The Big Snake Project

Before you do anything else today, could I ask that you simply:

  • pop a baby aspirin
  • make yourself comfortable in front of your computer, tablet device, smart phone, or Internet-enabled smart television set
  • click on the link below and watch–it only lasts 22 seconds!
  • Note: If possible, please video yourself watching.  Don’t film the short movie itself.  Film your face.


Origins of the Big Snake Project

(Brief preface: If you don’t like reading, if reading’s not your bag, baby, feel free to skip down to the bottom of today’s blog and watch my twin brother’s reaction to watching the above video.  However, if you do like reading, or you think that you might learn to like reading someday provided you find the right subject matter, please by all means continue.  If nothing else, my steady drone of words should help coax your heart back to a normal sinus rhythm.)

Back in the days when Stuckey’s restaurants lined the nation’s freeway system like squashed skunks, my friend and University of Iowa Writers Workshop classmate, William Preston Robertson, and I were driving the long haul from Iowa City to Sewickley, PA, when we spied the promise of pecan log rolls beckoning to us in the distance.

Bill, by way of brief introduction, is a remarkably talented man-for-all-seasons whose accomplishments include writing the HBO classic, Johnny Skidmarks;

writing the novelization of Sam Raimi’s cult classic, The Evil Dead, which many horror fans consider superior to the film itself:;

and co-creating and directing the definitive documentary on the ukulele as a rock ‘n roll instrument, Rock That Uke,

about which recently deceased Beatle George “Keoki” Harrison offered nothing but praise!

In any event, our road trip occurred long before Bill went on to A-list fame and eventual employment as personal man servant to Queen Callipygia…

…and I went on to write a blog about Big Snake Projects and the like.

On that road trip in yesteryear, Bill and I were still just a pair of regular guys still, nothing special, really. Nothing special at all.

We were, however, tired and jittery, me perhaps especially so, my body super-saturated at this point with caffeine and sugary confections I’d been swigging and stuffing down my pie hole for hundreds of miles now in an effort to keep me from nodding off at the wheel.  The prospect of stopping to relax, refresh, and refuel ourselves was overwhelming!

At the Stuckey’s checkout counter, I happened to notice a small sign clipped to the cashier’s uniform.

“Ask me about our rattlesnake eggs,” it read.

So I did.  With a look of utter contempt, the young fellow handed me a small packet that looked like this:

I read the warning on the outside of the packet, figured that Stuckey’s personnel surely would know how to store the contents under the proper temperature conditions, and opened it up.

Bill was emerging from the bathroom just in time to hear my girlish scream and see a tiny object soaring over the counter and the cashier’s head, arcing its way over the griddle till it landed with a splashing plop in the French fry vat.

“Jesus,” said the cashier.

“Jesus,” said Bill, asking me what had just happened.

“Nothing,” I told him, my whole body trembling from caffeine and sugar and serpent anxiety: a full-blown nervous riot.  I quickly hid the packet of rattle snake eggs, now devoid of its vibrating mechanism, which the furious cashier was trying to fish out of the bubbling grease, spattering himself occasionally on the forearms in the process.

We sat down at a table, ate our log rolls, washed same down with coffee and Pecan milk shakes, and when I was pretty sure Bill had entirely forgotten about my scream, I mentioned casually, “Bill, you should ask that guy about the rattlesnake eggs.”

“Rattlesnake eggs?”

“Yeah, look at the sign on that guy’s shirt.”

And so Bill did.  I readied myself for a tremendously satisfying reaction.  The cashier, more contemptuous than ever, handed Bill a fresh packet of rattlesnake eggs.  I watched Bill read the warning and shrug.  It was all I could do to resist covering my ears for the scream I was certain would soon be coming my way.  Then Bill chuckled a little and began opening the packet.  I couldn’t stand it, the suspense was so great!  I could hardly take breath!

The packet vibrated ominously just as it had with me.  And then—

And then Bill chuckled a tiny bit louder.  He didn’t scream.  He didn’t emit a deafening girlish keen.  He didn’t jump or startle or quiver or tremble.  He just chuckled.

Perhaps, unlike me, Bill had never during his childhood accidentally stepped on a hog-nosed snake sunning itself upside down in the woods, the meat of its fat slithery torso thicker than my leg!

Or perhaps after steeping himself so long in cult horror classics, Bill had inured his brain to anxiety of any stripe.  Who knows how he could open an envelop of rattlesnake eggs, after clearly reading the warning that they might have hatched, and not be absolutely terrified by unexpected vibration triggered by a mechanism consisting of a washer, loop of wire, and some rubber bands?

Regardless, watching Bill’s highly disappointing mere bemusement is when I first realized that not everyone reacts the way I do to snake-related fright scenarios.  Some, like Bill, are brave.  But maybe, just maybe, some are even more cowardly than me and may, in fact, have even more spectacularly comical reactions than I did.

Which is why I purchased a packet of Rattlesnake eggs and carried it with me for years to cocktail parties, award ceremonies, nursing homes, and whatnot.  Alas, sometime in the late ’90s I somehow misplaced it, or perhaps a churlish victim hurled it into the ocean.  In any event, I believed at that moment that my days of witnessing spectacular snake reactions had come to an end.

Until three days ago when, after our swimming practice, I was at the home of Bill, Colleen, Ciara, and Liam White-McShane, and they invited me to watch the same YouTube movie I invited you to watch atop this blog.  Unlike me, they did not recommend ingesting a baby aspirin first.

At the moment of the money shot, my hand involuntarily clutched my heart, and familiar girlish screams echoed up and down the ruined hollows of Coraopolis and adjacent townships.


It was Bill’s idea to see if I could get my twin brother, John R. Thornton, to film his reaction while watching the snake video for the first time.  John, as regular readers know by now, is an amateur film maker nonpareil, whose YouTube Channel, the Rusty Scupperton Network on YouTube  boasts an astonishing 577 subscribers and has attracted, as of today, 649,439 video views.

I suspect this number shall soon treble!

Here is the film he made yesterday of his reaction to the snake video, and my reaction to his reaction.

I guarantee you will enjoy this unless your soul is absolutely embittered and bereft of all capacity for humanity, in which case you will enjoy not enjoying it.  Either way, please click here now:


Okay!  So here’s the maguffin.  I now invite you to invite all your friends, nuclear family, invalided relatives, etc. to watch the original “Huge Snake” video without any kind of warning and film their reaction:

Then simply upload the footage to YouTube, Vimeo, or other video site and send me the link to your movie.  I shall post all reaction shot movies in a future update of the Big Snake Project!  Perhaps we will even invite the most spectacularly frightened individual in the nation to appear as a guest on a forthcoming The Thornton Twins Podcast!

Join the Twins on a special possibly forthcoming episode of their radio show to discuss the Big Snake Project!  We so look forward to hosting you!

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