Name that Snake

It was late. I had worked a full shift and closed at the store. It was nearly 10 pm and now i had to water all the plants by moonlight and the sky happened to be overcast. I parked the car, grabbed my pitcher, and headed for the spigot on the side of the well house to fill it with water. As i walked i noticed movement near my feet. I realized fairly quickly it was a snake. It was shaped in an S if the S had one too many turns to it. Bent this way and that it was taking up about two feet of length in the grass. It was slithering away from me along the skirting of the house. Most people living in the city would be alarmed to find a snake 6 inches from their shoe but it was not in a striking position, was facing away from me, didnt seem bothered by my presence in the slightest…and i lived in the country…snakes were a regular sight out here. The only time it became a problem was if the snake felt threatened. I didn’t intend to pose any threat so i didn’t perceive it as a threat to me. I did however want to get a good look at the snake just for my own information, to know what kinds of snakes were coming and going through my property. I bent down and held the lantern about two inches from the scales on the back end of the escaping snake, expecting to see a solid green or solid brown coloring…maybe a grass snake, a garden snake, could be a rat snake…. HO!!! I jumped back right quick as two things happened simultaneously. The light illuminated my folly and revealed that i was now harassing a fairly active western diamondback rattlesnake and the new proximity of my lantern convinced the snake that i was now something to be dealt with. As i jumped back the snake had switched directions and doubled back around to see what purpose i meant by placing a light source two inches from its scales. I wanted no piece of that action and continued to back away. Rattlers have a surprising striking distance and at inches from it i was well within range. Once the Rattler realized my curiosity had died with my identification of him he turned around and continued off to hunt field mice. I then stepped into the house and pulled out my laminated snake identification pamphlet with the pattern of scales illuminated by lantern light tattooed on my brain. It was indeed a rattlesnake. I have a collection of laminated pamphlets in a little tray on the wall near the laundry machines in case of emergency. It includes animal tracks, venomous spiders, venomous snakes, animals scat, and one of birds just for kicks because i like them.

I watered the plants without much fear. Most of the time animals want to be left alone. A snake does not hunt you on purpose. It is only your enemy when you pose a threat. If you stumble into or turn over the place where its sleeping, chase it, or accidentally step on it, a snake will defend itself. Thats when you get bit. I held the lantern close to the ground, listened keenly for rustling grass, and watched for cylindrical shapes or movement. I watered all the trees and plants without incident. I waited a while before i let the dogs out in the run to potty and only left them out about 15 minutes before we went to bed. I didnt know where that rattler went but i wasnt keen on seeing him again that night and figured it best for us to turn in for bed before the dogs found him. Back when Cashew got bit in the face by a rattler i had a snake relocator out to the property to rehome any present rattlers. He combed every inch of the property and poked into every hole and cavity, moved every bit of brush, rock, wood, or equipment in the grass…he didnt find one snake. He said there were no nests on the two acres. The snake was sleeping somewhere else. It was just coming here to eat and as long as there were mice in the field it would continue to do so, but there were no sleeping snakes hiding from the sun here…none for him to remove. I frequented most of my property on foot daily and i knew where a rabbit, fox, and armadillo den were. I knew where the coyotes sometimes stashed the rest of a kill they werent done with, i knew where a group of white tails pooped and slept nightly…i hadnt seen any snake dens, so, i believed him.

My reaction was not to go get the machete and try to flush out and eliminate a rattler nest. I knew this was just a snake out for a bite to eat, somebody passing through. He’d go home at dawn. Ive heard people say the only good rattler is a dead rattler. Now, i don’t disagree with that sentiment but one has to evaluate the level of danger they’d like to be in. In this instance….theres always going to be snakes passing through…killing one is not going to prevent the rest from arriving. If left alone he’d be on his merry way and if confronted he’d likely win in a hand to hand combat scenario. Plus, i had a problem with mice…which he could take care of. So my fight was not with the western diamondback rattler. Better to mind my own and allow the occasional rattler to do the same than to play “Quién es más macho?” with a venomous foe way too far from a proper hospital with anti-venom on hand. I have always tried to live amongst the animals rather than conquer them. I have a fence with gaping 7 foot holes in the wire. I shudder to think how much less wildlife i would see if i properly fenced this property one day. I let the cottontails and foxes and possums come and go. Ive even seen a skunk and i leave the snakes alone. At some point you have to realize that the purpose of living in the middle of nature is to witness nature and if you conquer it all, then there’s nothing left to witness. I want to see wild things daily. I dont want to walk out and observe a hog tight fence and a hank hill manicured lawn. That’s great for some but as for me, i want to see the wild animals God created in their natural habitat doing wild things.

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