Saturday, January 9, 2010

It's All in What You Know

This morning I had to run to town to pick up some packages at the post office. On the way back to Lexington Township I had the radio on, and I was listening with amusement to the banter between the disc jockey from Q106.5 and the meteorologist from WABI-TV.

The DJ was reading some survey results pertaining to which countries, world-wide, were the most desirable to live in. The United States had dropped from the number four spot it held in 2008, to seventh place in 2009. It was with some interest that I listened to the list of countries which were deemed to be better places than America in which to make one’s home.

France was number one. Australia came in second, and I felt a smile spread across my face. I have several very good friends who live Down Under, and so I know for a fact that that country is tops when it comes to the caliber of people who live there.

Of course JR, the DJ on my favorite radio station, couldn’t let that go. He’s a patriotic cuss, and so he tried his darnedest to come up with ways in which Australia must be inferior to the U.S. It was all in good fun. We Yanks are proud and stubborn, and not very good losers, either--because we rarely lose, of course! (See what I mean?)

It tickled me when he started going off on all the poisonous and dangerous animals that live in that vast continent in the southern hemisphere. He said, ‘Of the ten most poisonous snakes in the world, fifteen of them live in Australia!’

Hehehe. I thought that was kind of funny. And in fact, I have had ‘snake’ conversations with four of my Aussie friends. Although they admit to living in the same neighborhood as poisonous reptiles, not one of my chums seems to get worked up about it.

One friend came home from a grocery shopping trip to find a snake wrapped around the front door knob. What a conundrum! If my husband had been confronted by such a sight, he would have immediately put our home on the market and camped out at his mother’s until the house sold. But it didn’t faze my friend in Oz. He simply took off his shirt, wrapped it around the snake and removed him. Or her. After all, he couldn’t let the beer get warm as it sat in his car, now could he?

Another of my buddies talked about having seen a poisonous viper in his dooryard, and he matter-of-factly went about ‘snake-proofing’ his ranch. I’m not quite sure how one goes about ‘snake-proofing’, short of burning the place down, but it appeared no more of a chore to him than when I put banking around my foundation each fall.

Nope, having an abundance of deadly snakes, poisonous toads, lethal crocodiles and mosquitoes the size of F-15’s does not an undesirable country make. One of my friends in Australia is actually a Maine native, having grown up near Greenville. He’s lived Down Under for more than two decades, and just became a dual citizen. Larry owns property in the northern tropics, and he tells tales of crocs and snakes and sharks and bugs and vicious mammals. But he isn’t the least bit dramatic as he relates those tales. I suppose it’s akin to Mainers telling yarns about blizzards and ice storms, mud season and black fly season. It’s all in what you know.

Mr. Grumbles is afraid of snakes. He’s petrified of garter snakes, and cute little green snakes. He can run the 100 yard dash in 2.3 seconds flat if he sees a nest of six-inch-long baby snakes. He screams like a girl* if one slithers across in front of him when he’s walking outside.

He skirts the stone retaining wall on our upper lawn, simply because he knows that there are snakes living amongst those rocks.
But our snakes aren’t poisonous. Our snakes are usually quite complacent, and will allow you to pick them up if you are gentle. They won’t strike unless they feel threatened. And even if they do bite… their teeth are tiny! So tiny that they are almost invisible. Here in Maine, snakes are more often the prey than the predator. Unless you are an insect or a small toad or frog, you've got nothing to worry about.

Like I said, it’s all in what you know. My friend who grew up in these hills and chose Australia as his home despises the snow. Loves the heat and humidity. It was a good trade-off for him. Six months of bone-numbing cold and an occasional swarm of black flies ‘round his head every May in exchange for twelve months of warm weather and a plethora of poisonous fauna.

Mr. Grumbles, on the other hand, loves a good blizzard and never leaves home without full combat gear stowed in his rig; insulated coveralls, hats, mittens, gloves, extra boots and a blanket. He carries an ice scraper in his hammer holster. Wool socks in his glove box. Kitty litter in his trunk, along with a shovel and some flares. He’s got matches and lighters, chocolate bars and jack-knives. A cell phone. A CB. A walkie-talkie. And if none of those work, he’s got the matches to light the box of kitty litter afire, and the blanket to send up smoke signals. A blizzard, you say? No problem for Mr. Grumbles!!

But let a three foot long, non-poisonous snake tumble from the floor joist onto his head as he works in the cellar and watch that grown man run!
Listen to the wails and shrieks of panic. See how pale one dark-complexioned man can get; how badly his strong arms can shake; how discombobulated he can become! I didn’t even know he had a nicotine habit until I watched him pace back and forth outside as he tried to gather courage enough to come back into our snake-pit of a house; a cigarette in each hand and a stream of blue smoke coming from between his lips. And that was before he’d lit them!

