How Snake and Cat Were Rescued From Each Other, and We From Both
Copyright 2022 by Ezra Azra
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
is an account of an animal rescue as it happened on our farm in
rescues on our farm were not memorable, generally, because they
happened with boring regularity.
one was unusual because while our cat and the snake were gearing up
to fight to the death, we were trying to rescue both of them from
each other, and ourselves from both of them. On our farm, the first
tenet of our animal rescue ethics was to never let a fight happen
glad to state that in this goal during my stay on the farm, we never
was born and lived my first twenty-nine years in a part of tropical
Africa where poisonous snakes are as common as houseflies.
to rescue snakes in order to re-locate them is not an infrequent chore
on farms in Africa, at least not in my time in Africa. It is no
wonder, then, that persons in my time in Africa, from teenagers to
adults, with skills to catch poisonous snakes were as common as
snakes and houseflies. Hence, when a poisonous full-grown green Mamba
got snared in a wire fence in a sweet-berry hedge just steps from our
backyard patio door, the occasion in itself was not especially
eventful, until the pet house cat made moves to attack the trapped
everybody and his cat in Africa knows that in the wild, cats have more
than a fair chance of winning a fight with a snake. However,
this was a Mamba snake, the most feared snake in all its colours of
green, black and brown in equatorial and tropical Africa.
this green Mamba was full-grown, which meant it had already won many
if not all, other snakes are known to prefer to avoid contact with
humans. Only the Mamba will not necessarily slither away at the
approach of people.
African practical wisdom admonishes that if you cannot kill a Mamba
on your first attempt, let it alone in peace, because if you merely
injure it, it will withdraw, to go on a vindictive hunt for any
animal, humans especially.
Jehovah God in the Bible declared "Vengeance is mine," the
Mamba's response probably was, "Took the words right out of my
have been known to lose many cows within minutes to a single angry
in the wild, cats have a fighting chance against Snakes. In the wild,
cats eat snakes.
dog does not have a prayer against a snake. In confrontation with a
snake, a dog's movements, however swift in dog and human time, are
merely slow motion in snake time. In my time on our farm, we lost two
dogs to snake bites. Not one cat; not even injured by a snake.
Granny was not about to risk our, allegedly, domesticated cat.
farm cats all over the world, I dare say, can never be more than
about, say, forty percent domesticated. Cats just won't allow a
higher percentage. Dogs prefer, welcome, and thrive on being total
slaves. Cats prefer to run away from home rather than to submit to
less than, say, seventy percent independence.
ordered that someone was to either kill the snake quickly, or free
it. Both these choices were easy in this situation. It was our
allegedly domesticated farm cat that inadvertently introduced an
the sight of the snake, the cat, normally somewhat sweet and cuddly
and soft furry-purry, became a dangerous wild and demented
teeth-baring snarling hissing fierce beast. Or pretended to be; cats
on farms and everywhere else, are wily manipulative creatures.
adults having to choose between killing or rescuing the snake, felt
safer approaching the poisonous unforgiving vengeful Mamba, than our
cat. With the Mamba we knew precisely where we stood; we were the
totally Biblically-Ancient accursed enemy.
our cat, on the other hand, whether we were enemy or more-or-less
friend, depended, it always seemed, on what day of the week and time
of day it was.
being, most of the time, Granny's Cat, we dared not let it engage in
a fight in which it could die, no matter how slight that possibility
on account of the snake being so seriously wire handicapped.
in this situation we feared both the snake in front of us and the cat
behind us; but we feared Granny's anger more that would strike from
of us stood vigilant keeping the cat at bay with farm implements like
rakes and hoes, and hedge clippers. We knew that if the cat chose to
attack the snake, one or both of them would be dead within seconds.
And, no matter what we did to intervene, we would be fatally
disadvantaging one against the other.
would have to resign ourselves to stepping back and letting the fight
run its course to the ugly end. No doubt about it, every possible end
would be sad and ugly for us. Both sad and ugly conditions would be
considerably worse for us if the cat died, considering the Granny
the Mamba's frightful reputation, indigenous true Africans have a
genetic admiration for the Mamba. And, so, although Granny purported
to give us an equal choice to save or kill, none of us doubted the
unanimous choice would easily be to free the Mamba, and that Granny
would be more pleased by that outcome, even though she might try hard
to not reveal her admiration for us. We would know by the especially
sumptuous Granny-cooked food on the dinner table that evening.
unusual never-before-encountered difficulty was that in snaking
through the hedge, feasting on the sweet berries, the Mamba somehow
twisted itself into a knot in the wire net fence around and through
which the tendrils and branches of the hedge had grown. The snake
could not slither itself free, even if it did not have to contend
with a homicidal maniacal feline preparing to pounce on it.
sweet-berry hedge had been planted specifically to bring small birds
for decorations on the farm. It was immediately and wildly
successful. Unfortunately, we ignored the presence of our farm cat
when we planned the creation of the hedge.
hedge's success supplied the cat with living warm-blood fresh meat
just about every day. We were, actually, conflicted about being
relieved of the pleasant obligation to provide store-bought food for
had constructed the wire fence on two sides of the hedge as a cat
deterrent, but it was proving to be successful only more-or-less.
