Face to Face with the Serpent
by Pr George Porter
Face to Face with the Serpent
I was born and lived in Melbourne from 1939 to March 1946. After leaving the Army my Dad decided to take our family bush to get away from the "evil" influences of the big bad city. In the Church paper he read an advert inviting families to move to the land in the Tweed district of northern NSW. Old man Brinsmead was inviting families to come and develop the land. Growing bananas and small crops was the in thing for returned soldiers.
There was great excitement as all the preparation for moving took place. Mother was quite apprehensive as was dad's mother and older sister auntie Florence. The day came when we all set off for the interstate rail station in Melbourne, to board our train for Albury, Sydney and beyond to Murwillumbah. Auntie and Grandma were at the station to bid us farewell. I remember the huge box of sandwiches that they presented to us for our evening meal on the train. Not forgetting the large box of cupcakes.
After changing trains at Albury we settled down for the overnight restless sleep on our way to Sydney. My brother Robert and I particularly remember the day in Sydney as we were taken to view the famous harbour bridge. Around 8 p.m. we were on the train bound for Murwillumbah via Casino and Lismore. We boys spent the entire trip watching for all the different types of steam engines and the passenger cars and freight trucks they hauled.
Finally we arrived at the South Murwillumbah rail station at the end of the NSW line. We were met by Noel and Lawrence Brinsmead and their ex-army blitz wagon. They took us 16 miles out to Upper Numinbah where they lived on a farm immediately under the McPherson ranges which towered over us to the height of 3,000 plus feet. We were given a little old shack to live in which was on stilts and overlooked the steep road which went on up the mountain another two miles to the border gate. The tick gate was where all vehicles were inspected and cleared before crossing into Queensland.
After a few months dad had chosen four acres of virgin bush where he planned to plant a banana plantation. It was situated around the side of the mountain past Brinsmead's large property of small crops, plantations and a large open forest of gum and wattle trees. We walked with Dad each day from home to the north where the block was being cleared for burning. We often encountered whip snakes, green tree snakes, red bellied blacksnakes, huge carpet snakes, wallabies and koalas. Then there were all the local birds. We were especially intrigued by the call of the Eastern Whip Bird. We woke to their call early each morning. It is a very shy bird and not often seen.
The clearing of the block was almost completed. All that was left to clear was about half an acre on the southern end of the block. This area had a small gully running west to east down it. At the floor of the gully was a medium sized creek, which had many water holes along it held in by large granite rocks. These were occupied by large numbers of frogs. This section of land and especially the creek, was covered in thick luxurious lantana creeper. The lantana was up to five meters deep. My father cleared the property with an axe for felling trees and a brush hook for cutting down lantana and small growth such as hempagrominy, locally called cat's paw. Dad always kept his hook sharpened like a razor blade and so made quick work of cutting down the undergrowth.
As our custom was we always drank water from the clear pure creek. One very hot day I decided that it was time to stop helping work and go to the creek for a drink. It dawned on me that I would be able to get cleaner undisturbed water if I followed the creek up in under the canopy of lantana. Dad agreed that it was OK to do just that but reminded me to keep an eye out for snakes. I crept up under the canopy with only my feet protruding out. I discovered a pool of water about a metre wide and two metres long. It was about 300 cm deep containing the coolest, clear, pure water that I had ever encountered. I put my head down and drank my fill. Just as I was taking my last draw I was startled by a loud hiss of a snake. Dad had taught us that whenever we encountered a snake that we were not to move. He would instruct us saying, "Keep deathly still and stare at the snake until he moves off." So I did just that, and without moving my head, I raised my eyes to see where the snake was actually situated. There it was directly in front of my face at the far end of the pool, barely two metres away. Not very far really, when they can spring and attack from that distance with deadly accuracy. I was petrified. It was a huge red bellied black snake. It was one of the most deadly snakes in the area. It was a beautiful creature. Bright and clean with its shiny new skin, as it had recently shed its old shirt. There I was face to face with the serpent. A serpent ready to attack and inflict his deadly bite to my face. Death stared me down.
He was raised up about 600 cm and in strike attitude with his tongue busily reading the messages from my hysterically traumatised body. Any moment he would strike. I was the intruder in his area of frog food. I remembered the Lord could deliver me and sent up a silent request for protection. Mother faithfully taught us to always pray under all circumstances. I waited moments which seemed like hours, however the snake was not backing off. He stared me out and hypnotised me. I was absolutely petrified and knew the snake had the upper hand. I was so petrified and seemed to be going off into a trance. In desperation, deep fright and trauma, I managed to scream out, "Dad a huge snake has got me."
Dad came as silently and as quickly as he could and broke into the pool alongside me. Immediately he saw the snake, still poised. He adjusted his hand on his brush hook and I watched frozen in time, as I saw dad strike first and watched the snakes head come off as it attempted to bite the brush hook.
It is amazing what traumatic situations can do to the human mind. I went off into deep trauma. Hallucinations continued day and night for three weeks. My parents had initially taken me to Doctor Unwin in Murwillumbah his professional help. His advice was, " Home to bed with complete rest and keep continual watch as he is likely to do anything at anytime and anywhere." I can still remember the hallucinations, however not very much else during those three weeks. I can remember that my favourite position was to leap from my bed on the veranda, up onto the rail which had three posts holding up the roof at strategic places. There were no windows. I would cling to the rail and the post and swing around it like a monkey chattering unintelligible nonsense. How I never fell the five metres to the road my mother often wondered. My parents could not loosen my grip on the post so settled for prayer!
Mother spent her days and sleepless nights praying for my recovery. Most nights I spent most of the night climbing the veranda rail. Mother claims that I drank little and ate less. God heard my parent's prayers and finally after three weeks, I snapped out of the awful situation.
It was a serpent that came face to face with our mother Eve and hypnotised her into sin. We have all inherited her genes. Fortunately, our Saviour Jesus Christ has dealt with the serpent, the old Devil and Satan on Calvary. He has delivered us from the trauma of sin. He has delivered us from the past guilt of sin. He delivers us daily from the power of sin. Finally He will deliver us forever from the presence of sin in our genes and flesh. Praise God.
God gave me a wonderful deliverance from snake trauma. I never carried a fear of snakes. I could handle carpet snakes and admire poisonous snakes in the wild. However, if ever I was cornered by a snake, I followed my father's instructions to keep still and watch the creature's movements. Should one ever be too aggressive it became dinner for the kookaburras. At other times we would quickly move in from the tail end, grab the creature's tail and throw him in whip fashion over our heads and away. That way we were safe and the snake went on his way doing what God created him to do. Keeping the frog population under control!
This article is Copyright © 2012 by George Porter. Used by permission.
Copyright © 2018 Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church