Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Snake Man

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.

Snake Man

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.

The snake man came from Gadsden,

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

No comments: