Thursday, February 25, 2021

A boa constrictor story you won’t soon forget

 

In a quiet jungle valley in Lomalinda, our friend Mardty raised chickens in a little red barn, but she was troubled—she was bringing home fewer eggs and counting fewer chickens than usual.

 

Then one day she spotted a boa constrictor inside the barn—with a chicken just disappearing down its throat.

 

Boas grow up to thirteen feet long and can weigh a hundred pounds. Rather than poisoning their prey—sometimes as big as a deer—they coil around, squeeze them to death, and swallow them whole. Lomalindians took boas seriously.

 

But Mardty, determined to save her hen, dropped to her knees, seized that snake below the chicken bump, and held on. I’ll drag it up the hill to get help, she told herself.

 

Before long, though, the snake’s cold, scaly body had wrapped around her legs, winding ever higher, locking her in its grip.

 

She put up a good fight, but the boa toppled her to the ground.

 

Mardty knew it intended to wring the breath out of her.

And swallow her.

Whole.

 

She let go of the chicken bump—she had more important things to do. “I need a weapon,” she told herself.

 

Scanning the room, she saw nothing but a feed barrel.

 

But it had a lid!

 

“I stretched up and was barely able to grab it. I held the boa with one hand and rolled the lid back and forth with the other, trying to cut its head off.”

 

Lying there in the chicken poop and its stench, Mardty must have looked like she was rolling a giant pizza cutter over the snake’s neck.

 

But the rim was rounded and smooth,” she said, “and I had to give up.”

 

Knowing she was in a life-or-death situation, Marty yelled, hoping someone up the hill in the dorm would hear—the house parents, Rosie and Dan, or one of the kids—but no one came.

 

Sprawled on the ground, Mardty wondered if she was taking her last breaths.

 

The boa continued winding ever upward on her body.

 

But she was not a quittershe kept hollering until she heard the sound of feet pounding down the jungle path.

 

Rosie burst through the door brandishing a machete.

 

Dan followed, wielding a shotgun—but Mardty saw a problem. “Don’t shoot! If you shoot the snake, you’ll shoot me, too!”

 

Once Dan lowered the gun, Mardty and Rosie pointed the machete at the boa’s neck and stabbed, sawing until they nearly cut off its head, leaving it almost dead.

 

Dan unwound the snake and dragged it to the chicken yard and finished it off with a shot.

 

“We carried that big long body up the hill to the dorm,” Mardty said.

 

“He measured more than eleven feet. After skinning him, we opened him up in the kitchen. The hen was intact but dead, and so many of her bones broken.

 

“And we did, by the way, start getting more eggs again. We're sure the egg thief was that boa.” (from Chapter 13, Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir)

 

At times like that,

I’m tempted to question God’s wisdom

in creating creatures like boa constrictors.

And yet, He said:

“Let there be critters and creepy-crawlies,”

. . . or something close to that

(Genesis 1:20-25).

Even boa constrictors.



 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Swimming with anacondas: they eat monkeys, dogs, cats, calves—and sometimes people

 

. . . And then there were anacondas, also called water boas, which live on land and in water—including our lake at Lomalinda.

 

Anacondas eat monkeys, dogs, cats, calves, and sometimes people.

 

They can grow to thirty feet long and weigh over five hundred pounds and, like boa constrictors, they squeeze their victims to death, open wide, and swallow their prey whole. (See photo below.)

 

Lomalindians admitted to fearing anacondas, but they went swimming anyway.

 

(Are you noticing a pattern here?!?  . . .

If you missed recent posts, click on

Swimming with stingrays and piranhas

and

Our lake: A place for high adventure.)

 

At night, if anyone on the lake or swamp spotted green eyes glowing in the dark, they were looking at an anaconda—which meant they’d better turn and run.

 

People liked to tell the story of workers at a nearby farm who, hearing a pig squeal, ran to investigate. By the time they arrived, they found an anaconda with a pig-shaped bulge so big that the snake couldn’t slither through the pen’s slats.


One day a friend of mine, driving her Honda 90 motorbike to the lake for a swim, came upon an anaconda stretched across the road, so long she couldn’t see its head in the grass on one side of the road or its tail on the other.

 

Knowing she couldn’t stop in time, she drove right over it.

 

The snake probably wasn’t even fazed. My friend was, though, and suddenly she wasn’t all that interested in swimming.

 

I just couldn’t understand it—I mean, swimming with stingrays, pirañas, and anacondas? That was just too much adventure for me.

 

We lived in the llanos, a vast low expanse of steaming plains with an azure sky stretching to eternity, clean and searing and clear. It’s one of the world’s most lush tropical grasslands, an immense savanna in the Orinoco River basin.

 

The llanos hosts “an alluring combination of pristine biodiversity and traditional ranching culture seemingly lost in time.

 

Anacondas, howler monkeys, capybaras and crocodiles live alongside ranchers, farmers, and thousands of cattle. . . ” (You can kiss your cell phone service goodbye).

 

You don’t want to miss my story about

boa constrictors.

Next week!

It’s a story you won’t soon forget!

