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Snake seminar exciting, educational and life saving!

By By Mike Giles / outdoors writer
Aug. 29, 2003
During the recent Meridian Star Outdoor Expo, one of the main attractions was the snake seminar hosted by Terry Vandeventer. Now I have seen more than my fair share of snakes and really don't like to encounter them unexpectedly. I certainly don't have a fascination about them. However, my six-year-old daughter Mikayla was bound and determined to watch the snake show.
I was tired from conducting the casting contest and wasn't in a hurry to do much of anything. Mikayla had her own ideas however, and I quickly found myself sitting on the front row of the seminar area, thirty minutes before the snake show began. That's how popular the show was. Get there early or you didn't get a seat.
Little did I know how much the snake show would impact Mikayla and our lives? As Vandeventer made his way up to the stage, almost everyone in attendance was spellbound. Vandeventer presented the snake show in a way that was both fun and informative at the same time. Beginning with a small green garden snake and progressing finally up to the massive diamondback rattlesnake, he covered all of the basics about each type of snake that resides in our area and state.
Safety First
From the start Vandeventer advised everyone to leave the poisonous snakes alone. He doesn't recommend handling any venomous snake with bare hands. He did however, hold and display a wide variety of snakes that help control our rat and mice population. As he talked about the snakes, he related various stories and dispelled many old wives tales or myths about some of the snakes.
The common chicken snake and king snakes really help control our rat population and are actually valuable to almost everyone. When you spot a snake there is one rule that will work for children or anyone. "Two steps back, turn around and walk away." That's one of the important things Mikayla learned during the seminar. According to Vandeventer there's not a snake anywhere in the world that can strike you if you follow that simple slogan! She also learned the difference between many of the non-poisonous and poisonous snakes. I didn't know it at the time but she was really taking everything in.
Finally at the end of the seminar Vandeventer asked for volunteers. Of course Mikayla jumped up and took off for the stage. Minutes later she was joined by a young man. As Vandeventer took out a corn snake, Mikayla was already reaching for it. Now when it comes to catching frogs, bugs, crickets, and turtles, she is game. She had never caught a snake though. As he stretched the snake around her neck and shoulders he let her hold the snake in each hand. She was brimming with excitement and smiling with glee. Although I could hardly believe it, I wasn't really all that surprised.
Snakes slive!
Fast forward now a couple of weeks after the snake show to this past weekend. We were at the Anevay farm near Edwards, enjoying some rest and relaxation. Around lunchtime Mikayla spotted a snake that she told us had to have been a black racer. Who were we to question this informed six-year-old. Thankfully she was on the steps leading from the dock to the back porch. The snake was "peeking" out from under the steps according to her and didn't pose a threat.
Later in the afternoon around 6:30, Mikayla was playing outside the camp house when her mother, Kathy, joined her. Unbeknownst to the rest of us they started around the camp and were going on one of Mikayla's nature walks. Suddenly they were interrupted by Mikayla's shouts. "There's a rattlesnake!" Kathy had never even seen the big snake until Mikayla spotted it within inches of the trail. The large rattler was sunning in an open spot near the front yard of the camp.
Nearly out of breath from excitement and running to get me, Mikayla ran into the camp and advised everyone in the house that there was a rattlesnake out there. Imagine my surprise when I found out that it really was a rattlesnake. "Aren't you glad I went to the snake show and found out what a rattlesnake was?"she blurted excitedly. Yes I was really glad. The snake man might not have been too proud of us, but we quickly dispatched the dangerous serpent. That's one rattler that won't harm anybody!
If you think someone is too young or too old to learn anything new, then guess again. It seems like children will absorb a whole lot of knowledge if we make things interesting and fun for them. Of course we old folks still like to learn something every now and again even if we think we know it all! Who would have thought that just over a week after the snake show, Mikayla and her mom would be confronted with a venomous snake? And better still is the fact that she knew how to handle the situation. Thanks; to the Meridian Star and Terry Vandeventer, the snake show just might have saved her life!

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