The article on page 6 in the Jan. 19 issue, Snakes on a Plane, got my attention. I don’t know of anybody who’d ever want to be in a cockpit with a snake — but me.
During World War II, prior to going overseas to the ETO, I was flying P-39s during Texas Maneuvers. Somehow (I don’t remember the details after 63 years) I came up with a 3-foot King snake as a pet. I kept the snake in one of the parachute bins when I wasn’t playing with him. He loved to curl around my arm under my A-2 jackets with just his head peeking out. And, as young kids do, I would come up to a buddy, place my arm across his neck and watch the panic when the snake would start to move.
One day I decided to take the snake on a flight. I put him up on the gunsight, which he adapted to readily. He just curled up and appeared to go to sleep in the warmth of the sun coming though the bulletproof windscreen. No matter what I did during the flight, he just kept that position — even during some high G stuff. After that day, he was my co-pilot.
Two mistakes ensued. One, I took him home to show my wife my new pet. Super bad move. You’ve never seen a pregnant woman move that fast down a flight of stairs and out the door. Secondly, I let a new pilot play with him one day and he did the arm over the shoulder routine. However, he picked an old M/Sgt line chief, born and raised in Texas, which was the wrong thing to do. The old Sarge just reached back, grabbed the snake and did a bull whip snap — end of snake and end of me flying with a snake in the cockpit.
I’ve often wondered about Roscoe Turner flying with that lion pet of his back in the ’30s. It takes up a lot more space than a snake — and I’m not sure they sleep during flight.