Snakes in the dash

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By Claude Lewis

I can imagine worse things than a snake in the dashboard of my truck. How about a bee hive? Or a fire ant nest?

So, having a four-foot long Texas rat snake living somewhere near the airbag for three days wasn't all that bad.

In fact, I was more worried about the snake's welfare. That plus the possibility of him dying in there and stinking up the truck for Lord knows how long.

Any you thought "Snakes on a Plane" was bad.

Anyhow, I had picked up this reptile from Bonita Galas Reptiles in Sarasota on Sunday, Dec. 16. She tells me it's a little skinny because it once escaped and wasn't found for a few months.

For lack of not having a better container, the snake was loaded into a cricket box.

On Monday morning, I left to return to Chiefland. Also on board were two dachshunds - Boris and Natasha.

I had to gas up. In the few minutes I was gone, the doggies had ripped open the box - cricket boxes are pretty sturdy - and the snake was gone.

Just great, I thought. I had told the dogs to leave the box alone before I left to pre-pay, but I guess the temptation was too great. Dachshunds are a curious bunch, especially these two.

After a quick look around, I can find no snake. On a tight schedule to get back to the big C, I start 'er up and head north on I-75.

When I get just past the Manatee-Hillsborough county line, a feel a tickle on my shin - like a bug had landed.

I look down, and dangling down from under the steering wheel and flicking his tongue is old "Houdini" the rat snake.

Since I'm going about 75 miles an hour, there's not much I can do. I keep pushing on up the road.

Finally, when I get off at the U.S. 27 exit in Ocala, I stop and look for the snake under the dashboard.

No sign of the creature.

I drive on to work, where I go out and check every so often for the serpent.

No luck.

That night, the temperature was forecast to go down into the upper 20s.

I was worried about the snake freezing to death - snakesicle in the dash.

I even went and bought a heating pad, figuring he would gravitate to it.

When I woke up in the morning, I rushed out to the truck and looked at the pad - no snake.

In fact, the heating pad was cold - I had bought one that is on an hour timer.

My luck.

I take the truck to the dealer. We take apart part of the dash. No sign of the snake. The guy who helped me told me not to worry, that his girlfriend once had a sugar glider escape under the dashboard for a couple of days.

Days go by, and still no sign of the snake.

I had a dream about getting in an accident and my passenger getting a snake in the face along with the airbag.

My co-workers ask me every morning - have you seen it yet? Others are laughing about how bad it's gonna smell and how many tree air fresheners I'll have hanging in the truck.

By Thursday, I had come to the conclusion that it was either dead, or it somehow got out.

For the snake's sake, I was hoping for the latter.

Then lo and behold, I'm driving down to Yankeetown Thursday afternoon when I hear a rustle in the papers on the passenger side's floor. Dropping down from under the air bag is the Texas rat snake.

He comes all the way out, looks around, and then heads back toward the dash.

No way, Jose. I pull over, grab him and since I have nothing to put him in, put him around my neck.

Luckily, there's a convenience store about a mile or so down the road in Gulf Hammock.

The look on the clerk's face when I walked into the store with the snake draped around me was priceless.

I explain the ordeal, and luckily, the store sells Styrofoam coolers. I pick out a big one and a roll of hose tape, and "Houdini" was secured.

Later that day, the snake made an appearance at the paper. He might have gotten a hero's welcome, but he went to the bathroom in the cooler and co-workers went scurrying.

Snake poop isn't the most pleasant smell on earth.

But the important thing was, "Houdini" was safe, warm and cozy in his new cage at home.

Just in time for Christmas.