Star Found Dead in Local Aquarium
The Suburban & Wayne Times

Star Found Dead in Local Aquarium
© 1990 John Dallas Bowers


        April 17, 1990.  Star died tonight and I'm feeling pretty sad about it.  For most of his fifteen years, he lived a undemanding life in my office, observing my mood swings and waiting for his next meal.  It was while I was out buying his dinner, in fact, that he died.
        He was a long-term companion and I'm going to miss him.  It's hard to believe that Jennifer, our sophomore at Vanderbilt, was pre-nursery school when I brought him home.
        Most of the hundreds of children who met Star over the years were intrigued and fascinated by him.  Most of their parents were repelled and petrified.  It is, after all, the rare adult who is drawn to a snake, particularly one over six feet long.
        In his own modest way, Star was a first-rate ambassador for reptiles everywhere.  Eastern (or Black) Indigos are the largest and most docile snakes in North America, and in his long career of being passed from hand to hand and child to child, only once did he forget his manners.  The tiny pinpricks he left on the arm of that surprised young man made him an instant hero among his third grade peers.
        Learning to love snakes, much like learning to appreciate unusual foods, is a process best started young.  For me, it began with a caring uncle who took the time to introduce me to some of life's most interesting and diverse avocations:  fly fishing, skiing, mountain climbing, autopsies (that's another story), and small animals of all sorts.
        In my own (less diverse) way, I've tried to continue that tradition.  From Star's first day with us, I offered Jennifer's young friends their safest opportunity to discover for themselves the wonder of a creature about which most had heard only bad things.
        No, he's not slimy.  No, his darting tongue can't hurt you.  No, he won't bite you – unless, of course, you happen to smell like a rodent.
        I never tired of seeing kids warm up to Star.  With his restricted emotional range, he couldn't really return the affection.   But he certainly was patient, and through his tolerance, many an awkward youngster discovered that self-confidence can begin at any age...and in the most unusual ways.
        Basically, Star was a low maintenance, background pet.  Sometimes I'd go for a week or more and not pick him up.  But he was always there, a few feet away in his glass home, looking more peaceful than I often felt.
        It was during those times of mild stress that I'd go over, lift him out, and bring him back with me to the word processor.  He'd take a couple of turns around my neck, explore the keyboard for a minute, and then settle comfortably in my lap.
        That's where I wish he were tonight.  But he's not.  A little while ago, I took him out to a small clearing where Jennifer and her friends used to camp out, and placed him under a few shovels of soft earth.    There's no marker.  Memories are better tributes.  And right about now, those memories could be encouraging a young parent – one of Star's earliest converts – to teach his child the good things about snakes.
        Not a bad legacy, all in all.

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