Two recent close encounters with snakes at my home (though luckily not in my home) gave me the idea that it was time for some natural history in the Southern History Book of the Month selections. Now available in a new 30th Anniversary edition, Their Blood Runs Cold is a lively look at the world of reptiles and amphibians: frogs and toads, lizards, turtles, salamanders, alligators, and—of course—snakes, which tend to evoke stronger emotions in us than any other member of the reptile family. Gibbons is obviously fascinated with them and though he certainly encourages a healthy respect for snakes, he tries to discourage the response of dread and horror by recounting the way his own feelings about them developed:
The first snake I can remember was a green snake that lay outstretched on the largest limb of a redbud tree in Alabama. We smashed it many times. To death. Making sure. Taking no chances.Gibbons’ engaging chapter titles kept me turning page after page to learn about “How to Catch an Alligator in One Uneasy Lesson” or how “Turtles May Be Slow but They’re 200 Million Years Ahead of Us.” Of course, even readers who have no qualms about snakes may find themselves swallowing hard when Gibbons faces down a size extra-large bushmaster, one of the most dangerous venomous snakes on the planet. And when it comes to crawling around in blackberry thickets or along swampy river banks in search of mud turtles, frogs, toads, and cottonmouth moccasins, I am decidedly deaf to the call of the wild. But it’s fun to read about from the comfort of an armchair and may cause you to rethink some of your attitudes about all things not so warm and fuzzy.
I don’t really think I cried that night, but I do remember that I didn’t feel right afterward. I distinctly remember that at five years old I did not feel good about killing my first snake.
For more on Whit Gibbons and the world of reptiles and amphibians:
“Creepy Crawlers to Voracious Beasts: Their Blood Runs Cold”
Amphibian vs. Reptile
Crazy Colored Reptiles and Amphibians on Pinterest
Don’t forget that it’s summer reading time at your library! Check the events calendar for programs like Backyard Heroes and Zoo to You—great ways to get a closer look at the animal world!
Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department