"Yeah, nah," he says. The shade of the verandah dimming his features already dimmed by the oversized Akubra hat. I can see the whites of his eyes, the colour of scrambled egg streaked with blood vessels as if a lightning storm was ravaging the landscape of his cornea. He spoke as if he was living in the outback, where dust was eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner, where the sky was so large you thought it was the only thing to exist. If you looked down, all you'd see was red earth all the way to the horizon.
But this wasn't beyond Burke. It was a small country town where light pollution from the big towns bleached the night sky.
"When they see ya," he continues in the belief that I was going to believe a word he said. "They'll rear up, wanting to strike. Most people will swerve, to not run over them with their tyres. That's a fatal mistake."
Australian snakes have a mythology of their own, that the place is overrun by them, that they are fatal to every living creature. But the fact of the matter is they don't harm people, as long as you stay out of their way. So, driving over them, letting them slither across the road, or continue to warm themselves, seems like a decent thing to do.
"Cause they rear up," he flings his arm up and bends his wrist as if it were the snake. "They can get caught, usually on the axel. And cause they are cold-blooded, they'll move to where it's warm. This could be the engine bay, but that gets cold once the car stops. So they'll always make their way into the cab. A few years back, this lady lost her nine-month daughter to a snake bite as it lay asleep in the baby seat."
"Thanks for the warning," I say, not believing a single word the bloke said.
"All I'm saying," he says, placing a hand on my shoulder. "Don't swerve. Run over them with your tyres."
I want to say I think he's telling me a furphy, but I fear the look in his eye.