| | | | |

Reptile Talks

Share our stories on social media:

I ran the Charm City Reptile and Amphibian Rescue for 14 years (no longer in operation). Here is a story about the rescue and giving reptile talks.

I can’t write about the rescue without writing about giving talks. My friend, Jeff, and I usually gave the talks together, although a couple of other people helped me through the years.

Excited girl holds a ball python.
Unlike camp talks, at birthday parties I let the kids hold some of the animals. This giddy birthday girl loved holding one of our ball pythons.

Camp Talks

Recently, Jeff reminded me about how funny things used to be at our animal presentations. One time we were giving talks at a camp. Campers are always tough audiences. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s because the kids just want to run around and play. They don’t want to sit and pay attention to a presentation. We never had the money to get our own PA system. Yelling when no one is even listening is always frustrating.

What we usually did was a tag-team thing. I would talk about one animal. When I finished talking and was returning the animal to its carrier, Jeff would start talking about the next animal. It was a little more visually exciting than having one person talk the whole time. Also, it saved the throat.

First of all, they had us in a cement bunker building. It felt like it was about 400 degrees. I’m sure it was cooler than that though. If you have ever tried to give a talk in a concrete bunker, you would know that if one person talks, everything is fine. But if one person is trying to talk and someone else talks – well, the sound bounces off the cement and it becomes chaos. I swear, Jeff and I couldn’t even hear each other. And, we both got the giggles. It’s unprofessional, but it happens. I couldn’t even look at him. He had the laughing shoulder shakes, and I could see him out of the corner of my eye. It was so noisy, no one heard anything we said.

The megaphone

This camp was for underprivileged children. I’m sure the people who donated money to purchase a megaphone for the camp would be completely appalled at its use there.

One of the head people from the camp came into the bunker with a megaphone. It’s an electronic megaphone and if you push a button, it plays a song to get people’s attention. Imagine a concrete bunker with sounds and kids bouncing all over the place. Throw in a megaphone that plays a loud trumpet version of the Start Spangled Banner, the “Ohhhhh, say can you see!” part.

We’re trying to give a talk with a bunch of animals. Kids are not sitting, not listening and all talking. The head lady comes in with a megaphone at first they all get quiet when they see her. We go back to giving our talk. A kid in the front row makes a comment. The lady sticks the megaphone right in the kid’s face and presses the button, the trumpet blasts the beginning of the Start Spangled Banner. Another kid talks and gets the same treatment. I seriously doubt that Francis Scott Key would appreciate the use of his song. It was just awful. The woman kept pressing that button. Of course, Jeff and I were laughing. It was a disaster. I believe it was the worst talk we ever gave. Thinking back, why didn’t they just let us talk into the megaphone instead of using it as a punishment?

Birthday Party

Presenter, Jeff, with an albino Burmese pythons and some kids.
Jeff and the birthday party boys. They look innocent enough…

Another time we were entertaining at a kid’s birthday party. We used to do a lot of those. The kids’ ages were perfectly staggered at about a year and a half apart. I believe they were all blonds. I think there were four boys, it might have been three. We were in the basement and I think it was the cleanest basement I have ever seen in my life. If the lady of the house would take a little look in my basement, she’d probably faint dead away.

The mother had what looked like cafeteria trays containing many juice boxes. Every juice box was lined up, possibly with a T-square or a straight edge. They were all facing the same direction. The mom told us we could get a drink out of the refrigerator in the bar. They had a full wet bar, you don’t see that very often. I opened the refrigerator to see that it was full of bottled water, beer and sodas. Every label faced outward and the bottles seemed to be exactly the same distance apart from each other. These people also had a couple dogs and there wasn’t a dog hair in sight. Again, if only this woman could see my house, she’d plotz. I have a greyhound with hardly any fur and yet there is fur absolutely everywhere!

Where were the parents?

The author and an iguana.
Jub-Jub the iguana was our rescue ambassador and went on many talks over the years.

The parents had their own gathering upstairs. They left the kids with us. The kids were bouncing off the walls – literally. They had these giant balls that you sit on and bounce around. They were shooting plastic arrows at each other. Some were both bouncing and shooting! Others were just running and screaming. The kids were between about 4-10. I have to admit, I was scared. I told Jeff. He said he was scared too. These were seriously bad kids!! And the parents just left us down there with them.

We got their attention and they were actually pretty good while we were talking. Once we finished though, they went back to their bouncing war. I went to the bathroom and while I was walking to the bathroom, Jeff threw a dodge ball that hit me in the back or the back of the head! I thought I was being attacked by those awful kids. He had a good laugh. I couldn’t wait to get our money and get the hell out of there.

More About Talks

I gave a bunch of talks at a camp by myself. I usually gave a couple of talks there every summer. Damn, Jeff and his job! These talks were during the day, and I think I had help there once, but not this one time. I can’t remember the name of the place. I think I blocked it out of my head. Again, there was no microphone and about 300 kids. No megaphones either though! And, at least I was outside and not in a concrete bunker.

I’ll start by saying it was a very warm day. I had a bunch of lively animals, and it seemed like they were all hungry! I would always try to remember not to feed them right before a talk because they might throw up from the car ride. Maybe I waited a little too long. I started talking about the very large Columbian boa I was holding. It was jerking its head around a little as I spoke. I started thinking. Whoa! This snake is trying to get a bead on my hand as I’m talking. The snake started wildly snapping at me. Did I mention it was a very large boa???

They have several rows of teeth, which is what I told the kids as it whipped its head trying to bite the living crap out of me! I wrestled it back into the carrier and took out a large Nile monitor. Whenever I would take out the welding gloves it would usually cause a hush over the crowd. They think it’s something really scary. In this case it was. The Nile monitor decided it wanted a piece of me too. Needless to say, I didn’t keep the animals out of the carriers as long as I usually did.

The grandparents held a snake at one kid’s party. Notice the brave grandmother is only holding the tip of the tail.

Another camp talk

Another time, a different helper came and helped me with my talk. It was a cub scout pack meeting. I have to say, the cub scout pack meetings were my favorite talks I ever gave. Even though the little ones lose interest and the parents NEVER SHUT UP the whole time I’m talking, they are still pretty fun. I like kids who are into nature and I think scouts are pretty cool.

The woman who was my contact came over and talked to me beforehand. She had a file folder with press clippings about me. She said that she had saved a couple newspaper articles about me and that was how she knew how to get in touch with me. I have never been so creeped out in my life! The woman had a dossier on me! What the hell? It’s not like I’m in the news all of the time. It was just very unsettling. I had a good talk though and a microphone so I didn’t get hoarse or lose my voice afterward.

presenting animals at a swim club
My niece Sarah helped out with a talk at a downtown swim club.

Please leave your comments below. 

Read more by Holli Friedland.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *