A Python With|a Sore Throat

     Electric fences are good for some people, I guess.
     But not for everyone.
     Ten miles south of here there’s a bit of a mountain called Frizzell Hill. The engineers who built it didn’t believe in switchbacks, I guess, because the road goes straight up that mountain for a mile. There’s a farm on top. On the farm there’s a flock of baby goats.
     Baby goats are the coolest little guys in the world. They caper about, kick up their heels and jump on things, and each other. I stopped to look at them after riding my bike up that godawful hill. It was 92 degrees.
     The baby goats ran up to the fence. “Maaa!” they said. They looked up at me through the oblong pupils in their eyes, pink tongues bleating through their little white teeth, the stumpy little spots where their horns would grow showing on their heads. I reached down to pat one.
     They say sweat is a good conductor of electricity. They’re right.
     It reminded me of the electric fence stories I heard when I was a newspaper reporter. One day I was interviewing a zoo director about a load of smuggled tarantulas. That’s right: there’s not enough tarantulas in the United States, so people smuggle them in.
     I forget how we got around to it, but the zoo director told me about a fellow he knew who objected to his neighbor’s electric fence. He decided he’d try to short it out by peeing on it.
     Urine is full of salts and minerals. It’s an even better electric conductor than sweat. I forget exactly what happened to that guy – I believe I wanted to forget it. They took him to the hospital, though, and I bet he’s never peed on another electric fence.
     I heard another story from a veterinarian who was treating a python for a sore throat. I imagine the inside of a python is practically all throat. It was an adult python, and its owner kept it in the garage.
     But the garage burned down, and the owner rushed into it to save the python. He did save it, but the python didn’t look right, so he took it to my friend, the vet. It had smoke inhalation and a sore throat.
     Speaking of snakes, naturally we got around to another client of the vet’s, who kept a pet rattlesnake. One day – does this surprise anyone? – the rattlesnake bit the man who fed him his weekly rat. He bit him on the hand.
     This man, the vet said, had heard that electric shock was a wonderful cure for snakebite. So – that’s right – he went out to his neighbor’s electric fence and grabbed onto it with both hands. Then his wife drove him to the hospital to be treated for snakebite and burned hands.
     The only reason I bring all this up is because I felt sort of stupid after I zapped myself on the electric fence. I knew what it was, but I zapped myself anyway. I am telling these stories not to reveal how stupid I am, but to persuade myself that even if that’s so, somewhere out there there’s two guys who are even dumber than I am.
     By the way, the vet saved that python.
     I asked him how you treat a python with a sore throat.
     He answered – and I suppose I could have predicted this – “Very carefully.”

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