Cat Tales - stories from my 8 lives

I feel I'm on life number 8 out my 9 cat lives. My eight lives started with my humble beginnings in Minnesota and continue to my current retirement. Here they are:

Number One -Life on the Farm

Number Two - College Days

Number Three - Working in Africa

Number Four-Failing in Business

Number Five - Grant maker

Number Six - Teacher

Number Seven - Teacher Mentor

Number Eight – Retired to the Thai jungle and bought an elephant

Number Nine – The Best Is Yet To Come!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Elephant Poo and Snakes Too

A true tale from the jungles of Northern Thailand.

      The jungles of Southeast Asia, I now call home, squirm with creepy, crawling, slithering, hair-raising, crazy, slinking, creatures, big, small and in-between-scary beasties all.  The elephant the exception.  They’re cool!  I own a ‘little’ five-year old, good-looking elephant so I’m prejudice.

      Unexpectedly one day, the creepy and elephants collided, a fascinating and menacing experience, all beginning with elephant poop.  So critical is elephant poop to this story a brief primer is required.

          Instead of a stomach elephants have a long intestine, which requires them to eat and poop continually, regularly.  A large 4-ton Asian elephants daily consumes 800 pounds of forage, 10% of their body weight.  What goes in must come out, 50% or 400 pounds of poop. Big problem if it doesn’t.

That’s where this tale begins.

         Early one morning word spread an elephant had not eaten or pooped during the night.  Not good but not too serious either given she continued to flap her ears and swish her tail.  A trip to the hospital wasn’t necessary but an enema was.

         The constipated elephant was walked to the camp’s jungle clinic and given the procedure.  Unsuccessful, the next step was more invasive.  Someone needed to push his arm up her butt and clear the blockage.  Another disappointment.  With two failures Joe, the elephant camp manager called off any further interventions for the morning.  Time to give the sad constipated elephant a rest. 

     I watched her.  She looked miserable as she tried to poop but nothing. Plugged. I wondered, was there anything I could do?

         Thunder interrupted my concern as dark clouds rolled in over the mountains, announcing a storm was approaching. I had a new problem; my house leaked requiring the windows be closed and the bed covered with plastic.  I raced to get home ahead of the storm.

        Quickly I waterproofed the house.  Ready to return to the elephant clinic, I saw part of the mattress was uncovered.  Grabbing the plastic I pulled it up toward the headboard.  An unusual movement caught my eye, stopping me instantly. A cold shiver ran down my spine.

        There under the headboard of my bed slithered a three-foot snake.  I blinked and it was gone. A million questions arose. Poisonous? Cobra? More?  I jumped back, uncertain.   Heart pounding and stick in hand, I slowly walked around the room.  No snake.  With only a bed in the room where could the snake be hiding? 

       Expanding my search I carefully looked in the clothes hamper, under the rugs and inside my tennis shoes.  No snake.  I circled the bed again. Near the headboard I noticed something, a small hole, big enough for a snake to slither into where the mattress met the wooden bed frame.  I was certain where the snake was, under my bed.  Unable to lift the mattress alone and knowing the mahouts were in the mountains with guests, there was only one person who would know what to do, Joe the camp manager.

      I called him.  Joe was at the clinic assisting the constipated elephant.  With no time to deal with snakes he advised me to wait, but for what?  The snake had to be captured before night or I’d be sleeping with a venomous reptile.  The thought was unsettling.  Distancing myself from the creature was my only option.

      I closed the front door and set off for the jungle infirmary.  Upon arrival I saw the elephant was eating and pooping, the evidence, one enormous green poo on the ground. Constipation cured it was time to battle a snake.

      Preeda, a camp guide roared up on his motorcycle, nodded for me to jump on and off we went.  Reaching my house it was obvious the news had traveled quickly.  Five mahouts stood ready to fight the monster. 

      Opening the massive teak doors I peaked inside.  All was quiet. No movement.  No snake. The mahouts, impatient, shoved past me into the house surveying the interior, silently planning their attack.
      Vigorously the mahout shook each of the 9-foot floor to ceiling drapes.  No snake.  My bed came next as the pillows and blankets were removed.  No snake.  The nooks and crannies of the headboard were checked but uninhabited.

      Coming up empty handed the mahout moved to other possible hiding places.  Methodically they pulled the clothing out of the hamper.  No snake.  The bathroom held zip. Using flashlights the mahout slowly checked every inch of the woven bamboo ceiling.  No holes, no snake.

      Finally the clothes in the wardrobe were checked, as were the boxes and suitcases. No snake.  Worried, I wondered where the snake could be.  Would we ever find it? 

      Dead end.  The mahouts were about to leave.  They’d found no snake.  In a state of near panic I remembered where I thought the snake might be.  With my limited Thai and elaborate hand gestures I pointed to the bed and the hole in the frame.  The mahout exchanged nervous glances before approaching the bed.

       Slowly they lifted the mattress off the bed’s wood frame to reveal a large sheet of plywood with just enough space beneath for a snake to hide.  Tension filled the air as carefully the plywood was lifted. No snake.
      Undeterred, a renewed search was launched.   The wardrobe was thoroughly checked again as were my suitcases.  No snake.  The floor to ceiling curtains shook enthusiastically.  No snake.  The pillows, blankets and woven bamboo ceiling came under intense scrutiny.  No snake.  The mahout scratched their heads looking for direction.

      Preeda’s eyes met mine. “Are you sure you saw a snake,” he asked?

      Had I seen a snake?  I re-played the scene in my mind. Yes. There’d been a snake slithering under the headboard, a long green and black one.  I knew it.  But the seed of doubt had been planted.  I wasn’t so sure. I’d seen a snake hadn’t I? 

      The mahout replaced the mattress and left laughing.  I was alone.  Where was the snake?  I didn’t know.  Could I ever sleep again in my house? I wasn’t sure. On the one hand I doubted the snake was anywhere inside, but worries lingered.  If a snake could freely slither in and out of my house, how could I ever feel safe?

      The mahouts’ prolonged search was evident as my house was a mess. Time to bring order.  Afraid I’d see the snake I worked fast. Nearly done I moved to straighten the bed. Standing next to the headboard I began tucking in the sheets.  An unexpected movement caught my eye and sent my heart racing. The snake, there, slithering under the headboard, ready to strike!

      I stared as the shadowy reptile coiled mere inches from my hand.  Terrified I stepped back.  The snake went wild, then vanished. I looked keenly at the area. Something was not right.  I wasn’t sure what, but then it came to me.

      “Could it be?” I asked myself.  “Was my own hand the culprit?  My hand and an overly active imagination?”

      To confirm this revelation I cautiously extended my hand over the area I’d seen the snake.  The shadowy reptile reappeared, slithering into place.  I looked at my hand.  I looked at the shadow.  I repeated the experiment.  Every time I moved my hand toward the bed the snake automatically reappeared.

      Mystery solved! There wasn’t a snake under my headboard.  There’d never been a snake.

      I was the snake! 

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