Anaconda photo by Tim Lambright (used by permission)


 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Swimming with stingrays and piranhas

 

Lomalinda’s people admitted their fear of stingrays, but they went swimming anyway. (If you missed last week’s post, click on stingrays’ stingers could slash a swimmer’s feet, leaving him writhing in pain while someone pulled out the venomous knife-like barb. Recovery could take months, always painful and slow.)

 

And pirañas (piranhas) lived in the lake, too. Yes, pirañas!

 

With powerful jaws and teeth like razors, pirañas have a reputation for tearing apart and eating a man in a couple of minutes, leaving only a skeleton—but Lomalinda’s pirañas didn’t bite unless they smelled blood, and thus the need for those with an open sore to stay out of the lake.

 

Swimmers admitted their fear that pirañas might chew on them, but that didn’t keep them out of the water.  

 

Lomalinda’s John Waller tells of a harrowing experience he had one day at sunrise while getting his daily exercise by swimming to the island and back.

 

“After swishing a stick in the shallows to be sure no stingrays lurked there, I waded in and started swimming as soon as it was deep enough. (I didn't want to be in contact with the bottom any more than necessary!)”

 

“ . . . about halfway back to the dock I felt something brush my leg.

 

Now, at Lomalinda's lake you don't take that kind of thing lightly.

 

“ . . . I cranked up the speed a bit and even altered my course. Maybe, just maybe, whatever it was would keep going 'that way' while I continued 'this way'.

 

“But then, just a little further on, something again touched me!

 

“I was used to the minnows nibbling, but this was different.

 

“I thought I was far enough out to avoid the lairs of the caiman (alligators), and I had heard that the pirañas always attacked in mobs. So what could it be?

 

“Needless to say, I kicked and stroked harder and started evaluating my options.

 

A third time was too much. Something must be after me! I knew I was a good-size meal, but I always thought the manly 'smell' would ward off any takers. Now I wasn't too sure.

 

“. . . I swam as fast as I could. It wasn't too far to the dock. Maybe I could outrun this predator. And so the race was on.

 

I felt its nudge a couple more times but now I was near paydirt. The dock was just ahead and I wasn't going to wait for any invitations to get on it.

 

“As I quickly pulled myself up and cleared the water, I happened to glance down. There, hanging onto my leg, was the culprit! A partially attached bandage which had been moving back and forth in the water, had come loose. My race with destiny was over. The 'enemy' was none other than a little bit of cotton and adhesive playing games with me!”  (Thanks to I Was A Stranger for sharing John’s story.)

 Come on back next week. 

I have even more critters to tell you about.


Here's a photo of Matt with a piranha he caught in 

Lomalinda's lake:



 

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Our lake: A place for high adventure, pranks, romance, and even tragedy

 

Last week I promised to tell you more awesome (and sometimes scary) stories about living in South America’s wild open territory in the middle of nowhere.

 

Today we’ll take a brief walk from our house, through a low jungle area, to el lago, the lake. (See photos below.) Countless escapades happened there. Renowned as the venue for high adventure, pranks, romance, and sometimes fear—my, oh, my, if that lake could talk, what stories it would tell!

 

El lago, the site of swimming, sailing, water skiing, and washing the dog.

 

A place of canoeing and hunting for orchids and monkeys, a place for fishermen to reel in pirañas (piranhas), dogfish, and silver dollars.

 

A backdrop for sunrises and sunsets in bronze, pink, gold, and purple.

 

A setting for skinny dipping in the moonlight.

 

At el lago, howler monkeys yowled high in palm trees and frightened little boys and girls. And full-grown boys and girls, too. Howlers let out eerie, loud calls, and their bulging eyes spooked a lot of people. For most of us, howler monkeys were unseen creatures that woke us up at sunrise. They didn’t live near our house, but we could hear their calls which, in the distance, sounded breathy, breezy, whooshy.

 

The lakeshore hosted birthday parties, picnics, campouts, school parties, baptisms, and glittering Easter sunrise services.

 

It was a place of sunburns and mud fights

and rope swings, of squawking parrots

and chirping frogs and singing birds

and palm fronds clattering in the breeze

and symphonies played by countless insects.


The lakeshore would one day witness a murder, but it would also witness a wedding for a lovely bride and one of Lomalinda’s young men, all grown up.

 

Matt, Karen, Dave, and everyoneexcept for mecooled off in the lake despite the stingrays that lived there. Yes, stingrays. Big stingrays.

 

Before entering the water, swimmers slapped the lake’s surface with a board or tree branch to drive the critters away.

 

But if humans forgot and invaded their territory, those monsters defended themselves with their stingers—slashing a swimmer’s feet, leaving him writhing in pain while someone pulled out the venomous knife-like barb.

 

Deep, long gashes became infected quickly in Lomalinda’s heat and required a thorough cleaning, pain meds, and antibiotics. Sometimes patients had to fly to Bogotá for medical treatment. Recovery could take months, always painful and slow.

 

People admitted their fear of stingrays,

but they went swimming anyway.

 

I don’t understand it—

that’s just too much adventure for me—

but then again, you already know I'm a foot-dragger.

But a lot of people went swimming,

and they’re still alive to tell about it.

 

C’mon back next week for more adventure stories!



 

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