036: Ginny the Cobra Killer

Chelsi had stopped by the house of her friend and fellow volunteer Ginny on her way to town for the month of January.  Ginny, a LIFE volunteer focused on spreading agroforestry practices and improved gardening techniques, had asked her to visit and give a small lesson to newly established fish farmers in her village. Chelsi enthusiastically accepted the request, relishing the opportunity to talk about fish and experience the villages of other volunteers.
The two women started the morning sitting and chatting under the small veranda of Ginny’s house. “But how great would it be to look out and see impala, like right there!” Ginny waved her arm, gesturing to grass lawn just beyond her porch trees to the side of her house.
“Yeah,” Chelsi couldn’t lie.  The lack of mammalian fauna was putting a crimp in her experience of living in Africa. “But I still see some pretty cool things sometimes. Mostly reptiles and amphibians, like there’s this little frog, maybe the size of a half dollar, and it has a bright red body with blue legs and yellow-ringed green spots all over its back.  I see it in my garden sometimes, but once while I was trimming it I saw it perched in the thatch of my roof.” She paused to think, “Or have you seen the really round brown one?  I dug it up in my garden one time. I thought it was some kind of nut, even when it started secreting a milky substance. So I picked it up with my hoe and that’s when I noticed it had a face!”
“You know too, there are hornbills around here.  I can hear them calling just before dawn.  If you look in the bird books they tell you that you can only find them in national parks now; that they’re rare.  But they’re not, they’re out there.”
“What! Do you think there’s any by me?!” What a wildlife revelation it would be if there was! Chelsi thought to herself.  It would be a real good reason to get out of bed before 10. “Where do they live around here?”
“There’s a kind of grass area just over there.”
“I have a kind of wetland, grassy area just across from my house, do you think there are any there?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do they sound like? Or you know what, you should just come spend the night at my house, and in the morning you can listen for them calling, then we can go looking for them!”
“Yeah, alright,” Ginny nodded a bit aloof.  She was staring out over her grass lawn.  Chelsi wondered if she was distracted by the imaginary impala.
“Hey, speaking of backyard safaris, look at that.” Chelsi had barely detected the movement at the edges of her vision.  Under a broad leafy plant, no more than two yard in front of them, a small snake slithered.
“Under the plant there.  It’s a little snake.”
“Where?” Ginny bobbed her head, trying to bring it into view.
“Just there,” Chelsi point. “In the small space between the two plants on the end there. There, it’s looking at us now!”
“Oh, okay I see it now. And that’s the other thing. The people here, they are always killing the snakes.”
“And the chameleons.” Zambians believe that chameleons are bad luck, deadly. More than once a member of Chelsi’s community had come to her saying that Daisy hadn’t long to live because they saw her pull one of the reptiles from the bush and eat it.  “Whenever I see chameleons, or even snakes in the road I always stop and encourage them across more quickly, knowing that the next person to come long will stone them to death.”
“But the snakes I sort of understand. There are a lot of really deadly snakes here.” They watched the little critter turn away from them and start to smell-taste its surroundings. 
“But so many of them are just so small, and when I see them they’re generally trying to get away.”
“You know, it funny that you spotted that snake under there, because I stick my hand under there all the time, to clean out the weeds and stuff, you know.”
“See! This is probably one of the friendly ones then.” Chelsi proclaimed. “This probably isn’t the first time it’s hid out under there.”
“Look, it moving.” They watched as the little snake slipped out from under its cover, heading across the front door path toward Ginny’s side lawn.  “Should we follow it? Get a closer look?”
“Yes,” but her words were caught in her wind as she sprung from her chair.
The little snake couldn’t have been  much more than a foot long.  Its scales were black and shiny.  Chelsi and Ginny closed in on it; no more than a yard away now, Chelsi’s head closer as she bent to get a better look.  The little snake turned its graceful head back towards them, looking intently and Chelsi noticed, as it reared up, that its under belly, just below its head, was brushed with yellow creating a reverse pattern of black spots; just like a Clown Trigger fish, Chelsi thought, as the pattern began to rapidly expand.
“Nope, that’s a cobra.” Ginny’s voice was stressed with acute urgency. “We have to kill that one.”
Chelsi straighten up in just enough time to see Ginny disappear into her house. Having relieved themselves of their threatening posture, the cobra too collapsed its hood and began on its way again.
“Are you sure there aren’t any non-poisonous cobras?” Chelsi called looking back at the snake; taking what would be its final breaths of life.  “Or other snakes with hoods.”
“No…” Ginny re-emerged, weapon in hand.
The cobra stopped again when it saw that its audience had double again. Ginny raised the blade of her hoe, high above her head and brought it down on the snake with a thwack.
Having missed the snake recoiled, reared up, hood spread. But Ginny was quick in dislodging her hoe from the soil, bringing it up half as high this time, she split the snake in two on the second swing.
For a few moments she continued dividing the snake in to pieces before making an attempt to mix it in to the soil, burying the head. As she registered the threat to their lives dissipating, Ginny’s mixing of the soil slowed and she took several deep breaths. “Oh my god, that was scary.”
Chelsi beamed at her, “Look at you, Ginny, cobra killer! I wish I had had my camera. We could have gotten that on film.”
“Yeah, right, that would have been cool,” she laughed starting to relax.
“But you better believe I’m writing about this to the folks at home. And from now on you’re being introduced as Ginny the cobra killer.” Chelsi paused, “I also see now why Peace Corps encourages us to keep the area around our houses cleared of grass and debris.” She thought about the jungle that was her yard. “I guess I know what I’m doing when I get back to my village.”

Categories: Action, Nature, Thriller | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “036: Ginny the Cobra Killer

  1. Sandy

    Yes! Clear the grass or you might have to become Chelsi the cobra killer! 🙂
    Or even funnier…Chelsi the swinging hoe lol! :)))
    Love and miss you Chels


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