If you read my previous writing about My son, Stephen and his desire to have a pet of his own, then you are in the right place for the rest of the story. The tarantula had been a nice idea… in theory. After that debacle, I had to come up with a new better “second” pet he could call his own.  Again, something that was easy enough for him to take care of, would impress his friends due to it being slightly different than anything that they had, but still just strange enough to keep Mom on edge. I mean, we are the male of the species and we consider it part of our job to keep the women folk on their toes.

It had probably been a few weeks since the tarantula had found a new place to call home and nothing new had popped into my head. Stephen would ask every few days what his new pet was and when he was going to get it. Of course, it wasn’t that he wanted to know. Seems his friends were asking him and it was beginning to bug him, he had explained. Lord knows we couldn’t have that. I just had to keep thinking.

I guess I need to explain that there was one more parameter that this new pet had to fall into. It had to be inexpensive! Those who know me will tell you that one of my many attributes is that I have a bad case of “Cheap Bastard Syndrome”, from here forward to be referred to as CBS.  Though it has never been professionally diagnosed, I do display most of the classic symptoms. See….  if someone has what I need I can borrow it instead of purchasing it, jury rig it so I don’t have to buy a new one when it is broken, buy the cheap model when it is on sale. You can see these symptoms leave little doubt as to the correctness of the self-evaluation. The only known cure for CBS is large amounts of money for extended periods of time and I don’t see that in my near future. Ahhh, the crosses we choose to bare.

Finally, the day came when Stephen’s prayers were answered. And this proves that God listens. While walking between the house and the shop, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. Running a few yards to where I had seen the movement I spied an 8-inch long baby black rat snake. One thing I have to do every time I see a snake is to catch it. It’s always been that way.

Pet Rat Snake Earring - Eastern Shore Experience

From rat snakes to rattlesnakes, if I see it I gotta catch it. This little fella was not going to be an exception. It only took about 10 seconds and I had the little guy secured in between my fingers. At his age, they aren’t the traditional black color like their parents. They are covered in a beautiful light grey background with a pattern of dark blackish brown stepping stones lined up on their back from their head to toe.

This little guy was a perfect representation of the species.

Meeting The “Perfect Pet” Criteria, and My CPS

This was also the perfect pet for Stephen! It met all the criteria. It was easy for him to take care of. The tarantula habitat was still set up and would work great and, like the spider, a few crickets a week would take care of the feeding chores. It hadn’t cost us a thing (this was great for my CBS) and I was pretty sure none of his friends had a pet snake in their bedroom. Best of all, snakes were extremely high on Kelley’s “Never To Be Brought Into The House” List! This baby snake had surpassed even my own expectations!

When Stephen got home I told him about the new arrival. He was elated and couldn’t wait to hold it. I explained that baby black rat snakes were notorious biters but that his teeth were very small and with handling the snake he would get used to it and eventually stop biting. True to form when he reached in, the little sucker took a defensive stance. Now, Stephen has been bitten before so he knew what was about to happen. The first few strikes he pulled his hand away in time. But finally, the little guy bit him on the finger.

He lifted his hand out with the snake hanging from his finger like an overcooked piece of spaghetti. He said it didn’t hurt much and I showed him how to gently squeeze the rear of their jaw and the baby snake instantly let go. Two small drops of blood slowly appeared where a few teeth had penetrated his young skin. I waited for him to start crying but, to my surprise, a grin slowly appeared on his face. I guess to him these 2 little blood spots were more like a badge of courage than a reason to run to Mom, crying. Seems the new pet replacement had been found.

From New Favorite Pet To Unplanned Earring

When Mom got home, Stephen told her all about it. I’m sure she was not happy in the least but she decided to let it slide…. at least for the moment. Over the next few weeks, crickets were caught and you could hear the “Ewwws” and “Ahhhs” as the little snake would devour them in front of him and his friends. He was good about keeping the cage clean and all seemed to be going well.

Baby Rat Snakes Bite
Baby Rat Snakes Bite

Every few days I would hear him call me with a request that I help him remove the snake from a body part. I tried not to let him see me laugh but at times it was hilarious to see this tiny snake hanging from his finger, or his shirt or where ever it had decided to take a bite at its captor! Secretly, I think Stephen loved it. It was obvious that he was just trying to show off in front of his friends, but hadn’t thought it all the way through.

Like the time he came out of his bedroom wearing this rat snake like an earring. Poor snake hanging off his earlobe and him looking embarrassed in front of his buddy. Getting it to latch onto his ear was no problem. He hadn’t thought about getting it off though. Enter Dad, the mighty snake remover!

In time, I noticed there were fewer times he would call me for help. I thought that my prediction of the snake getting used to being handled and biting less was proving correct. That is until the day I asked him to get the little guy out and let me see him ….and he refused. I finally got him to admit that he didn’t even like the snake anymore. He didn’t like getting bit in front of his friends. Hell, he didn’t like getting bit, period! That is why he hadn’t needed my help recently.  

Wild To Pet To Wild Again

Plain and simple he hadn’t been handling the snake lately. I got him to let me work with him a little to tame the snake and give him some confidence. It seemed to be going well until the day I heard him crying and I went into his room to see what was wrong. He was standing there in front of the open cage. Tears were running down his cheeks. And the snake was hanging from his nose.

I never did get the story on how the snake bit him in the nose. Whether it had been a mistake, an accident or misplaced trust in the snake. In any case, I gently helped him remove the reptile from his septum. There was a drop of blood there that I wiped with my shirt. I put the snake back in the cage, replaced the top and gave him a hug.

Pet Rat Snake Earring - Eastern Shore Experience
On a recent Eastern Shore Experience, we found a baby rat snack. This kid was around the same age as Stephen when this story took place and it reminded me of our pet Rat Snake!

I told him I was sorry and I kissed his nose. He smiled. Guess kisses do make things feel better when you are little. Later that day, we both walked out in the field and I released the little guy back into the wild. He was free to live out his life as he chose. When we got back to the house, I grabbed the cage and took it out to the barn. That was the last snake we ever had as a pet. But to this day, if I see a snake, I gotta catch it. And My son just laughs at me for being a child even when I am his father. He no longer tries to impress me or his friends by handling baby snakes that bite. He doesn’t have to. He is a Staff Sergeant in the Marines and I am very proud of him for that. 

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