Wednesday, July 11, 2012
A Wild and Woolly Week
The trouble started Thursday when I came back from town. Gus and Woodrow were blocking the road to the cabin, which is not unusual that time of day. They usually get rowdy when they see me coming especially if it’s past feeding time. But they looked so calm and well-behaved I thought I would get out of the truck and take their picture. They seemed to be posing! After getting a couple of shots I saw Woodrow lower his head and shake it and lift one front foot. This is his cue that he is fixing to get a little Western on me! He began his one steer stampede in my direction, while Gus thought it over. I don’t usually run from them since I think that encourages them to run with me, but I high-tailed it to the truck as quick as I could!
I told them to “go home” and pointed my arm toward their pen, which is their command to go to where they are fed. They trotted off peaceably and I drove on into the cabin yard and fed them.
Friday morning I made the rounds as usual filling all the bird feeders and tossing some milo out for the turkeys. I have been wearing some heavy duty Bogs garden boots all summer, even with my shorts. They are thick and have good ankle support on this rocky ground. I believe they will protect me from a coral snake bite which I think about when I am scooping up mulch from under the oak trees. Probably not from a bigger snake bite, but they may lessen the grip one could get on me. Or so I hope! Friday I didn’t put them on; instead just slipped my Crocs on, which is almost like wearing house slippers. That was my first mistake. My second one was not watching the ground as I came to the last feeder. This is a wire sunflower seed feeder not far from the back porch. I also put seed on the ground under the feeder for the ground feeding birds and the squirrels. It helps keep the squirrels off the feeder. The turkeys come here also and the ground is scratched up from all the activity.
I know that snakes come to where we put seed out, looking for an easy meal of the birds that are there. A few years ago Rickie found a rattler out by the deer feeders and my neighbors have found one eating a cardinal by their feeder. So normally I watch the ground. But Friday I was looking out over the hills. All at once I heard a rustling in the leaves on the ground by me and saw a rattlesnake come out from between my feet. He turned and coiled facing me. I jumped backwards away from him and I have to tell you, I was some kind of scared. I don’t have a snake phobia like some people. I have a live and let live attitude toward snakes mostly. But as Lance Morrow said, “a rattlesnake loose in the living room tends to end all discussion of animal rights.” Substitute “back yard” for “living room” and you get my train of thought. I’ve seen the TV show about snake bite victims and it’s not pretty.
I went in the cabin and got the little single shot 410 shotgun and some shells. He was still where I left him and that’s where he died. I’ve killed snakes before but that is the first one I’ve shot. I’ve used a hoe to kill copperheads and other poisonous snakes in other yards I have lived in. I wouldn’t want to try to kill a rattlesnake with a hoe unless I had nothing else.
I was by myself and I learned a long time ago that sometimes you have to kill your own snakes, both literally and figuratively, and I’ve done both when I had to. I've had contact with rattlesnakes before but this was my first close encounter with a rattler and it shook me up. I put the shotgun up, took the snake to the pasture for the buzzards, and poured myself a glass of Rebecca Creek Texas whiskey. My friend Lois said the whiskey manual specifies a finger of whiskey for each foot of snake and I think this is a good sound policy.
There were some dove feathers by the snake and I first thought he had eaten the dove and that might have slowed him down some and kept him from biting me. But thinking about it, the bird was a white wing dove and they are pretty big. The snake was 3’ and didn’t have a big bulge where the bird would be. So I think something else got the dove. I was lucky.
Monday we had a storm move in and with it came lightning. We are still dry from last year’s drought and there are a lot of dead cedars around. My neighbor Scott was outside and smelled smoke. He went down the road to investigate, while his wife Martha called to update me. Our neighbor Robin is on high ground and her place is the lookout point for our end of the street. Scott went there and they spotted a fire the lightning had started. He called it in and waited for help to come. The fire was put out and we had a little bit of rain that helped. After all the wildfires last year, we take these things seriously. This is the second lightning strike fire that Scott and Martha have spotted. Due to this the fires have been put out before they become big and dangerous. We need a fire tower on our street and we can take turns manning it!
In between the rattler and the wildfire, my daughter Sarah and grandson Bixby came to visit. We took Bixby to the river so he could become an official river rat! We improvised an ice chest for a swimming pool on the back porch and gave him a bath in an old metal pan that his Pampaw used to take a bath in when he was a baby. We took his picture with his mom on the swing her dad built for her when she was 8 years old. He started his rock collection with a river rock.
It’s been a wild and wooly week here at the ranch but all’s well that ends well, and we are ending this one with rain in the gauge!