January 26, 1979
An unwelcome hitchhiker caused considerable problems for a visitor to Echuca on Monday.
Geoff Francis of Sunbury stopped to check the oil and water in his late model Falcon only to find a healthy tiger snake resting on the radiator.
His shout of dismay and an "eight foot leap backwards" brought attendants from the Ogilvie Ave service station running.
But, aware it had trespassed, the reptile made a quick retreat — unfortunately further into the engine compartment.
With numerous wary volunteers scanning the ground, Mr Francis and others attempted to locate the snake.
It was thought the snake had taken refuge in a sub-frame under the car.
Quickly it was put up on the workshop hoist and the search for the lethal visitor continued.
But prying eyes, prodding wires, hoses and all sorts of other available instruments failed to dislodge the snake from his new home.
A further attempt to move the snake on introduced the use of a fire extinguisher, which blasted some evil smelling liquid into the sub-frame.
Still no snake.
A call went out to Jack Gerrand of Echuca Display Aquarium and just as he arrived the snake was discovered curled up under the brake master cylinder and booster, watching the futile search in the sub-frame.
With his experience in handling snakes, Mr Gerrand at least got the tiger on the move.
But for a few minutes that's about all that happened.
Using all its talent for negotiating small holes and hiding in the most inaccessible places, the snake led its hunters a merry chase.
As quick as the car reached the top of the hoist so that Mr Gerrand could get underneath, the snake would be high up in the engine compartment.
Down with the hoist — and just as quickly the snake would retreat underneath the car.
At one stage, and to the wide-eyed stares of many nervous onlookers, the snake even made a brief appearance on the windscreen before plunging back into the depths of the car.
“We have to catch him,” Mr Francis said.
“I'd never get my wife back in the car.”
But the snake was running out of hiding places.
Mr Gerrand finally trapped it under the car and was able to drag the freeloader out tail first.
Once on the cement it was only seconds before he had it gripped tightly behind the head and on its way to his High St aquarium.
Mr Francis regularly comes to stop at a local caravan park and believes the snake must have crawled into the engine compartment on Sunday night to escape the wet and somewhat colder air.
What had started as a five-minute check of the oil and water had stretched into a nerve tingling hour-and-a-half.