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Archive for December, 2009

Python Ban

December 19th, 2009

I oppose S.373, the so-called “Python Ban” as it is ill conceived, politically contrived, and based on the shakiest of “science”. A better word would be “baloney.” Not to mention, it could functionally legislate me out of existence.

Here’s a copy of the letter I wrote to my two Senators.

December 17, 2009
Dear Senator Cornyn,
Dear Senator Hutchison,

Please oppose S. 373 aka ‘The Python Ban’. It would bypass the accepted USFWS process for amending the Lacey Act and legislatively add 9 species of boas and pythons to the Injurious Wildlife list. If passed as written it would threaten a viable US industry producing high quality captive bred reptiles for hobbyists, research, zoos, TV & film, museums, schools, scouting organizations and the fashion industry. Senator Hutchison, we’ve met and you’ve seen my show at a kid’s party in Dallas.

The USGS report being used as justification for these draconian measures has been characterized by independent scientists as “unscientific” and “not suitable as the basis for legislative or regulatory policies”. I appreciate the difficulties Burmese Pythons may pose to South Florida, but it is a problem that is endemic ONLY to South Florida and should be dealt with at the state level. S. 373 encompasses far more than Burmese pythons, including animals that couldn’t hurt a human if they tried (and almost never do) and with proper husbandry and handling, Burmese pythons can be among nature’s most compelling and effective ambassadors. Released anywhere but South Florida, there is nowhere in the US where they could survive a single winter.

S. 373 will hurt my family and my business. It does not address the underlying problems proponents claim. S. 373 makes no provisions for the disposition of over 2 million snakes already in captivity in the US. It will create a situation where thousands of Americans are in possession of “Injurious Wildlife” and subject to felony prosecution under the Lacey Act. This bill will be bad for our state, bad for jobs, and sets a terrible precedent by legislating science for the sake of political expedience. Please oppose S. 373. Thank You for your time and consideration.

Daryl Sprout

Will this help? Does my voice mean anything here? I dunno. I called both offices and offered to meet with them in person, which of course a secretary jotted down and said would pass along.

Can I do my show without pythons? Yes, but it will lose several facets of what makes it great. Besides, I have the best, most patient animals in the business for my little niche. What would become of them?

More catching up

December 18th, 2009

Ok, I’m typing again. The best thing about spacing, facing and tweeting is that it forces me to write, which I’ve always thought something should be doing.
June is the end of snake mating season so that traffic slows down a bit on the Snake Removal front, but then in August all the little babies begin to hatch (or gravid females of some species will give live birth) so Aug-Nov is the busiest time of the year for that.

It’s also the busiest time of the Snake Encounter year, with libraries, parties, fairs and festivals – and usually a museum here or there being among the possibilities. Libraries in particular have their Summer reading programs, and since I’m willing to travel farther than most, you never know what far flung Texas town I’ll be in next. Generally speaking, my library shows are usually rather significant violations of the fire code (room capacity) but Fire Marshals, men who aren’t afraid of burning buildings, are rarely as calm about snakes. Don’t think I’ve ever had one in my audience.

In late August I boarded the Carnival Conquest for a trip to Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. A buddy of mine (I was best man at his wedding) in Houston had a marriage that lasted less than two years, so I went along in her place (with her blessing) on what was supposed to be their 2nd Anniversary cruise. All in all it was amazing, and I befriended and hung out with a group of closeup magicians that were on board. Usually they only have one, but the other three were going from there to other ships the following week.

I also met the ship’s acupuncturist, who did a great workshop on intro to Chi Gong, and I had a session with him later. Pretty cool.

The timing was a challenge, being gone for a week during peak season, and cell time (and internet time) at sea both cost a fortune, but it was a worthy experience. In Cozumel we took an excursion and I swam with stingrays, and one big female was thrashing around when any of our group tried to hold her for a photo op (including the guides that knew her) but I gave her Reiki and she promptly went to sleep in my arms. She didn’t move a muscle for several minutes until I gently let her swim away, which she did VERY slowly as if in a trance. The guides were freaking out.

In Grand Cayman we snorkeled the wreck of the Cali, a ship that was a sailing vessel and later an engine driven ship, later unwisely converted to Diesel. This stressed the boat so bad during a full power attempt to beach her to escape an oncoming hurricane, that the seams began to give way and let water into her holds – which were filled with a huge shipment of rice. The rice met the water and expanded – making the Cali the only seagoing vessel ever sunk by rice. The port authority later declared it a hazard and ordered it destroyed, but the military types who brought the explosives got it wrong by a decimal point, and blew her to smithereens. It blew out almost every window facing the port, and impaled her mast deep in the ground quite a ways onshore. Very interesting wreck to explore, and the sea life there is gorgeous.

