Catching Snakes and Chasing Your Dreams

Nick Palkowski Student Leadership Speaker

When I started college I went through majors like no bodies business. If major switching was a sport I would of had a full ride scholarship.

One of my majors was Wildlife Ecology. I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors and wildlife, still do.

One class I took was terrestrial vertebrates. Basically that covers anything that walks or crawls on land (land and spine).

On one early Saturday morning our class gathered for a field trip… to catch reptiles and amphibians.

That’s right we were going snake catching!

I was not sure how I felt about this. While I was never afraid of snakes, going out and snatching them up with my bare hands wasn’t on the top of my lifetime to-do list.

Now, before you freak out with images of college students dropping dead from snake bites, we spent months leading up to this learning about snakes. All the species found in Wisconsin, how to quickly ID the poisonous ones, and the area we were going is known to be home to two main varieties, the Hognose and the Blue Racer.

The Hognose is a constrictor (very slim chance they would bite) and the racer will strike but we were informed by our professor that it was like getting stuck by two large needles.

Off we went, 40 college students and a   running around in a slightly wooded area turning over rocks and logs in hopes that something will slither away.

It didn’t take long before I hit the jackpot. Rolling over a rotting log revealed one of the slow moving Hognose snakes.

The Hognose were easy to find and catch. The Blue Racer on the other hand are aptly named and required a group effort to corral.

These were the prized catches of the day. If you were able to get your hands on one you were considered a snake catcher.

Not only could they move but they were fast strikers and anyone who reached for them ended up with two fang shaped holes in their hand or arm.

It was a rush. By the end of the day these fang marks were seen as a badge of honor and over half the group had been bitten including me.

Chasing snakes was an incredibly fun experience. Even though we had to endure a few bites.

In my experience, that’s the way most worth while pursuits go. When you are trying to accomplish a dream you will get bitten. There will be obstacles, and challenges, setbacks and failures. Don’t shy away from them. When chasing your Blue Racer of a dream embrace the bites. View them as a necessary evil.

Make them your badge of honor.

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