Granger audience awed by slithery lessons

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The Reptile Man supervises the lift being given his albino boa by seven brave volunteers at yesterday's show in Granger.

GRANGER - The Reptile Man took it easy on his Granger audience yesterday, easing them into the world of scales and slime with an introduction to a bullfrog, while exotic not too terribly terrifying.

Scott Petersen, who has a serpentarium in Monroe, was scheduled to show a collection of reptiles at the Granger Library, but the number of people turning out in droves forced the performance into Roosevelt Elementary School, where every bleacher seat was filled for the 1 o'clock afternoon show.

While the bullfrog was the opening act, a not-so-gentle, soft shell turtle, who, said Petersen, protects that soft shell by biting and scratching, awed the crowd by snapping a roll of paper towels out of the hand of a brave volunteer about 9 years old.

A tortoise from the African desert was a passive, but knobby creature (see inset), that walked around the gymnasium after the show so it could be petted.

Favorites of the kids were what Petersen called "the smartest reptile on earth", an alligator with "big cat eyes that see in the dark" and an Asian lizard that swung by his tail like a monkey.

"That lizard is the only reptile with a family," Petersen informed the crowd.

The goal of The Reptile Man's trip to the Yakima Valley, where he visited three other libraries in addition to Granger's, was to share his lifelong experiences "with some of the world's most misunderstood creatures and give audiences a chance to meet those creatures face to face".

Some of the faces that looked Petersen's rattlesnake and a spitting cobra in the eye appeared to be a little pale, but Mateo Gonzalez, just a tadpole among the big kids in the stands, stepped right up to have a boa constrictor wrapped around him.

Without any evidence of fear, the youngster paraded up and down to show how the snake wasn't, according to Petersen, "squeezing him to death, but is just holding on because she's afraid of falling down".

That faith in Petersen's assurance that these reptiles wouldn't hurt them was also displayed by seven brave souls, who lined up to hold an albino boa, which was a lovely, satiny, pale yellow.

It took all seven to hold the outstretched reptile and only one young lady fell out of line, and then not until the snake twisted around to cast a curious look and a darting, forked tongue in her direction. A little too close, perhaps, for her comfort level.

All in all, the packed house enjoyed The Reptile Man and his critters, and many were promising to use the free passes to the Monroe serpentarium he extended to every family at the end of the show.

For more information, visit The Reptile Man's web site at www.reptileman.com.



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