Most people run from snakes. But a group of about 22 Keyes children and their parents came to the Keyes Library Monday eager to see Python Ron McGee's educational exhibit of slithering and crawling creatures.
The same show will be repeated at 11 a.m. and 12:20 p.m. at the Turlock Library and 3 p.m. at the Denair Library, all on Thursday.
McGee started out with the small creatures in his collection. He pulled out a Madagascar hissing cockroach and told of about how other cultures actually eat certain bugs.
"If you think you do not eat bugs, we all eat bugs," said McGee. "There's bugs in your food whether or not you believe it. How many of you like to go to Starbucks and have that strawberry frappuccino thing? That's made out of bugs."
Specifically smashed up cochineal bugs.
He followed up with a display of a Brazilian bird eating spider that looks like a tarantula, which has never been proven to kill anyone from its bite "despite what the movies tell you."
McGee traces his interest in snakes back to his childhood growing up in Snelling where he was encouraged to go out and trap bugs in a jar. He suggested that kids should never be scared of a bug or snake and kill it, citing the environmental benefits of each one. For example, many snakes keep down the rodent population and a praying mantis is great at gobbling up black widow spiders. When showing a corn snake, he noted they can eat 300 to 500 rats in a lifetime.
"If you see a snake, leave it alone," he suggested to his audience.
McGee showed a bearded dragon from Australia and a large black and white tegu, which are not good for kids' pets since they have powerful jaws that can bite.
McGee suggested that anyone wanting to own a pet should research its growth and needs.
"If you did not research this lizard you would also not know that it eats fruit. In that tummy right now there are three hard boiled eggs, a banana and snails in there," he said.
Before bringing out a big lizard to "cuddle with," McGee announced his name was "Puppy."
"I always name my animals nice names so people are not afraid of them. If I named a lizard ‘Killer' then we've got a different idea of what I'm ready to take him. But since he's 'Puppy' it makes you want to see him."
When he brought out Puppy, a black throat monitor lizard from Africa, gasps of "holy smokes" and "dang" came from the kids.
"They do make a good pet, but obviously not for kids. As you can see he is a very nice lizard," McGee said.
Many of the snakes in the collection came from people who discovered lost pets in gardens and wanted them to go to a good owner. They called McGee, who has been taking snakes on educational exhibits since 1981.
At the end of the show, McGee tickled the fancy of the kids by allowing volunteers to "wear" a belt or headdress of a corn snake. He wrapped the snake around the waist of a small girl named Alana.
"I don't care how much money these ladies spend on a belt at Macy's or Nordstrom's," McGee told his Keyes audience, "she will get noticed first, I promise."
The show ended with McGee bringing out "Julius Squeezer," a Columbian red-tailed boa and then a large green anaconda, the largest species of snakes in the world. It can grow to over 30 feet long and weigh up to 500 pounds.
He guaranteed that the kids in Keyes will not see such a snake again.