On Friday 20 March 2020, FCC members Tony, Robin and Mick were paddling near Bellbird and they were lucky enough to meet one of the Yarra's slipperier bank dwellers. Various versions of the story have been presented - wondering which, if any, is closest to the truth?
This article appeared in this week’s journal of ‘Snake Tails’, a local rag for the Snake and Eel community of the Yarra River down from Dight’s Falls and beyond.
The article is by Samuel Brown Snake.
I’ve lived here by the beautiful Yarra River for many years and I’ve loved it. I have to say.
I also must tell you from the outset that it’s a far better life now than that of my ancestors who had to endure being eaten by the local Wurundjeri people on a regular basis. They were quite partial to some homegrown snake or eel. I do recall my grandfather telling me they did prefer eel however. Why they didn’t stick to eel then is beyond me. He told me they used to get very nervous when they heard a corrobboree starting up down by the riverbank.
However, to my story of the incident of the snake and the human in the vessel on the river.
I was lying by the river bank minding my own business enjoying some beautiful warm sunshine when I heard the hiss, hiss, russell, russell from across the river on the south bank. I knew this was my good mate Joe Blake, the red bellied black, asking me over for a little tipple of eucalyptus and berry juice which, I have to say I am quite partial to.
Anyway, because I can’t see too well, I took it that Joe was over there waiting for me. I figured I’d better make my way across pronto.
I started slowly slithering into the river and, after the initial shock of the bloody freezing water, I began to make some headway. As I did, I had a sense that something big was heading straight towards me even though I couldn’t quite make out what. It got closer and I saw it was one of those vessels that humans use to float along on top of the water.
What followed was what I can only describe as uncontrolled screaming from some panicking humans, the one in the closest vessel was particularly loud. I almost jumped out of my second skin!
This vessel was coming up close. I tried to maintain my poise and my direction, but the bloody thing seemed to be about to collide with me.
I dived under it and came out the other side gasping for breath. I needed a break. I thought I’ll flip myself up on this thing, this vessel and take a break. That’s exactly what I did.
Much mayhem ensued. Another vessel nearby had two other humans; they were yelling and flapping about with their sticks like there was no tomorrow. The human in the vessel had now totally tensed up and was watching me wide eyed. I didn’t know what the fuss was about. I was just taking a breather. I also noticed, with my keen sense of smell that a rather unpleasant odour was coming from this human and his lycra pants.
Well, the human in the vessel now decided to change direction and head towards the south bank which was exactly where I was headed. I was rapt. I enjoyed the ride. I would be there in no time now. I could make out a blurry vision of Joe on a rock in the sunshine enjoying the show. I’m sure he was having quite a laugh.
Next, as we neared the embankment at a much faster rate than I was comfortable with, I dived off the vessel and back into the freezing water and slithered up the embankment towards the rock where Joe was pouring the drinks.
Samuel Brown Snake
After a lot of effort, your editor found a suitable ‘translator’ to find and to interview Joe. Our translator's submission is below. Thanks Harry!
"I found Joe huddling under a log today trying to keep dry. After a bit of persuasion, from a reasonable distance, I elicited the following ...
"Ah ... ssssss .... I remember, Friday arvo 2 weeks ago, before all these sssssocial disssstancing rules came in, I went to visit my mate Ssssammy. Ssssammy lives across the river from me and it was a beaut afternoon, so I ssslithered into the water and started to swim across. Suddenly a huge white slippery thing appeared in the water. To make matters worse, there was a big blade that kept descending into the water next to me - felt like it was trying to chop me in half! What to do ? How to get away from the blade? The big white slippery thing: couldn't go under it, couldn't go around it ... had to go up and over it.
Hmmm now that I was away from the blade - things weren't so bad. Turned out that the big white slippery thing was not all white and slippery - the top was a sea of purple, yellow and black on top. It was nice and warm out of the water. Then I realised there was half a person sitting on the top as well! The top half of the person - no legs! Very odd. He looked pretty nervous.
So what to do? I looked at the half person. It looked back at me. It didn't look too dangerous. I realised that we were heading towards Ssssammy's joint so stayed on for the ride. The view was pretty good from up there - much better than being wet! Eventually we arrived over near Ssssammy's place so I said thanksss for the lift, sssslipped off and headed up the bank."
H. Potter, esq.
Mick Kane reports ...
Last Friday afternoon I went paddling with my good friends Robin and Tony. The weather was cool but not cold with bursts of sunshine through the overcast sky. As we approached Bellbird park we were paddling side by side with my boat closest to the left hand bank. The river is wider at this point so we were paddling about 10 metres from the bank.
Suddenly Robyn shouted SNAKE. I didn’t see it at first , and when I did I was a couple of metres away and on a direct collision course. I swerved to the right but all too late. The snake was already up against the boat, right where the paddle normally enters the water.
The next moment the snake disappeared. “Where has it gone? Under the boat most likely.” I looked to the right.......No snake. “Where is it? Where is it?”
There it is, still under the left hand side of the boat. The snake was trying to get around the boat but the momentum and drift was stopping it. A moment later the snake was closer to the front of the boat and still in the water. It now slithered up and .....................I assumed over and on its way,,,,,,,,,,,No, the snake liked the view from the front of the boat so it stopped there. It was beautifully balanced and not interested in getting back into the water.
The boat drifted on. I didn’t want to make any excessive movements to startle the snake although I did unzip my spray deck just in case it decided to come towards me and I needed to exit the boat.
During this time Robyn and Tony, who had circled back, were shouting encouragement (to me or to the snake..not to sure which). My boat had now drifted past the middle of the river towards the right hand bank. The snake happily balanced at the front, was recovered enough from the shock, to start looking around.
‘Any ideas’ I shouted. ‘Try getting closer to the bank’ Tony responded. Small strokes and the continued drift took us (me and the snake) closer to the right bank. Suddenly the snake decided ‘All good, I’m fine from here’ and off it went.
REGRETS: No Camera and no heart monitor.
POSITIVES: What a beautiful gift from nature. Impossible to orchestrate.
Tony Payne reports: "had a paddle on the river today with Mick Kane and Robin Curwen-Walker – keeping well apart as we went. Near Bellbird Park Robin spotted a snake coming across the river and yelled. Mick was the closest to the snake and initially didn’t see it but then found it up against his boat. He stopped paddling and we all kept looking for the snake to appear either at the front or back of his boat. But alas it decided to get more acquainted with Mick and slid up on to his front deck, about midway between the nose and cockpit. Of course in true Mick fashion he remained completely calm and kept asking the snake what it was going to do. From Robin's and my perspectives it looked quite relaxed on the deck of Mick’s boat – such a shame we didn’t have a camera. Anyway whilst Mick was chatting with the snake his boat drifted slowly toward the far bank, the snake said thanks for the ride and promptly slid off into the bushes."
What's the moral of this story ? Watch where you're paddling, but if a snake does hop on board, channel your inner Mick!