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The gruesome way of making a living

 article about types of snakes
If you are willing to buy my herbs, here you take it. It is going to
help you treat all sorts of ailments, including snakebites from my
snakes here. Please take the opportunity now because soon I will go
away and you will regret...

These were words of a daring
young man who, in a local language (Luganda), announcing the power of
his herbs as he played around with live healthy snakes in a bid for big
sales. The bouncy, shabbily dressed youth shouted about his business as
many enthusiastic young and old looked in awe at him and considered his
own game.

This seeming young man, carrying about 4 healthy
looking cobra snakes and a baby one in his pockets, sells local herbs
that he believes help treat several ailments. Thank God he made no
mention of HIV/AIDS.

These were seriously big snakes weighing
about 16 Kg, 4metres long with a thickness of 10 cms. Believe it or
not, my eyes did not see those snakes on him, at least not at first.

In any natural circumstances one would faint at the sight of this snake
game. I did not get the chance or the courage to ask his name, as the
sight of these dangerous animals motivated me to keep a considrable

Just like any other onlooker, I was keen on seeing
what this man was showing us (meaning myself, an American on a
fellowship at a local newspaper, and a young lady beside me, not
forgetting an 8 year old girl who had probably had leave from school. I
only realized she was around after she continuously kept making noise
in an exclamation of what she was seeing).

If you have ever
seen a snake and would dare stand close to it, then the one you would
see would perhaps be a rubber snake or at most one that you would have
bred right after hatching the egg from the warmth of your blanket.

Well this particular snake looked innocent as it coiled itself around
the young man's neck but looked so aggressive every time the young man
tried to put it on the ground. The snake gave the impression that it
would go for any soul around, and you could tell how all of us,
including John and Mary, would take off at a mere thought that the
thing would attempt to put its head on the ground. What beat my
understanding was how this man could easily go about his game, and how
he has lived with these reptiles.

I know that these are common.
Yes, you and I have gone to the circus shows and have seen a gloriously
glaring muscular man jump on a lion or leopard, with comfort, moving
around for all of us to watch. Why not believe this, I side with you
that it can duly happen.

Back in our school days, we used
to have these magicians come to our school and do all sorts of amazing
things. I guess thats why they called them "magic shows." One gentleman
did turn cow dung into bread, then made sweets out of it. Later, pins
that he swallowed reproduced hankies. I mean these were damn amazing.

Slightly easier was this one who could walk on a long string with a
width of 2 mms and ride a bicycle backward. This was a heroic stuff to
do and at least every one tried it out at the end of the day, but of
course not this one who eats feces and pins to produce hankies and
sweets. This was definitely too far, let alone those who knifed
themselves or put spears through their abdomens, pulling them out as
the wounds heal in the wink of an eye.

This man was one of the
many witch doctors about that I heard had been traveling around the
country, promising to do every miracle for those who would seek their
treatment. There are those witch doctors who have said to have been
involved in beheading young children, killing, and removing private
body parts of people - all in the name of getting wealth. There are
also those who are poor and help married or cohabiting partners,
especially the women, gain favor with their husbands and boyfriends who
would otherwise stray to other women.

This man was different
from all the rest of the witch doctors because he concentrated on his
stuff here and lived with his family of cobras, which he insistently
said were very expensive to maintain. Were they really? Well, they may
have been because these things loved their master so much from the way
they fought in their tattered trunk until pulled out and displayed.

'Mr. Snakeman,' as I shall call him, unsuccessfully tried to woo some
customers to his wonder working herbs. These herbs were not that
expensive, but as I looked at the others around me, I realized those
people could barely afford any of even the cheapest herbs.

These were people who, as a matter of fact, were actually walking home
after toiling on a sunny day in and around the city, and as a normal
routine would retire without much to spend apart from that saved for
buying gas to light up the house and something for the kids at home.
Something I am sure 'Mr. Snakeman' was looking for as well, but in a
smarter way.

It was a pity for me to see both 'Mr. Snakeman'
and these people, who were all looking at each other for consolations
or entertainment. Yes, believe me, 'Mr. Snakeman' was happy that his
skills were being appreciated and was in need of money as well. The
people were excited at what they saw and willing to forget their own
disappointments for a while.

I cannot tell what my colleagues,
especially my friend from the States, felt, but I was beaten off and
could still not tell what magic 'Mr. Snakeman' had. This was my first
time seeing all this; the last time I saw a snake was when it had been
crushed by a car in the night and had already been frozen in the
morning when I got to it. Seeing a live one crawling around freely, and
above all on a human being who is supposed to be its enemy, was quite
different. I dont hate animals. I know animal activists would hang me
if they were to hear me use the "hate" word in reference to animals,
but for Christ's sake, this was too much for ordinary imagination to
conceive. It was utterly amazing!

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