All in all the Snake Removal season continued a decline that has pretty much mirrored the economic news, with more and more people deciding that if it costs money to fix, maybe that snake problem isn’t so bad after all, or being duped into cheaper alternatives like snake repellents, which do not work – but have a powerful placebo effect. You rarely see a snake in the same place twice anyway (from his point of view, you’re HUGE) so you put out a smelly powder and don’t see him there again – and you think it worked. Usually, your footsteps (he can feel them through the ground) are what drove him off instead – if indeed he was even still around when you did it.

Meanwhile, some members of our government are trying to legislate people like me out of existence, proposing a ban on what is apparently a growing list of constrictors that would make it illegal for me to transport my animals to many of the places where I do my shows. The day may come when I’ll have to decide upon a venue to work for and put down roots. That’ll be sad for a lot of clients who have booked me year after year because, they say, I’m their most requested performer. I’ll create an alternative show with more magic, more stories, more media and fewer snakes, but some cities are so clueless about all of this that bans on “all constrictor snakes” are being considered or even enacted. The smallest baby corn snakes that couldn’t constrict your pinkie hard enough to turn it pink – are constrictors.

October I was performing almost every Friday and Saturday night at Screams, the Halloween park in Waxahachie on the grounds of the Scarborough Faire Renaissance Festival. I was the new kid on the block and was strictly busking, but the response was good enough that I expect bigger things for next year.

November is birthday month for Julie, my son Daryl, Julie’s dad, several of my friends – and me.

And December, my usual slowest month, did at least have Discovery Science Place the first weekend. There’s a day camp show in late Dec, and I did walkaround at a couple of parties. At least, for now, everyone is still eating.

October and other hot topics.

December 10th, 2009

Dear me. Four months without a post? Scandalous. Lots of catching up to do, so I’ll start with a few smaller items and we’ll see where it goes.

Wow. What a ride October was. Screams is the world’s largest Halloween theme park, and General Manager Coy Sevier contacted me about a building they had made into a mostly enclosed restaurant, which he proposed could have a stage and heating so a Snake Encounters show would be possible on October nights. I had been invited before, but the temps were just too cold to do outdoor shows that time of year. I would be an experimental new idea for the park, so I could either charge a separate admission, or I’d be busking. I chose the latter for several reasons, and I have to say that it was a learning experience all around.

With four propane heaters provided by the park, and one by me, I barely managed to keep everyone up to temp on a couple of those nights. Part of the problem was the building’s roof was designed to let heat OUT during the summer, and closing off all of the upper level vents will be critical to doing this next year. Crowds were generally packed and responses were favorable, but passing the hat in a time of economic downturn is harder than it looks. My son Daryl and his girlfriend Dani helped with that most shows, and now they’ll have a real conversation starter listed on their resumes.

Of course, being booked for every Friday and Saturday evening in October meant I had to turn down a lot of Halloween parties so it literally cost me to do the gig in some ways. The only break in the action was the Grayson County Fair in Denison, which had been booked before Screams approached me. That was another set of complicated variables. Cold rain and swampy parking areas made doing that one a big challenge, but overall our efforts were successful and they want me back next year for a third visit.

Throw in a Scout show or two and you’ve got a reasonably busy month.

Snake Removal continued to struggle with more and more people with a snake problem in a time of economic stress deciding that perhaps the problem wasn’t so high priority after all. In ways other than financial, in some cases at least, that is a good thing.

I did get a SR call to go on in November – all because the client had hired a “competitor” instead. This guy had charged by the hour for wading the pond on the site of a large housing development. It was choked with Hydrilla so wading it would have been highly problematic, and any snake would have had a huge advantage over anyone trying to do it. No one saw him wade the pond, but he reported shooting SEVEN Water Moccasins, who were literally attacking him according to his verbal-only report. No carcasses, no photographs, no evidence whatsoever. He told several homeowners there that his diagnosis was that the entire property was infested with deadly Water Moccasins. He then quoted the client $22K to “treat” every house there with Snake Away.

Snake Away is a combination of mothballs and sulfur, neither of which is effective in repelling snakes unless applied so heavily that it would repel all of the humans. No “snake repellent” has ever been proven effective in actually altering snake traffic. And they chose this guy because his price for the inspection was cheaper.

I saw a picture of the only snake that had been seen (and of course subsequently killed) by ANY of the homeowners, and it was, without the slightest question, a harmless yearling Texas Rat snake.

I grieve to think how many other clients in the Metroplex might have actually paid this guy, an independent pest control operator who, “also does snakes,” which almost always means either doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or does but lies and plays on people’s fears to ramp up the price.