The Snake Milker Who Doesn’t Wear Any Gloves

DSC_0027Only three or four people in the United States extract snake venom — the real deals, that is. Jim Harrison is one of them.

He typically “milks” about 150 snakes in two hours, or approximately a minute per snake; it’s kind of like an assembly line of venom. He doesn’t wear gloves — they hinder his dexterity — and while he’s “only” been bitten nine times in almost four decades on the job, his shortened right forefinger is due to a kickboxing mishap, not a snake bite.

There’s a lot that people get wrong about the job, Harrison explains. Plenty of people call him up, wanting to learn how to extract snake venom as a get-rich-quick scheme. But in reality, it’s a limited market, and the hardest part comes after the venom has been funneled into tubes and shipped out.

Harrison runs the Kentucky Reptile Zoo, where about 2,000 snakes reside, along with his wife Kristen. He proposed in 2004 while filming for the National Geographic show Snake Handlers in St. Lucia. “People think of venom and they think of death,” he says. “I think of venom and I think of life. It saves more lives than it will ever take.”

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The Architect Teaching Dogs to Surf

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Dog surfing tends to draw a crowd, Noll says.

“The salt water of the ocean is my therapy, my church,” Peter Noll says.

A decade ago, Noll may have scoffed at the idea of his dog accompanying him to that church-slash-therapy, but not anymore. Along with a group of other volunteers, he teaches dog surfing clinics over the summer, but hems and haws at that term: dog surfing. “It’s a misnomer,” he explains. “We teach humans how to surf with their dogs. Owners put their dogs on the board, paddle them out, ease them into a wave, and then grab them afterward.”

Noll, who started the group SoCal Surf Dogs, volunteers with the Helen Woodward Animal Center in California to help raise money and awareness by teaching people how to surf with their dogs. His Bernese mountain dog, Nani, is almost 12, and Noll says surfing has helped extend her life. But his other dog, 10-year-old Kiki, wants nothing to do with the water.

Nani’s kind of a big deal. She’s a world champion and a Surf Dog Hall-of-Famer (yes, that’s a thing) who started surfing nine years ago, but Noll has since retired her. Back in her heydey, she appeared in the movie Marmaduke as one of the dogs in the background; she made more money that week than “any of us did,” Noll laughs.

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The Real-Life Willy Wonka Behind Those Classic Candy Hearts

geoff-bloomThe magic happens in a room with a giant tub that looks like Play-Doh, in a 810,000-square-foot factory, in a small city named after Paul Revere.

The New England Candy Company, better known as Necco, produces 100,000 pounds of Sweethearts — those colorful conversation hearts you got from everyone in your third-grade class on Valentine’s Day — each day for nearly the entire year, even though they’re only sold for several weeks in January and February. They’ve been around for decades — 150 years, to be exact — but Geoff Bloom, the creative director at Necco, is tasked with finding ways to keep them fresh. (“On Fleek” is one of the phrases you’ll find on the hearts this year.)

Valentine’s Day, a one-day holiday to you but a six-week one to Necco, is the company’s biggest moneymaker; about 2 billion Sweethearts are eaten each year. But none of that would be possible without Bloom’s careful touch.

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The Food Stylist

lAfCRGvyItUxgIuXO5AYmekE389gQj-Fb4gMd4i1oU8A box of instant mashed potatoes.

That’s the one thing every food stylist always walks around with, says Charlotte Omnès. If you have a giant bowl and only four shrimp to fill it with, you pad the bowl with mashed potatoes underneath to make it appear full.

“What I do is like hair and makeup for a model, but for food,” Omnès, who has more than a decade of styling food under belt, says. “People think we’re evil sorcerers doing something awful to make food look good, but stylists love making things look real and authentic so you’re not duped when you buy a product.”

Food can be a temperamental beast; lettuce wilts, ice cream melts. But it’s Omnès’ job to make that part invisible to you — and instead to leave your mouth watering.

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The Mazemaker

Adrian Fisher
Fisher first sketches out ideas for mazes using a pencil and paper, then translates them into computer graphics and models.

Mazes seem to defy time and age. You’re in a maze — and I’m talking about real ones, not ones you solve on your iPhone — for 10 minutes or two hours; it’s hard to tell. You’re either 8 years old or 45. It all starts to feel the same.

Adrian Fisher has been designing mazes — mirror mazes, hedge mazes, water mazes, you name it — for 36 years. He holds seven Guinness World Records. Continue reading “The Mazemaker”