DECEMBER 2, 1938
SARASOTA, Fla., Thursday—I certainly spent an interesting hour yesterday afternoon at the animal and reptile farm on the outskirts of Sarasota. Animals are always interesting, particularly when handled by someone who has no fear of them and who knows how to treat them so they trust him.
We saw two of the most poisonous variety of snakes, rattlers of various kinds and the cotton-mouth moccasin. Their poison is "milked" every Thursday and given to the medical center in Venice, Florida, where a scientist is carrying on experiments in making serums which will benefit arthritis and neuritis as well as to save people who have been bitten by snakes.
The alligators, the crocodiles and the monkeys are all interesting but the owls appealed to me especially, particularly one dignified gentleman who, when asked to wink one eye, did so. There is an eagle who laughs and all the birds spread their feathers and show off at command. A little group of Seminole Indians are settling down in the Indian village next to the farm so that people may see their mode of life.
I am glad to say that they are being taught to live in a somewhat more sanitary environment than the tribe which I once visited further south in Florida. I will never forget my horror on that occasion when I realized under what unsanitary conditions we allowed these wards of the government to live. It was almost impossible to keep the flies away from the food and, incidentally, the babies. The Seminoles wear the most colorful costumes, but the little girls wear such voluminous skirts that I wonder how they move around.
The man who runs the reptile farm told us his story with such zest that I do not think he would mind my telling you about it, because it is such a characteristic American story with its courage and success.
Three years ago he had no money but he was in love with a young lady who had as much courage as he had. "I was out with her one evening and I sat her up on a wall and I asked her if I should go up to Atlantic City and take a job and wait until we were better off, or should we get married and start a reptile farm together? She decided that we might as well begin together so I borrowed $14 and my friends helped me and we came out here to live. Today I own the place and all the animals. People know I give them a good home, so I have been given several interesting animals, besides being allowed to train some for well-known animal fanciers."
In this couple's home, where all the baby animals as well as the family seem to be housed at night, his attractive plucky wife looks after the little store, where you may buy various things made of snakeskin and be quite sure that the article is genuine.
Isn't that a truly American story?