A blue sheet of paper sat squarely on my desk.
Bold text at the top of the page caught my attention:
Venomous Snake Handling and Removal.
(Or something as official sounding as that).
The course name was definitely not Snake Wrangling, but that’s what I’ll refer to it as, cos I reckon it makes me sound cool.
This was back in my Mining Engineer days and I was keen to be seen as tough.
Snake Wrangling definitely fit the brief.
The course was held inside an air conditioned demountable building. Condensation dripped down the windows.
Ten of us had crowded into the room. Nine blokes … and me.
Most of the blokes seemed bored by the instructor’s slide deck.
I eagerly jotted down notes such as:
“Australia’s venomous snakes are all elapid snakes”.
“Fangs are typically small to medium sized and are located at the front of the mouth”.
In a classroom environment, with a pen and notebook at the ready, I am supremely confident.
(For example, when I applied to get my boat license, I came top of the class in the theory exam. In the practical, I continuously rammed the boat into the dock until the instructor grabbed the throttle and said “STOP PUSHING THE REVERSE BUTTON”).
The snake instructor then proceeded with the next phase of the course, which was the practical.
We stepped outside the demountable and stood in a circle around the instructor. At his feet lay a cloth bag, and inside the cloth bag he claimed to have a tiger snake.
“Surely not!”, I thought to myself. “That would be a serious breach of OHS protocols. At the very least, it’s not in line with Rule 17, Section B of the site guidelines!”.
Like I said:
The instructor gathered his snake wrangling tools, consisting of a large plastic bin, a pair of snake handling tongs, and a snake hook.
He tipped the snake out of the bag and it hissed as sunlight hit its eyes.
To the untrained eye (me) it looked like a bloody big scary tiger snake.
In one swift movement, using his special snake handling tongs, the instructor held the snake near the head so that it couldn’t turn to bite him, looped the snake hook underneath it, and placed it in the bin.
“That’s all you need to do”, he said.
“Now it’s your turn”.
One by one, my cohort stepped up to the plate. Some were overly cocky and were yelled at by the instructor. Some were too apprehensive and were also yelled at by the instructor.
And then, all of a sudden, it was my turn.
I stepped into the ring, snake handling tongs in my right hand, snake hook in my left hand.
My left hand shielding my eyes from the burning sun, I looked at the snake’s face. Venom glistened from its fangs.
We stared each other down.
I circled around so that it couldn’t see me.
Steeling myself, and taking a deep breath, I grabbed its head with the tongs. It started bucking and writhing.
“C’mon!!! You got to loop it!”
I looped it, then attempted to put it in the bin. I couldn’t actually lift the snake because it was so heavy.
“Keep going!!!! You have to get it in the bin!”
More frenzied words of encouragement from the melee of men around me.
I braced my core and with every ounce of strength in my wrists put the snake in the bin.
Success! I had done it! I was an Official Snake Wrangler!
Well, sort of.
I never actually got called out to do any snake wrangling.
Which was probably a good thing
But I have kept showing up in the ring to face my fears.
Here’s the thing:
You don’t have to be the BEST at something, to say that you do it.
I may not be the fastest runner, but I run.
I may not wrangle tiger snakes on the reg, but I have done it.
And inside my running program, Run with Turia, you’re a runner the minute you go for your first slow shuffle around the block.
We celebrate the title. We back each other.
We throw out words of encouragement.
We’re all runners, no matter how slow or fast we go.
If you want to run with us, enrolments open this weekend!