VI: Roscoe’s Story

            It has been a very eventful time for the snakes.  A sad thing happened, and then a happy thing.

            First the sad thing:  Roscoe, the biggest snake and one of the friendliest, is gone.  Roscoe is an anaconda, and he was growing very large.  He was nearly 15 feet long – that’s 30 meatballs a day, plus kibble.  Roscoe had learned our city ways, but as he said he missed his home.  He wanted to be in a big river again, in a hot climate, he said; he wanted to hunt bigger prey than rats and the occasional bird.  He caught raccoons every now and then in my back yard, and maybe some cats although we don’t like to mention that.  But he wanted pigs, and fish, and capybara (which are like huge guinea pigs), and monkeys, and other largish animals we could not give him here.  Also he missed being around other anacondas, and he missed his native country of Brazil (in South America).  And the truth was that a house like mine, even with the back yard, is kind of small for a snake 15 feet long, and he was still growing.  Here’s a picture of an anaconda about Roscoe’s size.

            So we talked about it, and when he decided to go back I supported his decision, even though it made me very sad to lose him.  He had been living here with me for almost seven years.  But I couldn’t stand in his way.  A snake’s gotta do what a snake’s gotta do.  So I helped him make arrangements to go back. 

            This was not easy.  He had been captured in Brazil as a young snake and was flown to Miami, Florida, in a small cage – he was not very big then.  He was left in a pet store and stayed there until someone bought him as a gift for his son.  The son put him in a glass box like a fish tank and left him there for two years – he hardly ever played with him or talked to him, and fed him mostly cat food.  Yuk!  It was very boring and a painful period for Roscoe − he doesn’t like to talk about it, but we stayed up late one night and he told me the whole story.

            Then the boy’s family moved to California, and took roscoe along in the glass box, and while they were unpacking roscoe escaped!  He went to hide in the park, where there was a good-sized lake, and that was much better than a glass box.  But there was not all that much to eat, just a few fish and turtles, and some pigeons and gophers, and no one to talk to.  He heard about my place through the Intersnake website, and when he came to my door I took him in, even though he was already seven feet long by this time.

            It was not going to be easy to get him home.  You can’t bring a 15-foot snake on an airplane – they won’t let you on.  He was  too big now for a cage like the one he came here in, and anyway that brought  back bad memories. So it would have to be a ship.  But where could we find a ship?  I brought this up at a meeting of the SFSFSF (the Sagrada Familia [holy family]  of San Francisco Snake Fanciers), and one of the members (I can’t mention his name, he’s very famous, you’d know him) knew a guard at the port of Oakland, right across the bay from San Francisco.  The guard knew someone who knew someone, and for $400 we smuggled Roscoe onto a ship bound for Santarém in Brazil, 500 miles up the Amazon River, right where he wanted to go.  The ship (called the Serpente do Mar, meaning sea serpent) would be carrying thousands of tons of American soybeans, so there would be lots of mice and rats to eat, and one big meal before he left would keep him going for a while. 

            So we had a big party for roscoe the night before the ship sailed, with mice and grasshoppers for everyone (don’t ask where I got them), and Diet Cokes (they love diet cokes), and a huge raw roast beef for Roscoe.  Although snakes are not usually sentimental, everyone loved Roscoe.  He had been here longer than any of the others, he was part of home for everyone including me.  The snakes sang sad snake songs, and brave you’ll-be-fine songs, and a few of the other tropical snakes began thinking of their own faraway homes.  Snakes don’t cry, but some of them wanted to, and so did I.1

            The next day Alejandro and Maria de Gracia and I drove Roscoe to the Port of Oakland and said goodbye.  He was sorry to leave us, but excited about beginning a new life as an anaconda in real anaconda country.2 He promised to write, which is possible now because of e-mail which snakes can do easily without hands if they can find a wi-fi connection.  And then Roscoe slithered up the gangplank and down into the hold with the soybeans, and that is the last we could see of him.  We’ll miss him, but he’ll be OK, I know he will.  I was proud of Roscoe for having the courage to do what he did.

            I was going to tell you about the other thing that happened, the happy thing that kind of balances out the sadness of losing Roscoe.  But I have used so much space for this part of the story that it will have to wait for next time.

  1. Some of them were a little drunk on Diet Coke.  It affects them that way.  I wish I could get drunk on Diet Coke.
  2. I’d like to feel that same way myself.  Sometimes I feel I’m right where I belong, like a river snake in a wide warm river, but other times I feel like I should really be in some other place or some other time, or in some other body.  How about you?