Listeners Weigh In On The 40th Anniversary of Big Sid’s Capture
On this day in 1978, a Walker man held a 20 foot python by the tail until the authorities got there, thus ending the month long search for the snake.
The summer of 1978 will always be remembered as the Summer of Sid in Grand Rapids. It was the summer a python slithered away from its enclosure into the wild of the Standale/Walker area prompting concerns from people who thought Sid would soon be feasting on children and dogs.
Reptilean experts appeared on local TV, pontificating over when Sid would get hungry and thus begin preying on your grandmother's cats.
But in the end, Big Sid, although he put up a bit of a fight, was not the monster everyone thought he was. And like most other media hype jobs, he was more of a pussycat than the cats he threatened.
Found in a Walker drainage ditch on this day 40 years ago, Sid was 16 pounds lighter than when he disappeared from a farm at Wilson and O'Brien. It turns out Big Sid didn't have the ability to fend for himself in the wild. He didn't know how to stalk and hunt game, he was used to being hand fed frozen rats by this owners. Rat-sicles has one listener called them.
On this morning's Jojo Show, I wondered what it was like to be a kid growing up in the summer of 1978, with Big Sid on the prowl. Listeners recalled hunting for him on their bikes, unsure of what they would do if they caught him.
One woman recounted her time at nearby Camp Optimist, fondly recalling the group photo they took of their team next to a plaque that said 'Remember Big Sid'.
Another woman told of the t-shirts that were sold and the 'Snake Crossing' signs put up around Standale, demonstrating not only the American ability to make a buck off a crisis, but also the ability to laugh at ourselves.
And finally, a man called and told of the day he went to Zoology class at the John Ball Zoo the morning they brought Big Sid in shortly after his capture. He got to help take Sid out of his case and put him behind glass at the zoo, telling of how Sid was still fighting for his freedom.
Sid lived for 10 more years before dying of pneumonia, but his memory has stuck with the kids who grew up in 1978, the Summer of Sid.
MLive has a photo gallery from the Grand Rapids Press on the summer of Sid, and a great article detailing his capture that July day by Steve Rapolevich, the man who held onto him for dear life until help got there. And our own Scott Winters has his memories of that summer posted to his blog.