The Greenwood Cemetery, a 15 minute walk from HSU | Photo by Dobby Morse

Obituary Of A Snake

Goodbye, Cruel World
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Goodbye, Cruel World

I found you dead this morning. You had a tragic and undignified death. I only hope you were dead, or at least unconscious before being caught in a tire wheel and thrown back onto the road.

I do not know if you had a name, or even if snakes understand the concept of names. I hope it’s alright if I call you Billy.

From what the internet tells me, you were either a Northwestern garter snake or a red-sided garter snake. You had bold yellow stripes running down your tail/body/spine, and big, dead eyes that were empty of the spark of life that was so cruelly taken from you. You were a bit over 6 inches, not a big snake but you were not tiny.

What were your accomplishments? We may never know. Did you eat a lot of slugs, or did you have a preference for amphibians? What was your favorite food, Billy? Did you prefer to coil and strike in defense, or slip into the creek?

As I was staring into the eye sockets of my skeleton bobblehead, I was reminded that death can be a beautiful thing. Death is a transition into a new life. Mourning is a time to remember who you were, and who you can be in your next life.

You lived and died in a college, arguably a modern-day Acropolis, much like your ancestor, the sacred snake of Athens. The sacred snake stood guard in Athena’s temple, receiving gifts of honey cakes until they sensed the Persians coming and fled as a warning.

Are you warning us of something, Billy? That cars will be the death of us all, most certainly by climate change, but also by the crushing wheel of modern society?

I resolve to make you mean something. Your life was meaningful, perhaps not by human standards. But as a snake, it was your job to consume plant-eating creatures, thus protecting the small plants that make Humboldt beautiful.

The humans will laugh at my grief. You were a snake, and a large percentage of them feared you without cause. Though your bite was inconvenient at best, you were small, so small that I doubt you were fully grown. I grieve not only for the death of a wild animal but a newly-hatched one.

You were not a bird, a rabbit, or a deer. You were not what is commonly considered “cute.” Yet, a live snake is exciting. How fast you used to move, how slick you must have felt! That power is gone now.

Seeing you struck me with the irrelevance of human society. Why do humans drive cars, except for human reasons? Birds fly, rabbits hop, and snakes slither. That’s all the transport you need. Humans can’t make enough money unless they move beyond the capacity of legs. Money doesn’t make sense to anyone who isn’t human!

Billy, I hope you find peace. But I know you most likely won’t. Cars may become completely electric, but the system that makes driving a daily occurrence continues.

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