June 2, 2023

Snake Sighting

Snake sighting

Farm News

As the truck and trailer came to a skidding stop on the gravel road, I jumped out of the truck, then remembered to turn off the diesel engine in the hope of getting some good audio of the hissing. That glimmer on the end of the serpent was what I suspected, a rattle,-- each nub the result of one skin shed. It was a beautiful and huge rattlesnake, the back half still in the gravel road, the front starting to make its way up a bank on the side of the road.

Noticing me, and wanting to be where it came from, not where it was headed, the snake turned and crossed the road, showing off its size, grace and speed. I moved to try to get in front of it in order to take a picture of that impressive rattle. It poked its head into a hole at the side of the road which for some reason horrified me. The thought of three full feet of rattlesnake disappearing into the ground was too much. If I were a ground squirrel, I would never find comfort in my tunnel again.

The handsome creature pulled its head back out and slithered slowly into the shade and terrain of a black walnut tree. Its body, tattooed with a brown and tan pattern, slowly disappeared until the snake thought it was safe. All that remained visible was the last six inches, including the splendid rattle which hung over a root in the ground, perfectly still. As I stood there, I felt a rush of life and excitement.

So many thoughts. It didn’t make a sound; not surprising that a snake that old didn’t rattle at all. Some folks have an unreasonable fear of snakes, and many rural folks would have killed it. For generations, people have been killing rattlesnakes. The rattle, meant to be a warning system screaming “I am here, go somewhere else!,” turned into a location system, “I am here, come kill me!” In my humble opinion, we have been breeding these creatures to be silent. If they rattle, they die; if they stay quiet, they live. This one was old and no doubt at some point its life was extended by not rattling.

As I stood there, I had no desire to kill the snake, but I had a fleeting urge to mess with it. What would happen if I grabbed the rattle? It seemed impossible that the snake would be able to whirl around and bite me, but the thought of it made my arm tingle. What a dumb idea. The people most bit by rattlesnakes are young, drunk men. Good thing I’m old.

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