deep meaning or melancholy endings. These three stick out like talismans. I don’t know if they have meaning. I just want my son back.