Snake Handling

by Slim Price


If you weren’t afraid of snakes, and not doing something else, you were the snake handler. Our show had two beautiful pythons. One was a twenty-one foot Anaconda and the other was a nineteen-foot Boa. I guess I was the only one strong enough (and dumb enough) to show the big one.  Normally, the proper way to show a big snake is to keep it from getting a purchase with the end of its tail. At first, I had the devil’s own time trying to hold him following the “rules.” One day during a lecture (show) when I picked him (or her) up, the snake’s tail rested against my thigh and the thing quieted down and lay like a huge piece of rope! At first I was terrified (they can give you one hell of an infectious bite) until I figured out the snake only wanted to have that contact for balance. After that, I was the permanent snake handler.  So much for the rules!


More about snakes: When we arrived at the Greater Danbury Fair in Connecticut, we found the rules not only required that the carnival had to operate during the day because of the disastrous circus fire in 1944, but we were not allowed to use lanterns, open fires or our generators. Since it was late in the season, and we were almost as far north as we traveled, we were worried about the snakes getting too cold. At that time I slept on the stage in a sleeping bag so I was “elected” to be a snake heater! I spent a week there with two snakes, a puppy named Caesar and me in that sleeping bag. Interesting. Although snakes have clean habits, they stink. If you don’t already know, snakes are not slimy.  If you stroke from head to tail they feel like fine leather. (The other way you get scales!) There are few things more beautiful than a snake that has just shed its skin and the feeling of power in a large snake is memorable to say the least.


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