The Mongoose Versus the Cobra


At the hole where he went in
Red-Eye called to Wrinkle-Skin.
Hear what little Red-Eye saith:
”Nag, come up and dance with death!”

Eye to eye and head to head,
(Keep the measure, Nag.)
This shall end when one is dead;
(At thy pleasure, Nag.)
Turn for turn and twist for twist-
(Run and hide thee, Nag.)
Hah! The hooded Death has missed!
(Woe betide thee, Nag!)

This is the story of the great war that Rikki-tikki-tavi fought single-handed, through the bath-rooms of the big bungalow in Segowlee cantonment.  Darzee, the tailor-bird, helped him, and Chuchundra, the musk-rat, who never comes out into the middle of the floor, but always creeps round by the wall, gave him advice; but Rikki-tikki did the real fighting. 

The preceding poem and prose are from Rudyard Kipling’s, The Jungle Books.  The picture for today’s post is a statue of a King Cobra guarding her eggs.  It is part of the Rivers Walk exhibit at the Saint Louis Zoo.  We were there yesterday and just after I had snapped this picture a family with a young boy walked up.  Anne seeing a teachable moment, asked me to recount my own mongoose versus cobra story.  I’ll repeat it here.

It was in the 1950’s and I was still in pre-school.  My dad was in the Navy and we had been stationed on Guam.  We were at the end of the tour there and went on a family vacation, touring south Asia.  We visited Manila, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and New Delhi.  While in New Delhi, our family and another family rented a car and driver to go to Agra, to see the Taj Mahal.

On the way there we stopped in a small village.  The arrival of so many westerners quickly drew a crowd.  After two years on Guam, and with my black hair, I did not create the stir that my younger brother Chris, did.  He was blond and still quite fair.  One of the villagers approached my Dad and asked to buy him.

About this time, a man who had been sitting in the ring of people that had gathered about us, pulled from one of his sacks a King Cobra.  We backed away and into the vacant circle he threw the snake.  It hissed and flared and I was amazed.  He reached into another sack and this time he pulled out a mongoose.  He set it loose and it immediately began attacking the cobra.  It moved quickly and stayed low to the ground.  It turned on a dime.  Within minutes, it had the cobra by the neck and soon the snake was dead.

Afterwards the man collected tips from my Dad and the other dad.  After all, this is how he earned his living, catching cobras and then killing them with spectacle.  We went on to see the Taj Mahal that day, but to a five year old boy that fight between a mongoose and a cobra ranks as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

OBTW, the eggs in today’s header are also fake.

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