The Python Trap

marinahouseBack in the early eighties,  I wanted to own waterfront property, but it always seemed far beyond our means.

After living for five years in our first house in Vancouver’s East end, Laara. my wife at the time, saw an ad in the paper. It read “Colonial classic. Ten bedrooms on 100 feet of water front. Gibsons Landing.” It was listed at an unbelievable price – one hundred and forty five thousand dollars.  On impulse, mostly driven by curiosity, we jumped in the car and headed for the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal.

“Colonial classic,” I said. “That’s real estate code for the plaster is falling off the lathe.”

Our timing was perfect. We made the ferry with minutes to spare. A week later we were the proud owners of Marina House. It was love at first sight.

It was a distress sale. The previous owners had been setting the place up as a bed and breakfast. They even had a brochure printed. But alcoholism and marital problems had destroyed that dream. They were unhappy. They wanted to move on.

The woman of the pair apologized for our immediate neighbors.   Apparently there was some conflict over their dog pooping on the beach in front of the house we were buying.   Horrible people, she said.   But she recommended the couples living in the new condominiums a few doors back toward the village. They were good people she said.

As we got settled in, and started to know people, we found that the condo dwellers were nice enough, but rather ordinary older middle class folk. Rather boring. The ‘horrible’ folk in the house beside us were much more our kind of people.   They were hippies. Tree planters. Artisans. Wood workers. Full of life, stories, and enthusiasm. I learned a lot from them about things like how to sharpen a chisel and what it took to be a highballer tree planter.

At the time I was working as a freelance film director, when I found work. Every once in a while I would get a gig, and fly away to Toronto to direct some television show or other. I’d get to fluff up my bank account and breathe easy for a month or two. My eldest son, Victor, was four years old. Much as I loved the work, and the money, it was always hard to leave. I liked being home with the family.

Shortly before I was scheduled to fly away for yet another episode of “Kung Fu, the Legend Continues”, I told my son a bed time story, a story my father had told me from his days of living in the Philippines. The natives there, he said, would build a cage out of bamboo with an opening on each side. They would put a piglet in this cage and stake it out in the jungle. Pretty soon the piglet would get hungry and restless and start to make a fuss. A python would hear this and come slithering through the jungle to the cage. (Here my father would move his hand like a python slithering and his voice would become dramatic.) The python would go through the opening on one side, swallow the piglet, and then try to go out the opening on the other side. But now he had a big lump in his tummy and he was stuck. The natives would come back and slide a long bamboo pole through the cage, tie the python to the pole every few feet, put the pole on their shoulders and walk out of the jungle with the python so they could sell it to a zoo.

So I passed this story on from my father to my son, tucked him in, and turned out his light.

The next day, while I was upstairs in my office getting my resume together, and getting my head together in preparation for yet another trip to Toronto, my son came up to see me. “I need to borrow your hatchet,” he said.

“Why do you want to borrow my hatchet?”
“I want to cut down some bamboo.”
“Why do you want to cut down some of mommy’s bamboo?”
“I want to make a python trap.”
“Okay. Well…you know, they use bamboo in tropical countries because that’s what they have to work with. But here the best thing to use would be cedar. So you can borrow my hatchet, but you should go down on the beach and find some cedar. We’ll make a python trap out of that.”

So off he went.

He returned half an hour later with a handful of cedar sticks, mere slivers really. I found some string and he held the cedar in place while I tied the corners and we made a very crude box shape from the cedar sticks. You know what’s coming next:

“I need a pig.”
“Well, Victor, pythons are not very smart. We can probably fool one. If you go to my drawers in my bedroom the top drawer has socks in it. Bring me one of my brown socks.”

We stuffed the sock with scrap paper and formed it into a very crude piglet shape, with bits of masking tape for eyes, nose and mouth. Then the pig went inside the python trap. I wrote a sign that said “Danger. Do not touch. Python trap.” and we took everything down to ground level and hung it in the patch of bamboo.

I flew off to Toronto the next day.

My first afternoon in Toronto I called home just to touch base. My wife put Victor on the line with the words, “Victor has something to tell you.”

With great and obvious delight, Victor enthused,  “I caught a python.”

That morning he had come out the door to find a python made from a pair of long wool stockings. In the python trap. With the piglet inside it.

This from the neighbors we had been warned about, the neighbors who were horrible people.

Is there a moral to this story? For me there is, and I’m sure I don’t have to state it for you. If somebody tries to pass on their ill will and bad feelings toward somebody else, take their opinion as just that, an opinion.

These were the same neighbors who planted Easter eggs all over our yard, each with a balloon attached so that children as young as ours wouldn’t have a problem finding them. These were neighbors we loved. We’ve moved on now and lost touch, but I still miss them.