No, my husband would not fare well in Australia. He’ll content himself with staying in the country that’s the seventh-best to live in. But Oz’s snakes wouldn’t bother me! Nuh-uh! I’m not afraid of them–no way, no how! I’d do just fine Down Under. The only thing I’m afraid of is spiders. And everybody knows, there aren’t any spiders in Australia.


* I, personaly, do not know of any girls who actually scream, and that comment was not intended as a slur to my gender. It is a turn of phrase, only.

The photo of the snake and the worm was taken by Josie-Earl Pease. All others, save the Aussie flag (which I found in a Google search) were taken by the author of GAG.

This is a photo of a fisher... a nasty critter we have here in Maine, and one you do NOT want to tangle with! See comments below for context.

Here is is, folks! A photo taken right here in Maine, by the Canadian border. The largest mammal in North America, and a perfect example of a bull in his prime. He was twice the size of the car, and folks were some tickled when he turned and walked in the opposite direction!

These are rare photos of a black bear sow and her quintuplets. Almost unheard of! The really grand thing? All five made it through their first, harsh New England winter. These pics were taken in neighboring New Hampshire, across Maine's western border. Pretty magnificent, hmmm?


  1. Wrong!!
    This girl screams.......but only at spiders (of which those of us Down Under have plenty - mostly of the large, hairy & fugly variety).
    Our Funnel Web spider may not be the largest of them but it is one of the most venomous in the world....
    Snakes are way less terrifying in comparison to this dozycow........

  2. Had a six foot red belly black cruise up past my very expensive ultra sonic solar powered snake repellers and slither along the veranda looking for a drink out of the dogs bowls.
    So really best protection here in Oz against snakes is to watch where you're walking. You get used to the bastards after a while.
    the very expensive ultra sonic solar powered snake repellers were sold to me by an American
    so you're maybe not no 7 in places to live but you've sure gotta be no 1 at the smartest salemen

  3. Hey Dozy! You mean, you DO have poisonous spiders??? Heh... yeah. Guess I'd heard that. I was just hoping it was a rumor so that I could relax when I stepped off the plane in Oz. I've heard it's too hot Down Under to walk around in full turn-out gear.

    Now.... haven't I seen you in a photo with a HUGE snake draped over your shoulders??? THAT is a pic that should have been in this blog posting! (MR. Grumbles would have nightmares for a month!)

    You and me, babe! Give us the snakes, any day! (Do they eat spiders???)

    And Ali g! Hehehe. We ARE pretty good salespeople, aren't we? Tell me, did he demonstrate its abilities to you? This ultra sonic super solar powered snake scarer? I'll bet he said the reason you couldn't hear it but the snake COULD was because it transmitted a frequency that was inaudible to humans, right? Hmmm?

    Ah, the oldest trick in the book, my friend.


    Personally, I think the salesman should spend the day in a room with Australia's fifteen most poisonous snakes and nothing but his nifty contraption! See how convincing he is about its effectiveness after THAT!!! (In my humble opinion, he deserves a good ass-kicking. You don't mess around when there are poisonous critters involved. Yep... lemme at him!)

    And watch where you walk, won't you?

  4. You wouldn't need the fifteen most poisonous snakes for the snake-repeller-oil salesman. The one that tops the list will do just nicely.

    It's the western taipan - otherwise known as the fierce snake - and it holds the dubious honour of being the most poisonous snake in the world. (Before everyone starts madly Googling, it's the most poisonous, not the deadliest, which many consider the cobra to be. This is due to the cobra being much more wideley distributed and thus coming into more frequent contact with Humans. The fierce snake only occupies a relatively small area of Western Queensland.) The venom produced in one bite from the fierce snake has the strength to kill 500,000 mice.

    But don't worry too much about our poisonous creatures, it's the ones that tear you to shreds you need to be concerned with.


    Live long and prosper

  5. Crikey've met my ex-wife too...?

  6. I wonder how many mice it would take to equal one seventy-two-inch tall Maine woman? I suppose it depends how many inches wide and deep that Maine woman is? (I'm not even going there, folks! Three dimentional math isn't all it's cracked up to be, anyway!)


    Now the tearing to shreds bit... I'll be back to address that after I get home from the dentist's office. (Now THERE is a species that is terrifying!)

  7. OK I'll bite...What are you doing in the dentists office at 6.30 in the morning?...

  8. Trev--the crackerjack of GAG! A most meritorious pun! 'Ok I'll bite...' You're such a whiz; you really are!

    But you've still got to get up pretty early in the morning to beat me! 'Round here, folks don't lay abed all day. And then there's the fact that I live in the sticks... the willi-wacks... the BOONDOGGLES of western Maine! We country girls need to get on the road before the sun creeps over Chandler in order to make it to our seven a.m. appointments with the tooth doctor. What a way to start the day!

