My Bullsnake: A great attraction

By Dave Hanks

When I first started teaching Biology at Burley High School, several students expressed a desire to build a reptile garden and to stock it with specimens. We started with a couple of lizards and I purchased a small Columbian Boa Constrictor. The Boa died soon after its acquisition. However it was replaced by a surprising mail delivery. A calendar cylinder arrived from a nephew that was in New Mexico and inside was “jammed” a Bull Snake. I’m sure that postal workers would have been most taken-back if they had known what they were handling. She became one of two that I kept in the room for 22 years. I also had a Corn Snake but his demeanor wasn’t as placid as hers. (Surprisingly, both snakes died the year I retired)

It was impossible to keep them totally secured. Two or three times a year one would escape its cage. I got so I never worried about where they had gone, as they were always discovered - when opening a drawer, pulling out a book from the shelf, or hearing a scream coming from the Chemistry Lab. One time the Corn Snake was discovered in the girls’ restroom.

But the Bull Snake was of a mild disposition and I could gently pass her around the classroom to those students that were brave enough to handle her. She was also a source of great entertainment. Whenever a student brought a mouse or vole to school to feed her, the kids would hurriedly crowd around the snake cage to watch; their fascination of the feeding act never diminishing. The snakes got to eat during the school year but were forced to “fast” over the three summer months. However, I would periodically stop by to make sure they were still there and with water in their pans.

Usually, a student would ask to take the Bull Snake home and care for her over the summer. This I permitted, if I felt that student to be responsible. During one summer, in the first part of August, I received a phone call at 6:15 in the morning. A woman was on the line and explained that she had just got off the “graveyard” shift at the hospital and wanted to go to bed. The problem was that the snake was already in her bed. She explained that her son was in Boise, on a scouting affair, and so she was calling me to come and get the snake.

Well, I hurried to her house and sure enough – there was the snake, body under the covers but her head was out and resting nicely upon the pillow.

(Crossing our path)