The Essence of Life

The Essence of Life

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Monsters Still Exist

My parents and me with sucuri skin
Fazenda Taboa is the farm that I was raised in Brazil, and Córrego do Rosário is the stream that runs through it, and both are known to produce little monsters, in the shape of Eunects notaeus or Eunects murinus, better known as anaconda or sucuri.
My grandmother used to tell stories about babies or small children that disappeared when their mothers took them to do laundry on the Córrego do Rosário banks (probably before World War II).
In the 1960’s a couple of reasonable sized sucuris were shot on the farm, and their photos are very impressive.
Then, one weekend day, during the Brazilian winter of 1980 (I had to ask my mother for the year and Brazilian winters are from June to August) I finally saw, live and on color, the largest snake I ever came across. We were in our way to a polo game (something I was never particularly fond of) at the Fazenda São Judas, and since we had to drive by our farm to get there we stopped at it so my father could take care of some business. As we were about to leave, the group of people that was coming to fish just downstream from our old powerhouse started calling for help because of this huge snake that was laying on the grass.
My father and others ran down to the stream and saw the very big sucuri. My father asked the others to help him capture the snake because he wanted to send it to a zoo due to its enormous size, and five or six men quickly joined him in trying to pull that snake away from the river, but the sucuri had a different opinion and did not quite agree to my father’s noble goals.
By the time they could get a hold of the serpent, it had its head and part of it body in the water and “had a hold” of something, and no matter how hard the men tried they could not move that snake a single inch.
Now, a sucuri is a very powerful animal, a non-poisonous snake that feeds on alligators and mammals as large as deer and capybara (or calves and pigs if they are handy) and that kills their prey by constriction. The sucuri after securing the prey with its jaws wraps itself around the animal and literally squeezes it to death. If nothing else the result is a reptile with muscles that would cause envy to a bodybuilder.
Another characteristic of snakes is that the skin is cold and smooth and when in a humid environment feels like it is lubricated. Without any place to grip, fighting that snake must be like trying to pull on an oiled crowbar.
Since after much pulling and stretching no progress was being achieved, my father decided to try to grab the serpent by its head and untangle it from whatever underwater hook it was holding to.  Because of the steep river bank, he had to come to his knees and support his body with his left arm while he moved the right hand along the snake’s body searching for its neck (or what would be a neck on a snake). Just as he was doing this, the head of the sucuri came out of the water and it grabbed my father’s left hand.
Mr. Candinho, a long time farm employee and one of my father’s hunting partner, was standing guard from the beginning of the fight and as the sucuri grabbed my father’s hand he shoved the barrel of the 12 gauge shotgun against the snake and fired and as it did not let go he reloaded and fired again, this time almost separating the serpent’s head from its body.
The picture above shows my parents and me with the nearly seven meter long (21 feet) sucuri’s skin. Unhappily the tanning process and three decades or so did not preserve the beautiful contrasting black, brown and green colors or the elasticity of the scales but it is still possible to admire it and image the power of the largest snake in the American continent and one of the largest in the world.
My mother called today and told me that a sucuri of about the same size was spotted this week at Fazenda Taboa. Maybe the world is not such a dull place, and there is still place for adventures and monsters in it.

2 comments:

  1. I can affirm the history is true because I touched this skin at Rodrigo´s house in Brasil
    Eloir Mário from Brasil

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