Snakeman struggling to survive
WITH snake season now in full slither, Byron’s one-and-only George the Snakeman is again traversing the shire saving people from deadly browns and red-bellied black snakes.
Or as he prefers to see it, saving them from people.
But once again the eccentric snake wrangler is struggling to keep his free service afloat.
Last week, local resident Andrew Menzies heard about George’s financial woes and, with the help of Byron Pocketguides and a couple of mates, dropped a ‘lazy’ $1000 in George’s lap.
A tearful George gave Mr Menzies a hug and said he would now be able to buy petrol and pay his phone bill.
Mr Menzies said he couldn’t understand why there wasn’t on-going funding for George and, despite the regular flurries of activity on his behalf, when all was said and done, ‘more was said than done’.
“Just how many thousands of dangerous snakes must a guy pick up before his work is appreciated?” he asked.
Byron Mayor Jan Barham and Ballina MP Don Page have both gone in to bat for George over the years to secure funding through council and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
However, like many gifted eccentrics, George has struggled to find a workable position within the system, let alone comply with bureaucratic criteria.
Seeking things like ‘job allocation numbers’ from office clerks, while calming distraught clients en route to rescues, doesn’t make much sense to the free-spirited Samaritan.
In many ways his altruistic venture embodies the counter-cultural ethos upon which contemporary Byron was built.
During 14 years of service, George’s meticulous records show he has removed more than 8000 unwelcome intruders from homes and businesses across the shire, including 2700 deadly brown snakes – many retrieved from Byron’s CBD.
The former philosophy student, once renowned in his native Greece for his scholarly aptitude, not only understands the crucial ecological role of snakes in Australia, but also their significance to Aboriginal culture.
The Taipan Man from Mackay once told him on a visit to Byron Bay that he and George were ‘of the same kind’.
Two years ago the community pitched in and raised enough to get him a new vehicle (the now familiar blue and yellow check-striped dual-cab) but running costs keep increasing.
The man who has himself survived bites from a brown snake and a funnel-web spider (and once famously walked into his own wake at a Mullumbimby hotel) hopes Byron might like to keep him afloat without having to squash his larger-than-life personality into a bureaucratic box.
Several supporters have suggested that those with George’s number on speed-dial could slip him $50 a year to keep their unconventional snakeman ‘just the way they love him’.
Like-minded philanthropists can find George by snailmail at PO Box 376 Mullumbimby 2482.