What were your mother’s parting words every time you left the house?
Right. “Watch for snakes.”
In August, we were told to be extra careful because the rattlers would be shedding their skins, their eyes would be covered for a few days, and since they couldn’t see they would strike at the sounds we made without rattling. I have no idea whether or not that is true.
What I DO KNOW is if a rattlesnake ever bit me, I’d die before the poison had a chance to kill me.
We lived on one ranch where those huge old diamondbacks would stretch out across the feed roads. At the sound of a pickup motor those old fellows would rise up and challenge the vehicle. This was during the terrible drought of the ’50s, and we always, faithfully, laid dead snakes belly-up so it would rain.
We all have “snake stories.”
Once my brother’s horse shied from a rattler, and he hung off the side of his galloping horse for at least 100 yards before he managed to grab the saddlehorn and pull himself back on. To fall off, of course, would have been worse than dying even if the snake didn’t get him because I was there and I would tell the “falling off” part at the supper table that night, probably with only slight mention of the snake.
My husband had a riding mower. One nice spring day he decided to fire it up after its long winter rest and “mow stuff.” He didn’t just mow grass. Sticks, rocks, tree branches, anything in front of him got mowed. Cars needed to be parked out of range, also — their windows were at risk.
Anyway, the engine wouldn’t start, so he raised the hood to take a look at the motor. It took a second for his eyes to focus on what was curled up around that motor — a very large snake. One quick look is not enough to tell a rattlesnake from a bullsnake, and that’s all my husband got before his body landed a good 10 feet away from the mower.
He had no recollection of thinking, “That’s a snake. I have to get away.” Later, he couldn’t jump that far even to win a bet.
It turned out to be a bullsnake, so we let him go about his business — stealing bird eggs.
When you think about it, snakes are at the bottom of not only the real world (crawling and all that) but they are at the bottom of the “list of favorite animals” for most of us humans.
After all, the snake, whom the Bible calls “more subtle than any other wild creature the Lord made,” talked Eve into eating the fruit of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.
Like a good wife, she shared, but when God got on Adam’s case for eating the fruit, what did Adam say?
“The woman gave it to me.”
The men have been blaming us for all their troubles ever since.
Glenda Price has been a contributing editor to New Mexico Stockman magazine since 1982. Contact her: