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The Snike

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Been a number of threads recently discussing snakes... :rolleyes:


The Snike


“Oh heck YEAH I wanna go!” I said into the phone.  “You really got tickets?”


“Yeah Man!” said Art, on the other end of the line. “The Kelley Girl dude dropped ‘em off just about five minutes ago! Tickets to the Niners game on Sunday… they’re playing the Bears. Probl’ly gonna lose, but what the heck, it’ll be fun!”


“Alrighty, Man… usual arrangement?” I asked.


“Sure!” he said. “Game’s at one… pick me up Sunday mornin'?”


“Yup! I’ll be there before eleven. That’ll give us time to get there plenty early! See ya!” 


It was a Friday, mid September, 1976. 


Art Mays and I had done this before. The “usual arrangement” was that Art would provide the “free” tickets (as one of the HR managers he was often “comped” by vendors). I would provide the transportation (Art didn’t have a car), we would split the cost of beer, and it was every man for himself for food and snacks.


Sunday morning finally arrived. After sleeping in, I was still up early enough to grab a quick breakfast, make sure I had enough cash money for the day (this was well before debit cards, or even ATM’s), and made it to pick up Art on time. Always an interesting event, collecting Art. You see, Art lived at the YMCA. Only man I ever knew who actually did so; I’d seen it in old movies, but didn’t realize that some truly did – “I stays at the ‘Y’,” Art would say.


So I parked, went inside and a fella behind the counter paged Art. In a moment or two, he came down the stairs, handed his key to the clerk, and we headed out… first to my yellow '73 VW Super Beetle, “Otto,” then to our favorite liquor store to stock up on beverage for the trip – about eight or ten quart bottles of beer, plus a six pack “to fill in the corners.” Oh, and a few bags of potato chips.


We got to “the ‘Stick” in plenty of time to park and have a beer or two before heading in to the stadium. About three quarters of an hour before game time, we started to get ready. “Getting ready” meant each of us stuffing some chip bags into our coat pockets along with a plastic cup, and opening quart beer bottles and pouring the contents into a two gallon “igloo” type cooler I’d brought. (Yep! In those days you could bring your OWN beer to a ball game, as long as it wasn’t in bottles or cans that could be used as missiles.)


We had fun, although as expected, the game was a bust, with the home team shamed 19 – 12 in the first loss of what would be an 8 - 6 season. “Run run py-ess, run run py-ess, that’s all the coach knows how to do!” Art would exclaim in his frustrated Texas accent, shaking his head, every time they’d set up for another punt.


Anyway, we had fun. Ran outta beer early in the fourth quarter and actually had to buy one each to hold us over ‘til we got back to the car.


And when the game was done, we let the crowd move ahead of us into the parking lot then sat in Otto, having another beer, ‘til the crowd of cars thinned significantly.


When finally I fired up the li’l four-jug engine in the rear, I said “Ya know what, Art? Traffic’s gonna be a booger on 101.  Tell ya what… let’s drive over Radio Hill (San Bruno Mountain) to 280 and slip into the city the back way!”


“Good idea, Man! Let’s do that, then we can stop on Broadway for a beer or two before ya drop me off!”


A most capitol plan indeed!


But… you know what happens to two young men who’ve been sipping beer all afternoon. And we were no exception. Unfortunately, there were no “comfort stops” anywhere along the route, and after a number of miles the situation began to become somewhat dire.


“Hey!” I said. “Hang on, Art! Here’s the road up to the transmitters! There won’t be any traffic and we can get up around a few curves and find a tree or two!”


We did, and just in time. As we were recovering from our respective visits to trees we paused for a smoke – Art a cigarette, and me my pipe. We were standing there, enjoying the early autumn late afternoon, when Art suddenly said “Hey! Lookit that snike!”


“Huh…? What snike? And what the hell’s a ‘snike’?” I asked.


He pointed about 35 yards downhill, and I’ll be danged, but there was about a four foot long snake slowly wriggling his way across the road.


