Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Super Bowl party great, kids loved the python

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I am having a hard time catching my breath today, because Super Bowl XLVII was easily one of the most exciting football games in the history of Roman numerals.

Like all you other hard-core pro football fanatics, I am not in the least surprised the big game was won by the (Note to editors: Please insert the name of the winning team here because I am writing this column about six hours before kickoff. Thank you.)

As I do almost every year, I watched the Holy Grail of professional football at the home of my buddies Kevin and Charlene, surrounded by snack foods and all our closest friends, with the exception of one couple who were not able to make it because they could not find a last-minute babysitter for their kids.

"It's too bad they don't own a giant Burmese python" is what I told everyone else as I gnawed on several pounds of chicken wings and waited for the game to begin.

Surprisingly, none of the other football fans at the party understood what I was talking about. This is because, unlike me, they do not pay close attention to the important news stories of the day.

But I am sure the rest of you read that fascinating online news report over the weekend concerning the family in China that has found a reliable babysitter for their 13-year-old son -- a 4.5-metre giant python.

For those of you who are not familiar with this magnificent creature, it is a slimy carnivore with cold, lifeless eyes that slithers around and eats just about anything in its path. So they are a lot like teenagers, but that is not the point.

The point is, according to this story, pythons make darn good babysitters. Which is nice to know. I am reasonably confident that, like me, most modern parents have, at least once in their parenting careers, considered turning over the care of their beloved offspring to a carnivorous reptile the size of a recreational vehicle.

Fortunately, that rarely happens in our neck of the woods, because (a) even when they are loud, unruly and working our very last (bad word) nerve, we still love our children more than life itself; and (b) pythons can't survive at -30 C.

Getting back to the family in China, however: The news report states a fellow named Chan Liu brought home a python egg, hatched the snake, then six years later decided to have a child, a baby boy named Azhe Liu.

According to the story, instead of being terrified of the massive snake, little Azhe would often cuddle up to the cold-blooded, 99-kilogram reptile and (why not?) find comfort on its cooling coils on hot summer days.

In time, the story explains, the family began to treat the giant snake like a trusted nanny and left their little bundle of joy in its care when they went out shopping or whatever.

Here's how dad Chan Liu justified their babysitting decision: "After a while, we were certain the snake wouldn't hurt him and we began to leave them alone together. They really are inseparable."

I'm not an expert in Burmese pythons, but I don't find this hard to swallow.

This is because I have some experience with constricting babysitters.

When I was a child, my parents left my siblings and me in the care of a woman we lovingly called Mrs. Ugly Old Bat, a scaly caregiver who, and you will find this hard to believe, buttered BOTH sides of the bread when she made us sandwiches. Against all odds, we managed to survive.

Still, I understand that for most modern, nurturing parents, the concept of a carnivorous snake as a babysitter does raise some troubling questions, such as: How much do you tip a python?

The answer: Whatever it wants!

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 4, 2013 A2

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