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Zara and I cross-checked estimates of the distance between nearby bushes, then
agreed that the anaconda was at least fifteen to twenty feet long, because we observed
more than four yards of body, with no narrowing of foreparts. We never saw her head.
Three inches separated my hands on each side as the trunk slid between them, and
when I grasped the tail my thumb and forefinger were still more than an inch apart. The
skin was slick and tough, neither cold nor slimy, and she moved with muscular confid-
ence, as if I were only a momentary distraction. A few weeks later, back in wintry New
York, hauling her out of the water seemed about as plausible as pulling my pickup truck
up our icy driveway.
No yellow anacondas greeted me in the Pantanal, but thanks to that lunar evening I
more keenly empathize with those Peruvian tamarins, veering wide of where days earli-
er an explosive lunge snatched one of their band into oblivion. Now I better appreciate
how a green anaconda may appear as benign leaves and stones on a pond bottom, why a
deer or a monkey, or for that matter a person, at water's edge won't detect her stealthy
presence. There will be no sound as she approaches, no scented warning from upwind,
and sinuous ripples in the swamp grass might not be a storm's breezy prelude. Now,
without consciously thinking about such things, I understand why complacency doesn't
bode well in the home of giant serpents.
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