In Old Town Albuquerque there is a small but interesting venue called the American International Rattlesnake Museum. It’s located off the main plaza and my group had gone in to enjoy the lively snakes exhibit.
At nearly 5 PM, I heard some thunder rumbling outside. I looked out the giftshop windows and could tell by the darkening clouds that we were about to get a downpour, and were completely unprepared. I tried to collect my group to move along to our vehicle ahead of the rain.They wanted to stay another half-hour, until closing time. I remained in the museum gift shop until the weather cleared. This is where I met Amelia, who works there. She is my stranger 39/100.
Amelia is 30 years old and was born and raised in California. She has lived in ABQ for 5 years. Originally, she came out here to take care of her ailing grandmother. Amelia is an animal lover who attended San Francisco State University to become a Zoologist. She completed an internship at the ABQ Zoo, and enjoyed it immensely. It’s been just over a year since she started working at the Rattlesnake Museum. She greets people from all over the world, and gets to care for a variety of creatures.
I asked her if she had a favorite animal.
“Owls for me; barn owls especially,” Amelia said. “They are fascinating. They have specialized hearing that lets them ‘see’ in total darkness. And I like snakes, obviously.”
She paused to ring up a customer who came in for a can of soda from the store refrigerator. Then continued to chat.
“My favorite animals are those without traditional arms and legs: snakes and birds. I like the ways they’ve adapted to live without them. Legless lizards: those are cool. Barn owls take blind snakes to live inside their nest to eat parasites and it helps keep the owls’ nest clean. The snakes don’t live long, but it’s an interesting relationship.”
Some new customers came in and purchased tickets to enter the exhibit. One had a child who asked if the gift shop sold any polished minerals. After they moved into the gallery, Amelia said that she loved minerals as a child, too.
“When I was a kid, my mom took me on a cruise. We were packing to leave. She picked up my backpack and said, ‘This is so heavy. What do you have in here: rocks?’ Yes. I had packed up my rock collection.
“At this museum, we like to find homes for rescued animals and tortoises. We keep some here at the museum and we take others home. One day a guy came in and said he had an iguana to give away. I showed him my tattoo and he said, ‘Oh, this lizards yours.’ I have a tattoo of an iguana, see?” Amelia pulled up her pantleg and showed it to me.
She let me take as many photos of her as I wanted to while she was speaking. Most of the shots had her smiling, which seems to be her natural state of rest. I asked for a few moments to get her to show me her serious look. Voila.