There were some shrieks, all right, of delight and of fright.
Peter Rushton brought his P.T. Reptiles educational program to the Karl Road Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library last week, and the youngsters on hand who were brave enough -- or possibly foolish enough -- to volunteer had tarantulas plopped on their heads, snakes draped around their necks and a large tortoise thrust into their hands.
Some even had their noses tickled by the questing tongue of a ball python and of a black-throated monitor lizard.
"Who knows why the snake sticks his tongue out?" Rushton asked the enthusiastic audience. "To smell, that's right."
Mothers watched, some with a good deal of trepidation, as their children had close encounters of the constrictor kind.
Rushton, a native of London who came to the United States in the late 1980s, said his snakes, lizards and arachnids were originally collected by his sons, Peter and Taylor, hence the name of their father's educational enterprise.
Rushton began taking the creatures to classrooms to better inform young people about them.
He said he quit a corporate career 11 years ago to dedicate himself full time to P.T. Reptiles, putting on shows at schools, libraries and day care centers, as well as for birthday parties, festivals, church groups, corporate events and even family reunions.
He added that he covers about the southern two-thirds of Ohio in presenting his reptile show.
Early in the show at the Karl Road library, one young audience volunteer had a brightly colored milk snake decide to crawl down the back of his shirt.
"Are you good?" Rushton asked the obviously started lad.
"Nope," was the answer, and Rushton soon had the reptile back in his hands.
"Shall we find another creature?" Rushton wanted to know, and was greeted with a loud chorus of, "Yes!"
This time he brought out a tarantula, which the first young person he pointed to as a volunteer did not want to come near.
"What do you mean, no?" Rushton asked.
Jaden Breeden, 8, did volunteer, and his mother, Sherry Breeden, got a cell phone shot of her son with the giant spider on top of his head.
"I am not a spider person, not at all," said Breeden, a Northland resident. "In fact, I'm surprised he held it."
"No hugs?" Rushton asked a boy who decided against holding the monitor lizard. "Give him a pet, then."
The show concluded with a blue-tongued skink, a large lizard so flexible that Rushton was able to fold it practically in half as the creature sat placidly in his palm.
For him, Rushton said, the joy he gets from putting on the educational programs is watching children be exposed to something new to them in a safe manner.