Speaking of Snakes

If you live in Nevada for long, especially if you love to explore, jog, and hike, sooner or later you are bound to encounter a slithering buddy. In my younger days innocent water snakes horrified me and I cannot say that my love has increased over the years. As soon as spring warms, I know that I will meet a bull snake or two as I cover local trails or peek into old cabins. I keep a wary eye as I prepare to jump the little ones and side-wind the larger ones. Most often snakes simply ignore me as I thunder on by, the racket caused by pounding heart rather than fleeing footsteps. In addition to bull snakes we have a vast array of “stick” snakes. It continually amazes me how a piece of wood can resemble my slip-sliding friends and repeatedly fool me.

I really should work up adoration for most snakes and applaud their sneaky tenacity. They devour mice and other rodents that invade fields and homes and sometimes carry nasty diseases. It is just tough for me to decide which should be eradicated first, and then I must ask myself why I would even think such a dastardly thought. Snakes have provided me with some fantastic adventures.

When my daughter Allison was little she loved to set gopher traps for her grandpa, each one bringing her bank account a dollar. With baling twine tied to the end of the baited trap, she slid her traps into each hole she could spy and then returned later to pull up her prize. I often rode on the 4-wheeler as she followed her route. One evening while checking her last set, she pulled her trap to have it yank back. She tried again and the jerk was repeated. On her third heave what should appear but the enormous head of very unhappy bull snake! After adequate screaming we leapt onto the cycle and raced toward the house, loaded up Dad, and returned to the horrifying scene. Of course, he thought we had fabricated the tale until he too tugged and found what ended up being a four-foot, roly-poly serpent. Having dined too far up the gopher, he too had been trapped. Dad grasped the snake’s head, loosened the trap and then let our friend slip away into the brush. Allison and I were so glad we had pulled on the string rather than just sticking bare hands into the gopher hole, a frequent retrieval method.

Our dog Fred hated snakes about as much as I did. Whether one had nipped him once and he had vowed revenge or just because they riled his pit-bull nature, I do not know. A favorite sport for him involved eyeballing a snake, circling in, and then carefully timing his assault. Hopping into the air he pounced on his prey, clutching it by the midsection with sharp teeth, he violently shook it into submission. Once he started his attack, stopping him became impossible. Eventually he would drop the still form to the ground and stalk back to the yard with a smugness that indicated that he had saved the day yet again.

I have no admiration for rattlesnakes either. Many of you will recall a few years back when my husband and I hiked into a nest of them with thin shoes and bare legs. As we rounded a rocky outcropping, I glanced down just as Lynn’s step narrowly missed a coiled rattler. In a flash I had realized that if I panicked and screamed he would stop, pivot, and cause his ankle to rotate within inches of waiting fangs. Instead when he was a safe step away I calmly whispered, “I believe that is a rattler, honey.” He turned, nodded, lurched slightly, and then turned back to the trail only to discover another huge snake buddy straddling the trail. After some tiptoeing and a quick sashay, we trekked fearlessly on, but with eyes wide open. Our dogs pranced about as we created lots of noise. We went ahead and camped for the night just because that had been the plan. Our return route in the morning again loaded with snakes but we stalked on through, glad when we finally reached the truck. While the rattlers were a unique adventure, one that I survived, Lynn often mentions going back to Rebel Canyon. When I wildly shake my head “NO!” he still wonders why I have no interest in revisiting rattlesnake haven.

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