“Damn!” I blurted. “We oughtta catch ‘im and take ‘im to Gary!”


And the next thing I knew, Art was standing there holding this snake by the neck.


Now, Gary Wallace was one of our computer operators in the third floor Data Processing department. We’d worked together for years, and knowing me to be an outdoorsman, had often asked me to keep an eye out for a snake for him. Didn’t matter what kind; he just wanted a pet snake.


“Why, shore, Gary… I’ll be sure to do that!” I’d tell ‘im. With no intention of doing any such thing – this boy don’t do the snake thing. Nossir… not me!


So there we were. Art holding that somewhat dismayed creature, and me liquid fortified enough to not only not be squealing like a girl, but I actually opened the trunk and found a light canvas money bag, which I held open for Art while he shoved ‘im in.


I wrapped the cord securely around the mouth of the bag, then in turn placed it in an orange nylon air-mail bag I happened to have along, securely latching the leather strap around it’s reinforced opening. Shoved the whole thing back in to the trunk with a bunch of camping gear (the Super Beetle had a LARGE cargo area!). Then, we buttoned up the trunk and headed to The City to do some drinking before calling it a weekend.


Early (but definitely not bright!) Monday morning, I made my way to work. Parking beneath the building, I slowly made my way to the second floor cafeteria for a bucket of coffee, then trudged out toward my office. As I stepped out of the cafeteria, I looked up and there was Art. He looked terrible… and justifiably so.


“Oh wow, Man… I sure hope you don’t feel like you look.” I said sympathetically.


“I do. Do you?” he asked.


“Kinda rocky,” I said. “Kinda rocky. See ya later,” and walked past.


Suddenly, Art said “Hey, Man…”


I turned back. “Yeah?”


“What about the snike?”


Uh…huh? Where’d I hear that word before…


“Huh?” I asked.


“Man… what ‘bout the snike?” he repeated.


Frowning, I pondered a moment, then asked “’Snike?’ What the hell’s a ‘snike?’ Man, what’re you talking about? I don’t know nothing ‘bout no S N I K E! SNAKE!! OH CRAP! THERE’S A SNAKE IN MY CAR!”


“I gotta go!” and with that, suddenly wide awake and stone sober, I hustled to my desk. Got on the phone, called Computer Ops, and said “Wallace! Git down here! I gots your snake in the car! Meet me in the garage in five minutes!” and hung up.


I was there in less than a minute; I knew it would take Gary a bit longer to clear security and either navigate the stairs or wait for an elevator.


Eventually, he found me beneath the building in the parking area, standing safely about twenty feet from the ‘Texas Gelb’ VW.


“Here!” I said, tossing him my keys.


“The trunk handle is chained to the front bumper. Open the door, hit the trunk release, then find the key to the padlock. You know how this works!”


He grinned, said “Okay” and did as instructed.


When the lid was open, he said “Now what?”


“Okay!” sez I. “You see that orange airmail bag?”


“Yeah,” he said (we’d both worked in the mailroom together).


“Okay… so open the bag!”


He carefully did so, and peered inside.


“Whadda ya see?” I asked, anxiously.


“Uh… a canvas money sack.”


“Okay… now, take that out.”


He did.


“Untie the cord and open it.”


He did.


“Now… look inside!”


He did.


“So! Whaddaya see inside that sack?” I asked.


“Uh… a hole.” He said.


A hole? A HOLE?


“O Bleep!!” I expleted. “He’s running around loose in my trunk!


“Okay… so start taking everything outta the trunk and piling it up! He’s gotta be there! Ya GOTTA find ‘im!”


“Okay… but… uh… what kinda snake IS he?” Gary asked.


“Damned if I know! I think he’s an argyle!”


“Argyle? What the heck kinda snake is an ‘argyle’?”


“I don’t know! I think he looked like a stretched out argyle sock! Just FIND him wouldya??”


