I'll Take the Snake

Jim Sloan

Excerpt from an interview in Santa Fe Magazine


I take care of people’s snake problems. If somebody has a snake they don’t want, I’ll take the snake. This year, I’ve had about 30 calls, which is unusually low. A lot of times, people see a snake in the house, and by the time I get there, it’s disappeared. So I go away and the snake reappears. You have to watch the snake after you call me. They don’t sit and wait for me to arrive. I’ve been bitten a lot. But not by a rattler. I’m pretty careful about that. You get envenomated by a rattler, and it will cost you about $100,000 to take care of it. Air ambulance, hospital, $50K for antivenin vials. Once, I was wrangling a gopher snake, holding it with one hand by the tail, and it came right up and bit me in the eye. Everybody was freaking out, but it was fine. I wiped the blood off and was good. Except a few days later, I had this itch in my eye, and I looked in the mirror, closer and closer...it was a small snake fang right in the middle of my eye. When they bite, those teeth fall out and they grow new ones. But are snakes what we should be talking about right now? I don’t know how you feel. But right now, for me, politics has always been background noise. As long as it wasn’t too raucous, you could live with it. But we’re past that now. Which makes doing the ordinary thing, if not irrelevant, then questionable. So what should we be doing? I just turned 86 the other day. This country doesn’t feel the same as the one I grew up in. Of course, there are a lot of other things that are equally troublesome. Climate, the viruses. And the birds! 3 billion birds gone since 1970. There just aren’t many birds around. It’s very sad. Painting helps. I took classes with Diego Rivera in Mexico City in 1953. All he wanted to talk about was politics. He would talk for an hour and maybe the first 15 minutes were about art. Then he would go to the board and draw a perfect circle. It was amazing. Then, after that, it was all anti-imperialist, anti-American. For him, politics couldn’t be a background thing either. But the best part of those classes was seeing a Frida Kahlo show. Turns out it was her last show, and they brought her in on a bed to see it. Quite a thing. But yes, for Diego in 1953, politics were impossible to ignore. And sadly, that’s where we are today. A year and half ago, when somebody said they thought there might be a “civil war,” I thought, That person’s crazy! Do you realize what that means? C’mon, civil war? Take a look at Bosnia if you want to see civil war. You know what that looks like? You don’t have a roof anymore, for starters. But now, it’s common. I hear people fearing civil war every day. It makes the snakes look pretty innocent.