On the same day that President Bush flew down to the Earth Summit in Brazil for the purpose of not signing the biodiversity treaty, I was sprinkling Dr. T's "Snake-A-Way" brand snake repellent around our yard.
This was necessary because our yard violates the No. 1 rule oyard design, which is: "Never locate your yard in South Florida." South Florida is in the middle of a weather system that weather scientists call "The Big Armpit," meaning that it is hot and humid and prone to producing mutant growths. If you want biodiversity, hang around our yard, preferably with a flamethrower.
At certain times of the year, our yard features absurdly large grasshoppers. I am talking about grasshoppers that could replace the dogs at maximum-security prisons:
Guard: Warden! Mass murderer William R. "The Human Veg-O-Matic" Weeberman has escaped!
Warden: OK, then, release "King."
Guard (shuddering): If you say so. Get him, King!
Guard: Look at the altitude on that sucker. He's gonna land at least a half-mile . . .
Voice in the distance: Aieeeeeeee
Warden: Tell the body-recovery team to look for a motionless lump covered with brown spit.
But I have no quarrel with the grasshoppers. My quarrel is with the snakes. Our yard has a large and active colony of "prank snakes." The way a prank snake attacks its prey is, it lies down on the lawn directly in the path that the prey takes from its house to the little office in the back where it (the prey) writes its newspaper column.
The snake holds perfectly still until the prey is just about to step on it, then yikes it rears its head up and slithers a few feet, causing the prey to flinch violently and splash hot coffee onto itself and dance around and make noises like a small porpoise in big trouble. Then the snake slithers off to exchange "low five" tail slaps with its friends.
The snakes have done this to me twice, so I am not fond of them. I was especially disturbed to learn that the man who constantly repairs our lawn sprinklers (which are designed to break if they are subjected to abnormal stress, such as water passing through them) once gave artificial respiration to one of these snakes. I am not making this up. Here is exactly what he told me:
"I stepped on this snake, and I think I kind of knocked the wind out of him. So I picked him up and put his head in my mouth and blew on him, like a balloon, and he woke right up."
Warning: Do not attempt this with a snake in your area unless you are certain that at least one of you is wearing a condom.
In fact you should be cautious when conducting artificial respiration on any life form. I base this statement on an article from the Columbia Basin (Wash.) Herald, written by Michael Wagar and sent in by alert reader Rich Clemson. The article TTC states that Grant County Sheriff Bill Wiester was in a restaurant when he noticed a man acting suspiciously in a car outside.
"The man appeared to be snorting cocaine, complete with a red, red straw near his nose," states the article. "The man was dropping his head down with the straw for a few seconds."
Sheriff Wiester called for more police, who converged on the suspect, who turned out to be giving artificial respiration to a piranha. I'm still not making this up.
"The man had a fishbowl between his legs with a piranha swimming around inside," states the article. "The man was blowing air through the straw into the bowl to help keep the tank aerated."
The man was not charged, although the piranha turned out to have several outstanding assault warrants.
No, just kidding. But I'm not kidding about Dr. T's Snake-A-Way ** brand snake repellent. I got it from reader Gene Watts, who belongs to the Marine Corps League, which sent a bunch of this stuff to Operation Desert Shield troops to protect them from scorpions; Watts says it repels snakes, scorpions and "big lizards."
I can vouch for Snake-A-Way. The only drawback is that, since the main ingredient is sulfur, my yard sometimes smells like a giant socially unacceptable intestinal event. But this is a small price to pay. Since I sprinkled it, I have not seen a single snake or scorpion or big lizard.
Or, come to think of it, an Iraqi tank unit.