Discussions on what should be done about the problem continued
on-and-off for weeks. This unexpected Mamba situation tipped the
was tacit unanimous agreement that the hedge had to go because it was
twice as much a source of food for snakes as it was for the cat. The
juicy berries were of no importance to the cat, but the berries and
the birds were prime foods for the snake. What was surprising to us
was that the snake had taken so long to locate the hedge.
is not unthinkable that some of the cat's anti-snake ferocity arose
out of resentment at its food source being diminished. It was the
cat's unusual behaviour that had drawn our attention to the presence
of the snake, in the first place. The Mamba being green, it was
perfectly camouflaged from us. The cat had detected the snake's
presence long before we did.
plan to free the snake was a simple one, used often, with minor
adjustments here and there each time.
ensnare the snake's head in the twine loop at the end of a long pole,
the snake rescue pole.
place a high-enough protective board of wood gently against the
snake's head, and work behind the board to cut the wire away, and
bend the cut ends to blunt them against hurting the snake which was
sure to move violently the moment it felt free.
wire snipper person would loudly announce moments before that final
moment when that final moment was imminent.
took cover at a distance, except, of course, the snake rescue pole
handler, who, of necessity had to be the last to have contact with
the angry writhing twisting snake.
snake pole handler, never a female in all my African lifetime, relied
on a lot of luck laced with a modicum of skilled experience.
was never safe nor easy to free the head of a violently writhing
snake from the twine loop at the end of the snake pole. A snake pole
handler's reputation suffered immeasurable setback if the snake was
strangled to death by the twine.
were apocryphal accounts of snake pole handlers permanently
unemployed after a snake's head had been unluckily messily severed by
the twine loop. I am most happy to note that in my lifetime in Africa
I had never met such an unlucky snake pole handler, nor did I meet or
know of anyone who had met or known of one.
protective board would be abandoned to fall wherever the snake's
violent gyrations fated it.
is when nearby persons are at greatest risk. The Mamba is the only
African Snake reputed among Africans to opt for vengeful attacks
instead of a dash for freedom. And, too, attacks on more than one
person within reach.
who could, took care to position themselves out of sight of the Mamba
in the moment it was free. Those who could not, like the snake pole
handler, were ready to run, helter-skelter, for their lives, and not
look behind until their predetermined hurdle to be scaled had been
scaled. Only then is looking back dared because snakes cannot leap
over a hurdle will always take more time than leaping over one.
a few occasions I had witnessed Mambas moving swiftly as upright
ropes on only the slightest bent tail-end, chasing alongside fleeing
persons on level grassy ground. On one of those occasions the snake's
backward strike had struck the female running person in the face.
Snake serum administered almost immediately was of no help.
insisted that before the snake was approached, the cat had to be
caught and locked up in the home, and that children were not allowed
to participate in capturing the cat, nor to be outside the house
until the Mamba had been either killed or rescued and re-located.
never found out how Granny accomplished it. She lured the cat to
follow her into her room, and then Granny closed the door.
then did the rest of us feel it safe to begin the snake rescue.
went fairly well as planned until, quite unexpectedly, the free but
disoriented and probably enraged vengeful Mamba, headed for our patio
door instead of the mango tree forest in the distance whence it had
foolishly wandered. Or, perhaps, it wasn't disoriented, but was
driven by the imperative genetic need for Mamba revenge.
and fortunately, the customary rock patio impeded its progress. On
every surface other than grass, a snake’s movements are
ridiculously inept. Buckets of water thrown on the snake re-directed
it back to the mango forest.
patios were standard in the village as deterrents against all kinds
everybody in the village was alerted to stay away from the mango
forest for a few weeks. That deliberate absence would not be a
significant sacrifice since, because of the snakes at all times,
nobody ever dared climb the trees. All the fruit we ever collected
had already naturally fallen to the ground.
mango forest had been cultivated generations ago to provide our
family with marketable fruit. It was (foolishly, in Africa)
unforeseen that snakes would sooner-or-later take over the mango
trees. There was a lot of talk at the beginning, of the snake
invasion being brought to an end by simple rifle execution.
for the Snakes, marketable ripe mango's are not damaged when they
fall to the ground. And the snakes in the trees did not interfere
with persons regularly raking the ground under the trees in order to
keep the ground snake-deterrent soft during mango ripening season.
had taken the snakes years to discover the berry hedge far away from
the mangos. But now that the Mamba proved they had found it, we had
no doubt that snake visitations were about to increase.
thinking was way ahead of those snakes'.
that rescue, Granny ordered the immediate removal of the wire fence
and its sweet-berry hedge. Never again were there incidents of
ensnared snakes, on our farm.
method of snake rescue was the use of alcohol-soaked soft material to
douse the snake drowsy. Granny spurned that method as unworthy
treatment of an animal as noble in its fearsomeness as a poisonous
African wild Mamba snake. She did not object to stupefying other
poisonous snakes and animals before rescuing them.
is the unanimous belief in our family that that green Mamba spread
the word that some cat owners can be trusted to do the righteous
thing. Otherwise, how to explain no snake encounters on our farm for
the rest of my life on the farm?
cat and Granny were happily alive when I emigrated from Africa some
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Ezra's Story list and biography
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