I’ve been in and around the snake business for almost 20 years. I took a hiatus for a few years when I got married back in the latter part of the 90’s but I’ve been back in it full-force for many years now. While these days I am mostly a ball python breeder I spent a lot of time with a lot of different animals in my earlier years. Ball pythons in the early 90’s were not even a little bit what they are today. Most of the people who read this already know that. Back in the 80’s albino burmese were the big deal and things like albino kenyan sand boas and hognose snakes were just getting rolling. Pete Kahl and Brian Sharp were starting a firestorm in the boa community with their albino strains. Jungle carpet pythons were the coolest thing in the carpet world and all that mattered in the world of chondros was that you could actually breed them successfully; never mind all this locality stuff we’ve got today. Juno road in Texas was Mecca for grey banded kingsnakes and blackhead pythons and womas were borderline mythical. I remember seeing a pair of womas at Tom Crutchfield’s place in the early 90’s and thought I had seen the holy grail of snakes. I also remember seeing the first albino alligator around the same time and thought it wasn’t real until it blinked.
Anyway, to my point. Somebody once said that hinsight is 20/20. I can’t begin to express to you how true that is. One of my fondest and most embarrassing memories about being in the snake business took place at the Mid-Atlantic Reptile Show (MARS) somewhere around 1994 or 1995. I can’t remember the year exactly. Anyway, Ian Gniazdowski and I had been friends from college for several years and I often helped him at his table during the shows. Back in the 90’s the MARS show was actually a cool show. All the big names were there (even though they weren’t necessarily “big” names yet): Barczyk, McCurley, Gniazdowski, Barker, this list goes on.
None of the other parties of this conversation will remember this but me (and it will be evident why after you read it). Ian and I were standing at his table and Kevin McCurley from NERD walked up carrying a ball python. It was a bit unusual looking but it didn’t immediately grab me. Ian and Kevin were talking about ball pythons and I wasn’t paying too much attention. During the conversation Brian Barczyk walked up and joined in on the talk. Within a minute or two Brian had agreed to buy the ball python from Kevin for an amount that is nobody’s business but Kevin’s and Brian’s but I remember thinking, “Why the $%$#@ did Brian just pay that much for a frickin’ ball python?’ Over the course of the next few minutes several more ball pythons were purchased for dollar amounts that I thought transcended insane. And here’s where I made the single biggest mistake of my life: I turned away from the three of them, muttering under my breath, “A ball python is a ball python. Anybody who pays more than $65 for one is crazy.” And that was the last of it. I blindly kept my focus on breeding burmese, rainbow boas, kingsnakes and boas. Little did I know that if I had paid a little more attention, just a little more, I may have been there at a moment when it was all beginning. Instead I walked away, arrogant and blind to the opportunity. Had I not been such a fool on that day you might know my name the way you know the others who were in that conversation that day; Gniazdowski, Barczyk, McCurley, and Weaver. Huh? Who the hell is Weaver? Oh, he’s the guy who walked away from the conversation that defined the next fifteen years of the ball python industry. Smart guy.
The lesson learned that day is that I don’t know it all. People have insights that I don’t see and I need to be less arrogant and open to the possibilities. Ball pythons could have been a bust. But they weren’t and my close mindedness cost me more than just a few dollars.
Pay attention, something new is coming. Don’t miss it the way that I did.
Colin (ahem!) Weaver