JOHN CANN left his friskiest snakes at home yesterday for his last show at the La Perouse snake pit where he has enthralled crowds for 45 years.”I didn’t bring the real lunatic snakes; my wife said ‘you won’t be thinking properly’,” the showman/educator, 72, told the more than 500 people who had come to see the passing of an era.Cann, the Snake Man, ended 91 years of family tradition when he hung up the sacks of red-bellied blacks, browns and cobras, and packed up the tubs of goannas and lizards for the last time.As his son, Paul, said, “he was slowing down but the snakes weren’t”.There were three generations in the crowd under a flawless autumn sky, including Linda Simmonds, 49, of Matraville, whose father brought her to the snake pit when she was a girl, her daughter Kristie, 31, who has fond memories of the snake man, and her children Nathaniel, 7, D’Artagnan, 5, and Marley, 1, there for the first time.”Everyone on my Facebook is very sad. They all had grandparents who brought them here,” Kristie Simmonds said.There were politicians in the crowd too. Peter Garrett, the local federal MP and Minister for Environment Protection, leapt from the bear pit into the snake pit with Michael Daley, the state MP for Maroubra, to present a special framed certificate to Mr Cann and to lead three cheers.Mr Cann’s father, George snr, had worked the pit for 46 years, part of a long tradition of La Perouse snake men that goes back to about 1897.”It’s been 112 years and we’ve not lost a customer yet,” Mr Cann told the crowd. “Lost a few snake men over the years.”His own brush with death, his son remembers, came about 14 years ago when a tiger snake bit him. He fell unconscious and was rushed to the Prince Henry Hospital. It is one reason Paul and his siblings have no interest in grabbing the baton.”We’re all scared of snakes,” he says.In the standard khaki shirt and jeans of the naturalist entertainer, Mr Cann blended folksy anecdote, cornball humour, and information to get across his message that snakes deserve our respect.He unleashed one of his favourites, a red-bellied black snake that he had owned for 15 years but rarely displayed, amid admiring oohs and aahs. When a deadly brown, which he likened to “an athlete on steroids”, slithered towards a corner of the enclosure, he joked about whether the hole in the bottom had been mended.He is handing the show over to the Hawkesbury Herpetological Society.But yesterday three generations were mourning the end of a character who had provided cheap, old-fashioned entertainment that left everyone the wiser.
Nanjing Night Net