So Gary dutifully set about removing every single item from my trunk – tent, sleeping bag, camp stove, fishing gear, tools, lantern, shovel, small backpack, ammunition, coupla duck decoys… but never did find a snake.


Meanwhile, a number of women arriving for work had wandered by and enquired as to what Gary was up to.


“Just looking for a missing snake,” was the answer, and they’d scurry off to their jobs. And a bit more.


Finally, we gave up. Gary re-loaded the trunk, and we made our way back into the secured building, he disappointed, and me dismayed.


As I reached my desk, the phone was ringing.


“CHARNEY! Get your butt into my office RIGHT NOW!” blurted Dona, my boss and usually very good friend.


I meekly skulked through her door just as she was lifting her feet off the floor and placing them safely in her bottom desk drawer.


Her eyes were sparking as she glared at me and demanded “Is it true? Did you really lose a SNAKE in the garage?”


“Well… not really…” I humbly replied.




I explained. Didn’t help much… I could see her skin literally begin to crawl – we shared the same level of affection for the no-shouldered creatures.


With a piercing glare, she said “You get David Williams, you get your butt back down to that garage, and you FIND THAT SNAKE! Do you hear me??”


Uh… yes ma’am.


I raced out of her office, found David – he’d been briefed, and was not bothered by snakes – and off to the garage we went.


David repeated Gary’s efforts, pausing occasionally as we would watch some panicked lady squealing her way from the lobby door to a car to make her escape from the office building, which by now was known to be plumb crawling with deadly vipers.


But no joy. David not only completely emptied the trunk, but he removed the liner and spare tire.


No snake.


We re-packed everything – again – but before locking the chain around the bumper, I propped the lid open with a shotgun shell, leaving a gap through which the beastie might find his way out or at least get some fresh air. We then went back to our workstations. However, en route to my office, I detoured through the break room and posted a 3 x 5 card on the bulletin board: “For Sale: 1973 VW Super Beetle. Excellent Condition. Call Rod in Distribution.” Alas...there were no takers.


I was miserable. Dona was mad. Women were terrified. Come to think of it… so was I, somewhat.


Then I had an idea.


I called Information, and asked for the number for Volkswagen of America headquarters, which at the time was in Fairfield, in or near what would someday be the Jelly Belly Jellybean complex.


When an operator answered, I asked to be connected to some engineering type person familiar with the Type 1 super version.


A few clicks, and a gentleman answered, said his name was Bill, and asked how he could help me.


I asked if he was an engineering type; he stated that he was, and asked again how he could be of assistance.


I took a deep breath, then told him the entire sordid tale. When finished, I asked, “So… my question is… is there any way that snake can find his way from the luggage compartment into the passenger compartment?”




“Uh... Hullo?”


Then, a ‘clunk’ as the phone was dropped on the other end.


And a sudden gale of guffaws… followed by “Hey! Pete! Jordan! Harry! C’mere!! You gotta hear this!!” and I had to endure listening to Bill relate the entire thing to his colleagues… who joined him in his mirthful celebrations.


Finally, he picked up the phone, and between giggles and snorts and snickering sobs, assured me that there was no way Mr Jake the Snake could find his way from the luggage

compartment into the passenger compartment.


I didn’t believe him.


So that evening, when it came time to go home, with a flashlight and a ruler I very carefully and thoroughly searched Otto’s interior, including under the seats, under the floor mats, and above the visors. No snake.


Okay. All was good. Almost. While driving along Park Presidio, as I entered a curve, the briefcase parked on the passenger seat suddenly shifted, and it's strap fell across the parking brake onto my right arm. I honestly don’t know who screamed loudest; me, or the fellow in the lane next to me as he reacted to the sight of a young man climbing out the window of a hurtling yellow VW, screeching in terror. Fortunately, I recovered; he recovered; and neither of us crashed.


The next few days were relatively uneventful.


Every morning, before driving off to work I would “sweat” the interior of the car; finding no sign of my guest, I’d continue. I’d repeat in the evening before driving home.


