For What It’s Worth

Snake oil?

Except perhaps among herpetologists, snakes for the most part have been associated with deception since—well, since a talking serpent tempted Eve into disobedience back in the Garden of Eden a long time ago.

No doubt, you have heard the expression “sneaky as a snake.” Back in the “Old West” days, men hawking bottles of cure-all medications became known as “snake oil salesmen,” and even today you might occasionally hear a dietary supplement or drug salesperson referred to as selling snake oil.

Now, not quite on the eve of a special program set to air Sunday, Dec. 7, on Discovery channel, I am wondering if I detect the scent of snake oil.

Don’t slither away and stop reading just yet. This is not a venomous reaction on my part. It’s just a story I’m having a little trouble coiling myself around. Two days ago, as I was snaking my way through the Internet to see if there were any stories I could sink my fangs in, I encountered one about a program entitled Eaten Alive to be aired on Discovery Channel.

That caught my attention; and, in somewhat of a hypnotic stare at the computer screen with my head weaving ever so slowly back and forth, I read the story. The story, which I am confident is based on information provided the Discovery Channel public relations personnel, says Eaten Alive is based on naturalist and wildlife filmmaker Paul Rosolie being eaten alive by a giant anaconda snake.

Wow! No wonder snakes have a bad rep. Eating a man alive, especially a naturalist and a wildlife lover. Seems to me that might be a good way to end up with indigestion.

So, how is this going to happen? In its teaser promos about the program, Discovery Channel says Rosolie plans to be devoured by an anaconda while in a custom-built snake-proof suit. Readers are told Rosolie covers himself in pig’s blood to make himself appetizing to the snake. The snake-proof suit has a cord attached to it so that Rosolie can be pulled from the snake’s belly with no risk of being trapped inside. That seems a better method of leaving the snake’s belly than the method of expulsion experienced by Jonah when the big fish vomited him out.

Discovery Channel assures us this is not a hoax. (Would anyone have thought such a thing?) As is customary today in media circles, I must insert a full disclosure here in case there might be a question of bias involved. Disclosure: I am not a regular viewer of Discovery Channel. Years ago, I watched it with some frequency, but I shed that skin and crawled away from it. That said, I have to ask: Is there a bit of a snake oil smell in the air here?

Mr. Rosolie is still quite alive and well, so I am assuming that either the anaconda’s peristaltic action failed to pull Rosolie fully into its belly or the cord worked successfully and the naturalist was pulled out, leaving behind only the smell of pig’s blood. Whatever happened, Discovery says the snake did not die.

As much as it makes my tongue dart in and out of my mouth in a flickering motion, I can’t seem to eat my suspicions alive. I realize that the word anaconda strikes fear in the hearts of many because they envision some giant snake, which this one will have to be to devour Mr. Rosolie alive. However, in the miniscule amount of research I did, I discovered (pardon the pun) most anacondas are not giant snakes and do not find humans to be enticing food. That wouldn’t matter in this program since it is the snake being deceived this time and he/she thinks he/she is consuming a pig.

Something else I learned was that anacondas don’t partake of live meals. Instead, especially the big ones, they squeeze their prey to death and then swallow them. Since both the snake and his human entrée in this program are still alive, I am somewhat perplexed.

Nor am I the only one with reservations about the snake stunt. Though she doesn’t mention the aroma of snake oil, CNN’s Jeanne Moos did a piece yesterday about Eaten Alive in which she holds up a rubber snake, pulls on it, and suggests the Discovery program may be a “bit of a stretch.”

Eaten Alive may be fascinating entertainment, though I have no immediate plans to find out. And I can assure you that my wife won’t be watching. It might bring back memories of her frightening snake experience.

It happened eons ago when I was a graduate student at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill. We were living in married student housing at the time, and our children frequently played in the yard area with other kids. One day while our son, then kindergarten or first-grade age, was playing with some other boys, one of whom found a dead snake in the parking lot. Harvey was the youngest of the group and thus susceptible to being influenced. The boys hung the snake, about four feet long and 1-1/2 inches in diameter, over a stick and encouraged Harvey to go show it to his mom. Super idea.

His mom was in our second-floor apartment busily typing a thesis or dissertation. Typing these and term papers was a way she earned money to help us feed three kids and pay the bills. Working at the table, her back was to the door.

Harvey entered with the snake on a stick and held it out about two feet from his mom. She was not aware he had entered the room until she heard, “Hey, Mom, look what I have.” She turned to look, emitted a scream, and came flying out of the chair.

That won’t make a Discovery Channel show, but if we had a video of it, I would watch that.

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2 Responses to For What It’s Worth

  1. Cindy says:

    So would I… 🙂

  2. Donna says:

    I canNOT imagine my mom screaming.

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