My Snake Saga - Part I

My Snake Saga - Part I Hate snakes? You're not alone. Read on to find out who. It might surprise you.


Fearless snake handlers Brian, Chris and Aaron Martens.

Fearless snake handlers Brian, Chris and Aaron Martens.

For a lady who can catch, touch and kiss fish all day, you might think it strange that I will not touch a snake, even a little bit. It’s obvious that snakes and fish have the same type of skin, markings, and no arms or legs and both can be vicious or harmless. But fish don’t end up crawling through your house or where you walk. And while many people like snakes, I dare say more people do not. However, before you form a harsh opinion of my dislike of snakes, let me share some of my life experiences that may help you understand.      

   When our boys were small we watched for snakes and avoided them. It is common to find a garter, gopher or rattle snake on a hiking trail or in a California yard. I’m thankful that snakes eat rodents and God made them for a special purpose besides selling apples for all of us Bible readers. And another of God’s creation would be the man child? Why is it that danger and dying doesn’t enter their young minds?  Fun for them is a jar filled with every creepy crawler found. If they see a snake or lizard they chase it down. Boys can be relentless as they search under rocks and wood and kick stuff to make a spider of whatever pop out. And we ended up with three of these little darling boys even though I requested at least one girl.

   Through life’s journey most of us develop limitations and safety zones around ourselves to prevent negative experiences from repeating. I tried that and failed because my safety zones rules were broken time and time again by our boys! Here are some examples in order of the when they happened during a 50-year period!

   Our son Chris found a red racer snake near our first home in Canoga Park. I seem to remember it being about 3-feet long and mostly pink. The snake got loose and went for the patio hedge and disappeared in just a few seconds. It was by far the fastest snake I’d ever seen and I suppose that’s why it’s called a racer. When you see a snake move that fast it gives you pause and a reason for not wanting to hold them.

Not afraid to hold a big bass from Lake Conroe! (I was prefishing for the Classic with Aaron during holidays)

Not afraid to hold a big bass from Lake Conroe! (I was prefishing for the Classic with Aaron during holidays)

   Around that time there was a heart-stopping moment when I was sitting in the driveway in my shorts pounding cement off old bricks with a hammer. Chris approached me with his latest find which was a huge alligator lizard. I yelled, “Get that out of here!” Instantly the monster jumped from his hands down to my crotch and I levitated for the first time in my life! This would be a good time to mention that I don’t touch lizards either. The fact that a reptile will attack unusual places on your body is a second good reason not to touch them.

   Then there was a snake that tried to eat Aaron’s finger when he was about 5 years old. Since I do not touch snakes I instructed Aaron to pinch the jaws of the snake together with his other hand and pull his finger out. It worked! A third reason for not liking snakes is because they try to eat children.

   As time went on, so did the snake stories. Like the time I was watering a plant in a pot on the floor in the living room and a little snake rose up like a cobra toward me in the stream of water. I can’t remember what happened to that one but I don’t keep plants on the floor anymore. Speaking of the living room, one evening I was all dressed up for my business meeting and ran up the stairs to my office to get something. On my way down the stairs in front of me just four steps from the bottom was a 2 foot beauty coiled up in front of me where my next step would be.

   Did I mention I was wearing high heels? Anyway, with a loud shriek I reached the floor in one huge leap. I’m still trying to figure out where that sucker was when I went up the stairs? I went out the front door with my heart pounding and thanking God I didn’t step on it or get bit. When mom runs out the front door crying and yelling I assume one of the four guys who lived there probably caught it and put it outside? It’s just another reason I don’t touch snakes because they enter your home uninvited.

   During the 80’s and 90’s Aaron and I fished Pyramid Lake a lot. I vividly remember the time a giant alligator lizard swam from the shore to our boat. Reptiles just can’t stay away from my kids! Aaron warmly greeted it and brought it on board. Of course I protested and let him know how many places on our boat that critter could hide if it got loose! He let it sit on his shoulder for a few minutes with that impish look he has. My protests continued and after I took a photo he released it near the shore. No harm was done except I remember it to this day and don’t fish that area anymore. I didn’t know lizards could swim because I always find them on the bottom of the pool. As a side note, I always run outside and save them with the pool net when I see them floundering. I’m not heartless and all my friends and family know I feed and name all the blue bellies in my yard. I bet that surprises you?

   Are you wondering where my husband fit into all of this? Thinking back, Jerry was never seen holding a snake and gave the impression he wasn’t afraid of them. Now I think he was just being smart by acting like he wasn’t afraid? As a pool serviceman he was constantly finding little rattle snakes around his pools. On one occasion he decided to capture a baby rattle snake and he put it in a plastic pool case and covered it. He left it in his vehicle while he went running at Balboa Park. And yes, of course, it was gone when he got back never to be seen again. I actually like snakes you never see again!

Impish Aaron Martens with  alligator lizard at Pyramid Lake.

Impish Aaron Martens with alligator lizard at Pyramid Lake.

   Not to worry though; he found another little one by a pool and put it in a large jar with holes in the lid and put it on the work bench in the garage. He promised he was just keeping it so he could release somewhere in Chatsworth Hills on his next hike. For a week that snake looked at me every time I did laundry. How do you like that one ladies? It was released in the hills but I think of that snake while doing laundry. I decided I do not like laundry either.

   Another time at Balboa Park our boys found two, 3-foot long gopher snakes. The boys convinced me they needed those snakes for their aquarium and I just happen to have a large cardboard box. In went the snakes. The instructions were to watch the box and make certain the snakes didn’t get out on the 20 minute ride home. Half way home on the 101 freeway going over 50 mph I felt something on my foot that was on the gas pedal. Who knows what one does when they’re in shock? I just remember my feet up around my hips and screaming bloody murder. One of the boys leaped over the front seat as the devil disappeared into the dashboard of our Chevy. We avoided crashing the vehicle, but 10 years were shaved off my life! Chris and my other son Brian recall spending a long time finding and removing the ticked off behemoth. And now you know that snakes can cause car accidents.

   Then there was the time I was with my pro angler friend Debbie Blanchard and we were fishing Lake Mohave. We were on her boat and she was trolling us across a cove. Suddenly out of nowhere, a 6 to 7 foot snake was chasing after us. It’s hard to tell how long they really are when they’re coming after you weaving like a high-pressured garden hose.

   I told Debbie to go faster because it was catching up with us and she did and so did the snake. It reached the transom and by then I was in the front of the boat and Debbie was in the back. She forced the monster off the boat with her handy dandy fishing rod! Did I mention she was laughing and said it was just a bull snake? I didn’t care what it was because it was absolutely the largest snake I had ever come close to. Do they call them bull snakes because they charge you? Just curious because I know that gopher snakes eat gophers and kids fingers and rattle snakes rattle. These are things for you to ponder.

   Before I close, do any of you remember a year ago when Britt Myers won the Elite event at Winyah Bay? I was watching the live streaming pre show and Dave Mercer was interviewing a snake handler that we found out later was just a brown snake and not a mamba. For some diabolical reason, Dave was trying to convince Britt’s mom that Britt would win if she would just hold the snake.  After some coaxing, she held the slithering beast up to the camera. I could tell she was really uncomfortable and was just being a good sport. If that had been me I would have said “No thanks, Aaron’s on his own!”

   Let’s stop here for now because I’m starting to breathe heavy and feel weird. You’ll want to stay tuned for part two which I think is the mother of all my snake stories and not just because I happen to be the “Mother”… get it?

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