My Favorite Traditions: KILL THE SNAKE!

Walking Stick

There are many things in this life that I love.  I love bacon. I love CrossFit. I love my mom. I love my friends.  I love books. Anyone who has read more than about three of my blog posts can figure out all of these things.

But what you might not know is that I love St. Pat’s.

Now, a lot of people say they love St. Pat’s.  They will go to a bar in Westport or Soulard or <insert bar district here> on March 17th, or perhaps find a corned beef sandwich somewhere along the line. But most people haven’t had the privilege of experiencing St. Pat’s like I have at Missouri University of Science & Technology (formerly University of Missouri-Rolla, formerly Missouri School of Mines, and I think formerly Rolla School of Mines).

See, at MS&T, they’ve been celebrating St. Pat’s for over a hundred years.  This year is the 105th Annual Best Ever St. Pat’s Celebration – because EVERY year’s celebration is deemed The Best Ever.

St. Pat’s isn’t just a day at MST.  It’s a way of life. There is an entire student organization called the St. Pat’s board that is devoted to organizing the celebration.  The students get two days off school -officially known as Spring Recess, unofficially known as St. Pat’s break.  There is a major merchandising effort to sell sweatshirts, shot glasses, hats, and everything else you can think of to fund the celebrations.  There’s a Queen of Love and Beauty contest.  And there are a thousand other fun traditions that I threw myself into wholeheartedly while I was a student at MS&T.

One of my favorites, the event that kicks off the entire spectacle that MS&T St. Pat’s, is Snake Invasion.  Snake Invasion for St. Pat’s 2013 actually kicks off today, March 4th – which makes the overall celebration almost 2 weeks long, ending on Saturday March 12th.  You can see a short video of a recent snake invasion here. The basis of snake invasion pertains to the legend that centuries ago, St. Patrick drove all the snakes from Ireland.  Now, you can argue all day about the veracity of this legend, but I would recommend you waste your breath doing so with a die-hard MS&T St. Pat’s fan, because it doesn’t really matter.  St. Pat drove the snakes from Ireland, ostensibly using shillelaghs, and therefore so to do the freshman students at MS&T drive the (rubber) snakes from the campus every year using shillelaghs and walking sticks.

I haven’t been on campus for Snake Invasion since 1998 (OH MY GOD HAS IT REALLY BEEN THAT LONG? WHEN DID I GET OLD??) so I’m not sure what has changed, but in my day it went something like this.

*First year members of fraternities, sororities, and any other student organization who wanted to play along would make shillelaghs or walking sticks for use in killing snakes.  These were made of honest-to-god trees dug from the ground, and had to have the requisite number of snakes and shamrocks, plus reference to <Insert Year> Best Ever St. Pat’s.

*Meanwhile, St. Pat’s Board members cordoned off areas of the campus lawn as Snake Pits for use in the festivities.

*On Snake Invasion Days, first year members would take their shillelaghs and walking sticks with them to campus when they would go to class.

*Upon seeing a first year member with shillelagh in hand walking across campus, St. Pat’s board members would summon the student to the Snake pits for snake invasion fun.

*Upon entering the snake pit, the freshman has to pound the crap out of rubber snakes, answer questions from the St. Pat’s Board reps correctly (like What Do You Love? ST PATS! What do you hate? SNAKES! If the first year member was insufficiently enthusiastic in answering questions, didn’t pound the snake hard enough, or otherwise displeased the St. Pat’s Board rep, it would take an awwwfully long time for the snake to be deemed dead. Do it right, and you were rewarded with a kill judgment promptly!

*Upon hearing that the snake was deemed dead, the first year member picked up the rubber snake and bit the head off of it.  Now, if it sounds like you would end up with mud in your mouth doing this, that’s because you’d end up with mud in your mouth since the snake was pounded into the ground.  All part of the fun.

The most fun people to watch were first year members who had joined the Interfraternity Council (aka IFC), who would usually have to wait a lonnnnng time to have their snake kills confirmed.  IFC was in charge of organizing Greek Week, making it somewhat of a rival organization to the St. Pat’s Board.

Yup, Snake Invasion is about as fun as it gets. It’s the signal to the start of St. Pat’s, and also in my mind the start of spring.  It’s fun, it’s whimsical, and hell – it’s good exercise, especially if you’re one of the poor IFC reps.  In the same way that listening to certain music can take you back to an important event from your youth, seeing a walking stick or a rubber snake takes me back to enjoying the Best Ever St. Pat’s with my Best Ever Friends at the Best Ever College I could have ever gone to.

I haven’t been to St. Pat’s for about 10 years, and while I am planning to go down for the weekend of the parade this year, I won’t see snake invasion.  So I just have this to say to all the first year Kappa Deltas and any other first year MS&T students….


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