Emily Rice

Emily Rice is the Lifestyles Editor of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph and the Associate Editor of Prerogative Magazine.

When I was a child, I had a sandbox in the backyard. It was built by a family member and made of wood. One day, when I was about seven-years-old while playing in the sand in the sunshine, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. A snake poked its head above the sand as I watched in horror. My mother says that I screamed so loud that she did not just think I had broken my leg, she thought it might have fallen off. I was so scared that my sandbox had to be destroyed and the snake met a shovel-shaped end.

Since then I have always had a phobia of snakes. I have tried to overcome it throughout the years. I have to look away from the television if there is a snake on the show, I have nightmares of snakes crawling up my covers, I always skip the reptile section of the zoo, etc. It is a childhood fear that has stuck with me through adulthood. Admittedly, snakes have not tried to befriend me. Any experience I have with them is terrifying. The one that immediately comes to mind is riding my bike in the neighborhood of my uncle’s beach house and coming around a corner to find a six-foot rattlesnake laid across the road. I was going to quick to stop and ended up driving across it and it attempted to chase me. Again, my mother heard my scream and knew I was either badly injured or I had seen a snake.

About a year ago I was at the Denver Zoo, determined to conquer my fear, I stood in front of a snake’s tank and stared at it, convincing myself there was nothing to be afraid of, trying to quiet my breathing...then it moved and I couldn’t stand it and walked quickly away from the exhibit with my gaze toward my feet.

However, after 25 years, I may have conquered one of my biggest fears this week.

I am the Lifestyles Editor at the Bluefield Daily Telegraph and also the Associate Editor of our women’s magazine, Prerogative. Each edition, we do a fashion shoot and partner with a local boutique. We had our summer fashion shoot at a Princeton-area lake this week and encountered, you guessed it, snakes.

Bluefield Daily Telegraph photographer, Jessica Nuzzo and I went to location scout the lake before our models arrived. We walked the path around the lake and pointed out pretty flowers and particularly scenic areas we thought might work for the photoshoot. As we were walking back to the car Jess stopped walking and started saying, “Oh my god, oh my god.” Knowing my fear, she did not want to tell me what it was but knew we needed to move. I questioned what was going on before she just yelled, “run!”

Expecting a knife-wielding serial killer or sasquatch, I ran without question, then saw the snake for myself. I froze as icy fear slid down my spine then made myself run as well. We giggled as we got back to the car and breathed a sigh of relief, thinking the worst was over.

Soon our models arrived and we were caught up in helping them chose which outfits to wear, coordinating shots and everything that comes with a fashion shoot. After everyone was ready, we walked back toward the lake. Not even halfway down the hill, we spotted another snake slithering quickly (is that running?) away. It headed into a woodpile and all five of us sighed in relief, this time with a bit more fear lingering. Before we could finish the next shot, a serene photo of one of our models sitting on a dock with her feet dangling toward the water, another snake appeared and slithered right toward Jessica and the model.

By now, I was getting frustrated. A lot of planning goes into these fashion shoots and I could see it falling apart because of these critters. My models were scared, my photographer was scared and no one is going to be able to do their best work in a fearful situation. I get protective of the people and things that I care about. We were able to get the next few shots and headed back for the models to change into their next outfits. About halfway up the hill, one of the models spotted another one, the biggest one yet stretched across the entire path.

I grabbed a few rocks and a stick and started throwing. I missed the first few and finally hit the snake right on his head and he still did not move. Finally, as I approached with the stick he lazily moved. The path was clear and the fashion shoot continued after some assurance from the Superintendent that they were all just venom-less black snakes.

I sent the cell phone video of me “fighting off” a snake to my parents. They were astonished. My usual reaction to a snake is sobbing and running, not approaching, much less antagonizing. I called my mother on the way home and explained the situation to her. We came to the conclusion that we had finally found something to get me over my fear, my work being threatened.

I am very passionate about what I do for a living and always strive for excellence. I cannot imagine fighting off a snake for any other reason, other than for my dog, family, friends, or apparently, my fashion shoot.

— Contact Emily Rice at erice@bdtonline.com and follow her on Twitter @BDTrice