Twas not I who killed the carpet python although I did skin it. Back in January 2006 I was on one of my walk about on the south coast of Western Australia. I had spent three glorious day roaming around Hammer Head and Little Wharton beach and was on my way back to Esperance when I caught sight of a very large snake at the side of the dirt road. I pulled over and reversed back to take a closer look. It was seriously dead having been run over about a foot from the head but it was also a seriously large carpet python with the remaining two meters untouched and with the most beautifully marked skin. WA has a lot of road kill, little of which you’d want to eat due to the heat factor, although my best find would have to be the Cape Barron goose………………delicious. I seemed to have lost my only sharp knife so resorted to a pair of scissors to cut around the snake and simply peal back the skin. I then snipped the full length of the yellow underside and placing it on the bonnet of the Land Rover proceeded to scrape any remaining fat. I gave it a wash down and popped it into a plastic bag with the aim of doing a better job of it as soon as I could find a sharp knife. About ten miles up the road at the Condinup crossroads there was a filling station and store. Having topped up with diesel I ask the woman behind the counter if she sold sharp knives. The reply came “What d’you want it for. I suppose it was just simple curiosity but I found myself hesitating to reply. As soon as I admitted it was to skin a snake her eyes twinkled and excitedly she said, “So was it the carpet python on the way up from Wharton?” she’d seen it on the way into work that morning. Having bought the knife she told me if I had any problems with being caught in possession of a snake skin I tell them to phone her at the Condinup shop and she voucher that she’d seen it dead before I came upon it, and although they would most likely take the skin off me there would be no fine.
In the baking heat of Australia it doesn’t take long for a skin to dry and I posted it back to myself in a box full of shells and weather wood. Most tourists go for the Koala cuddly toy or an aboriginal dot painted T shirt but I prefer some natural detritus that I can do something creative with. The following year I was making a series of small octagonal sailor’s valentine boxes to display a range of smaller shells and while most of them I veneered with Australian woods the one I made for myself was covered with the carpet python skin. This will be just one of many objects with a story amongst a vast variety of work on show at my upcoming exhibition, entitled “All that I do” at An Lanntair Art Centre in Stornoway throughout this coming September.