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Posted by mikez on December 05, 1998 at 15:20:52:
In Reply to: Re: old days posted by Mark B. on November 29, 1998 at 21:13:41:
I am not all that old, at least not as old as I feel sometimes, but as I started in the first grade  I have some history. I remember seeing a big glossy indigo snake in a pet store and wanting it soooo bad. My parents said no way. Next it was an "aligator" [probably a caimin]. My parents told me to save my allowence, probably assuming I'd never do it. When the day came, they honored their promise and brought me to the store. The clerk there [who was in cahoots, i'm sure] managed to talk me out of the gator and into a green iguanna. The amazing thing is ,that poor creature lived for years. Back then no one knew about UV-B, calcium supplements, or the lack of nutrition in ice berg lettuce. When he out grow his ten gallon prison, we donated him to a school for troubled boys where I believe he was eaten for dinner one night.
Remembering collecting back then makes me sad. I've always lived in the east, New York, Conneticut and Massachussets. Most of my collecting spots are housing developments now. In the 70's I kept box turtles and wood turtles every summer. I always released them in time to hibernate. It's been over twenty years since I've seen a wild box or wood turtle, and not for lack of trying.
I fell for snakes in a big way when I was about eight. That was when I discovered a garter snake hiberniculum in a crack of a concrete railroad trestle. Every spring and every fall I'd be there when the snakes gathered around the den to bask. Forty or fifty snakes at a time would be visable in a living room sized area. To this day, I always have a den or two in my territory to visit when the urge strikes me.
My favorite place we lived when I was a kid was Glastonbury CT. Back then [mid 70's], it was locally famous for it's suburban population of timber rattlers. I never encountered one in the field, but the terrain was favorable for many other herps. Gigantic black snakes were not uncommon but impossible for a kid to catch. Garters, ribbons, ringnecks, dekays and watersnakes were extremly common and I usually had two or three tanks in the garage housing one or several. The coolest snake by far was the very common eastern hognose. Sooner or later, all of my neighbors would end up with a "vicious puff adder" in their yard. No snake is more dramatic or able to scare the crap out of people. No one ever stuck around to see it play dead because the rattlesnake imitation was too effective. I impressed alot of grownups by fearlessly putting my hand in strike range of the horrible monster. After a couple of closemouthed strikes bounced harmlessly off my hand, the snake would know the gig was up and go into plan B. Once the snake rolled over on it's back to play dead, I would casually pick it up and walk away, leaving my stunned audience shaking their heads in awe.
Now I have three boys of my own and the oldest, who's eight, has a nack for finding snakes that surpasses my own. Luckily, his grandparents own alot of undeveloped land in Maine. There are no box turtles, wood turtles or hognoses, but tons of ringnecks and red bellies, painted turtles, pickeral frogs, red efts. And best of all, a garter den which will never go under a bulldozer in his lifetime.