The sound was quiet, but close: a rustle in the leaves a few feet from the hiking trail.
Curious, I peered under the ferns and caught sight of a garter snake. Then I saw what it was up to.
Not one of Mr. Frog’s better days.
The image of the amphibian in that reptile’s maw reminds me of the gargantuan snakeskin my father had when I was a boy. He had inherited it from some great-aunt who had traveled overseas. I suspect it was a reticulated python.
Now and then, I would take it out of the closet and unfurl it, fold by fold, until I had the entire skin—some twelve to fifteen inches wide and twenty-plus feet long—stretched across the ground. The desiccated skull, still attached, smelled faintly of stale decay.
I was fascinated by the sheer size of the thing.
I knew that snakes this large could eat pigs. Why not a small boy?
Examining that snakeskin was one of my earliest encounters with the idea of humans as potential prey. Not just creatures inevitably recycled in the web of life, as I touched on in one of my first blog posts, but creatures potentially hunted and eaten. For most of the last hundred millennia, Homo sapiens devoted a good deal of attention to avoiding other predators. In some parts of the world, we still have to be careful.
As a hunter, I wonder: What would it be like to end as prey?
That depends, I suppose, on how swiftly the predator accomplishes its lethal aim. The frog in the photo looks calm enough, but I don’t relish the thought of death by digestion. Faster than cancer, to be sure, but not exactly appealing.
Death by grizzly, though? Or by cougar? Given the option, those are tickets I might take.
© 2010 Tovar Cerulli