I think it must’ve been Wednesday or Thursday when I realized I needed gasoline, and that evening I pulled into an Atlantic Richfield station on Geary Boulevard. The attendant walked over to me and asked in his heavy Middle Eastern accent if he could help me – and made it clear that my business was not really appreciated at that time, as they were in the process of closing, punctuating his words with the sprinkler tool he held in his hand.


“Yeah… fill ‘er up with premium, please.” I said. Note – self-service was illegal in SF in those days.


He started the fill, and I got out to stretch my legs. I decided to check to make sure my shotgun shell was still propping the lid slightly open. I bent over the fender to look, and satisfied myself that it indeed was still in situ. But what the heck is THAT? I asked myself.


I bent closer to examine a very odd sight: there appeared to be a length of “aeroquip” hose wrapped about the bumper mount.


“What the heck?” I asked myself. I leaned further, ‘til my face was mere inches from the tube, examining it, when suddenly and certainly unexpectedly, Mr Snake stuck his head out from inside the bumper, and I swear, grinned as he stuck his tongue out at me and wriggled it!


“OMIGAWD! There he IS!” I blurted as I jumped back.


“What? What?” asked the attendant.


“Look!” was all I could say, pointing toward the bracket.


He looked. He looked. And bent as closely as I had for a closer look.


“What is THAT?” he demanded.


“Whaddaya mean, ‘what is that?’” I asked. “Just LOOK at it!”


He did. And  sure ‘nuff, Mr Snake repeated the “Snake-In-The-Box” routine, complete with grin and tongue.


That did it. Mr Warm-and-Friendly Gas Station Attendant reacted as if he’d been hit with a cattle prod. He stood bolt upright, his eyes glazed, then he tossed his sprinkler tool several yards as he threw his head back and began shouting in some foreign language. He then placed a foot on my passenger side fender, launched himself to the top of the gas pump, then began to bounce up and down in a crouch while babbling raucously in a strange Quasimodo fashion.


The second attendant, who turned out to be his brother, rushed out to save him from whatever attack was in progress, armed with a broom which he was prepared to brain me with.


I dodged around the car, yelling “No! No! It’s not ME!” while his freaked out li’l bro chattered and yammered and yodeled, pointing at the bumper.


He finally looked, and being the braver member of the family, after recognizing the snake decided to defend his sibling and his territory by poking and pestering that hapless creature until finally, having had enough, it unwound itself from the bumper bracket, dropped to the cement, and started to slither away in disgust.


Older bro clapped his broom onto the poor thing, and I shouted “what the hell are you doing?”


“I’m going to KILL it!” he screamed.


In defense of my former passenger, I barked “Like HELL you are!”


We stood there arguing over the fate of the poor serpent when a group of four pedestrians – two guys with their dates, obviously somewhat into their cups - wandered over to see what the commotion was about.


Being the best English speaker of the gas station trio, I told the story and eventually explained how at this point I was trying to save the unfortunate reptile’s life.


Suddenly, one of the gentlemen look down to examine it and said with glee “Look! It’s a ‘whatchamacallit snake’!


“Uh... Can I have it…?” he asked with a happy, pleading expression.


“Mister, if you want that snake and you can save him by all MEANS! He’s YOURS!”


He gave a little laugh of delight as he scooped up Jake and rescued him from the push broom.


My last sight of ol’ No Shoulders was of him wrapped around some fella’s neck, happily headed east down the sidewalk of Geary Boulevard.


I did not sell Otto. Not then, anyway, and instantly regretted it when I finally did a few years later.


That was the second time I’d had a snake in my car. The first is another story… but this WAS the last.


Nope. Ol’ Hardpan don’ do snakes.








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OMG this sounds like a Pat McManus story! All that's missing is Retch Sweeney!


All I can see now is the look on mom's face when I showed her two snakes I'd caught in the woods by the lake. Horror. Massauga rattlers. Who knew?

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