My elementary school -- of which my dad was the principal -- had one regular assembly that was not to be forgotten: The Snake Man. Kids don't have such learning experiences today. Here's a poem and photos from Westside School in Cedartown, Georgia.
We were seven years old that day
when the snake man visited
our school assembly, circa 1974,
the year Hank Aaron hit 715,
Evel Kneivel crashed into
the Snake River Canyon and the
Blue Flame held the Land Speed Record.
We were from the country,
not the town school,
and were not afraid of snakes.
We gathered on the lunchroom floor
around the wooden boxes
with vents to let the snakes get air,
a komodo dragon too.
had slicked black hair,
a red-and-white Marlboro pack
tucked in his short-sleeve
khaki work-shirt front pocket.
We’d watched him park his special truck,
a camper built just for snakes.
He showed us vipers, dangling from
the hook of his four-foot metal pole—
rattlers, water moccasins, a cobra—
the snake man didn’t waste our time
with the non-venomous kind,
the harmless garter snakes
we caught at home and kept in jars.
My friend Lee Hightower remembers
his komodo dragon going wild, but me,
I still see the snake man’s cobra,
scurrying lose in a determined slither,
arching up, fanning out his head and
spitting onto the wall of Westside School,
that day we were seven years old.
-- Joe Samuel Starnes