The smell of snakes in the basement just about knocked me over when we first walked downstairs. I was hit by an overpowering stench of musk, dead things and snake feces. The den of garter snakes grew over the winter, as snakes tended to congregate in the warmth of this particular basement. I bravely went down the steps into the basement and took a few pictures to post online, and wondered how on earth I was going to adequately describe the sites and smells that accosted me in that basement.
As a recent college grad with a degree in Communications, I was grateful to get a part-time job at our local radio station reporting the news. It wasn’t great, but it was a start, and I was willing to do whatever it took to make it into a full-time position that actually paid the bills. As it was, I worked part-time for the station, and held down two other part-time jobs as a waitress and at an office supply store. Student loans take a lot of work to pay off, especially in this economy. Even though the radio job paid the least, I was determined to stick it out in the hopes I would actually use my degree for something good.
As the radio station had a serious lack of funds, most of my stories were generated and fact-checked via the telephone or internet within my tiny cubicle at the station. One of my friends is a realtor who stumbled into what he thought was a good story, so he called me up, and I convinced my editor to let me go out to the site and get some good pictures as well as the story. If I could generate more traffic to the station’s web site with graphic pictures, we might generate more revenue, and I’d be a step closer to a full-time gig.
My friend was stuck with the unenviable task of selling this home that had snakes in the basement. As winter set in, the owners noticed more and more snakes in the house, and were horrified when they discovered an entire snake den in the basement. It was supposedly mostly garter snakes, but there was a possibility of one or two additional species down there. Not to mention the fact that garter snakes are one of the smelliest species, since they emit a musky odor and tend to have more watery and stinky feces.
The horrific pictures I took, as well as the graphic descriptions of the smell and sounds of a large den of snakes in the basement made for a wonderful on-line story, and my editor actually used it in the radio news broadcasts. That was three years ago, and people still look up that story! That was the beginning of many interesting news articles I wrote for the station, and thanks to those snakes in the basement, I have a full-time news job and was able to quit the restaurant and office supply store. I’m even up for the editor’s position once he leaves. It was worth it, even though I still have nightmares of that smelly, slithering, raspy mess. Hopefully I never have to experience that again.