    On the bright side, I sold two copies of Grumble Bluff while I was there. However, considering I wrote the dentist a check for $286.00 for a half-hour's worth of work, and they paid me $21.90 for... well, for my BOOK!!!... I'm feeling like I should have taken lessons from Ali g's specialized super solar-powered ultra-sonic sub-standard snake stopper salesman. If I had, maybe I would have managed to sell them two HARD COVERS, instead of soft! (Profit: $1.29 per copy, as opposed to $1.05!)

    Heh... Maybe I should leave the marketing to my publisher.

    Now, dentists aside, I've received a comment from Wallace, a native Mainer who lives in Waterville. (He must be shy... it came to my email instead of this blog.) Wally says there's NOTHING Down Under that can compare with Maine's black flies. Unless, he reports, it's a fisherman lathered in Old Woodsman bug dope.

    Ha! Beat that! (I told you we Yanks were competitive!)

    P.S. I just re-read this before submitting. You're going to give me some wise*** crack about 'Chandler', aren't you? It's a MOUNTAIN to my rear, you nimrod!


  9. Oh, for crying out loud. Look what I just did...

    I may not be very bright, but my teeth are wicked pretty this morning!



  10. I just pasted a photo of a fisher up above. Wally also reminded me of that nasty critter which makes its home in our back yard. Vicious creature. The only thing it's scared of is a fisherman wearing Old Woodsman bug dope...

    I wonder if the Aussies have anything that can compare to a fisher?


  11. Know what you're saying ducks, my rear's a bit of a mountain too. Chandlers a cute name for yours...I call mine Trevor's End.

  12. Compare? No comparison at all. Go to this link ( you can read all about the Tasmanian Devil.

    These guys are vicious.

    A mountain to the rear, huh? Reminds me of that song;

    "... I love to go a-wandering,
    along a mountain crack."

    Track! Track! I meant track!

  13. Okay, boys. You're ganging up on me.

    But I'd have no respect for you whatsoever if you didn't take advantage of that great opening I gave you.

    What a team! :o)>

    Okay, CP. You're reaching. The Tasmanian Devil lives off mainland Australia, on Tassie, right? I was sticking close to home when parading forth my fearsome fisher. But I shall play by your rules. I have a photo of one of the native animals from Hawai'i that will scare the shorts right off you. However, it is stored on my office computer and I can't post it until I go in to work tomorrow. In the meantime, please check out Mr. Moose. This photo was taken right here in Maine. And during the rut, boys?? This fellow is as dangerous as they come!

    Ha! (And don't forget to stay tuned tomorrow. I promise, you're in for the thrill of a lifetime!)

    P.S. I have a pair of jammie bottoms with the Tasmanian Devil on them. They are some of my favorites, and he doesn't look so bad. But I'll check out the link and post a pic if there are any good, vicious ones. Thanks.)

  14. Aw, guys (and gals)! I couldn't do it. Yesterday, when I was feeling sassy, I decided to post a picture of a really, REALLY over-large (and extremely, embarrassingly under-dressed) woman that someone emailed to my office computer. It is a truly horrifying picture, and I was going to be a smart-ass and post it as a 'native' species that could rival those terrors that inhabit Oz.

    But you know what? She is a human being. A really foolish one with no sense of what's proper or attractive, but a person, nonetheless. And I have spent a lifetime trying to teach people to be accepting of those who are different, or who don't fit our idea of what is acceptable, or 'cool' or good-looking. I'm not any beauty, myself. And I would be ugly on the INSIDE if I used this poor woman's lack of good judgement or taste to get a laugh.

    One of the themes in Grumble Bluff is 'bullying'. To my knowledge, I've never hurt someone in that way. And I'm not about to start, now.

    Instead, I'll post a picture of another of Maine's fearsome critters. Please check it out, up above. You won't be sorry!

    Oh, and Crooked Paw? I tried that Tasmanian dink, but it was blank except for the Tassie government logo half-way down it. You don't know me (do you?), but I am terribly incompetent when it comes to these things, so it very well could have been my fault. I would love to see a photo of a real Tasmanian Devil, though. Any suggestions regarding what I might have done wrong? (I'll describe the complicated steps I took: I moved my mouse until the cursor hovered over the link. I clicked on the link. I clipped my nails, wrote a letter, folded a load of laundry, and then watched as the web page FINALLY appeared on my screen [dial-up, my friend]. Them I looked at the logo and read the caption underneath. Tah-dah!)

    Any suggestions would be welcome (although the outcome might be the same. I really am a DUD with these things!)

  15. My friend Karen R. gave me two chilling examples of things we have in Maine which are sure to rival the frightful inhabitants of wild Australia.

    One is ladybugs. (Shudder!)

    And the other is spruce gum. You haven't lived (and thought you were dying) until you've tried a wad of spruce gum!

    No wonder America came in seventh... it boggles the mind, how we Mainers even manage to survive these environs!