A few years ago, when we purchased our second house in San Diego, California, we had a large palm tree in our front yard. My kids wanted to play in the front yard, even if it was 10 o'clock at night. My wife and I argued with them, but they began to sneak out to play. This was unacceptable, and so the story of the screeching tree snakes was born.

One night we were all watching TV in the living room when some scary animal began to make very loud screeching noises. This made my kids curious, and they flocked to the window to see what was making that racket. I told them not to get too close to the window, as they might be seen by the screeching tree snakes. They backed away from the window and asked what kind of snake it was.

I explained that I had seen them moving in to the tree the other night. They lived at the top of the palm in the fronds. During the day, they were sleeping in the trunk of the tree, but at night they came out to capture things to eat. When something came along that looked tasty, they stretched themselves out like a slinky and grabbed their dinner by the head. They would then bring them up to the top of the tree so they could eat them. My youngest daughter had found a few bones on the lawn from an long-expired bird, and she told the others about it. They all decided that they wouldn't sneak out of the house anymore. I told them that the screeching tree snakes were afraid of adults, so if my wife or I were with them, they'd be safe.

A couple of years later, my oldest daughter connected the screeching sound with the very large white screech owl that lived in the tree, but she didn't tell the others about it.

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