While riding our bikes near our house a few days ago, my wife and I were headed home when a neighbor drove up and said, ‘watch out, back in the curve is a big snake!’  The curve of the road lies along our property-line.

Not our snake, but clearly a cousin

Not our snake, but clearly a cousin

So, my Zoology degree curiosity and redneck propensity rising to the surface, I smiled at my wife and we road up to the long, slithery thing in the road.  (A comedian once said, ‘they move, they don’t have legs, it’s the work of the devil!)

Lying in the road was a 2.5 foot rattlesnake, of the Eastern Diamondback variety.  As I approached (to within a bold ten feet or so), he (or she) pulled back as if to strike.  But never, not once, did she (or he) shake that tell-tale rattle.

Now, let me say that I consider that a remarkable breach of courtesy.  As I understand the ‘social contract’ between man and rattlesnake, presumably in place since the unfortunate incident in the Garden of Eden, snake rattles tale, man urinates and runs backward.  Man seeks for weapon with which to ‘bruise his head,’ whilst snake slithers away to safer pastures.  No one is the worse off.

This is where I would be running...

This is where I would be running...

This snake did not rattle, and frankly it creeped me out a little.  Still, as it was headed for our property, I threw a stick in front of it to ‘shoo’ it away.

At the same time, a pick-up truck arrived with two local gentlemen in it.  For the tragically non-Southern reader, I point out a truisum, a kind of well-documented law of the South, a ‘geographic anomaly,’ as Ulysses Everett MacGill said in ‘O Brother Where Art Thou.’

In the South, whatever the situation or time of day, eventually two guys in a pick-up will arrive.  Doesn’t matter if it’s a flat tire, an alien landing, a Chinese invasion, a domestic squabble, a deer hit by a car, a sink-hole, a cardiac arrest or simply a sit-in for world peace, two guys in an old pick-up will find their way to your location.  Be patient.

Well, kind of like this...

Well, kind of like this...

Slowing down, they looked out of the truck window and one said, ‘you want me to kill him?’  ‘Yep, he needs to be killed,’ the other amateur herpetologist agreed.

‘No, he’s fine,’ I said.  ‘He’s headed into the woods.’  By now he had done a 180 and was headed for their truck and the opposite batch of downed timber.

‘You sure?  I’ve got something here in the truck…’

‘No, I’m sure.  He’s fine.’

They left, but not without an air of disappointment.  Two guys in a pick-up who don’t get to kill a rattlesnake in the road, well it’s positively a scandal.  I felt bad for them.  But not for the snake.  He was a fine specimen. And while, on some very real levels, I am petrified of rattlesnakes, I was glad to see him slither away.

Thing is, I’ve seen too many snake-bites in my career.  You get pretty sick.  And kids, like mine, would get terribly, critically ill from a proper rattlesnake envenomation.  Just last year, one of our dogs took a bite on the nose while poking around the yard and woods, though probably from a Copperhead, since she did quite well.  So I’m a little touchy on the topic.

I once saw a patient who received 36 vials of antivenin…of course, he was drunk, the rattlesnake was a pet, etc., etc.

But back to our story:

Our snake didn’t mess with me, I didn’t mess with him.  Everybody won.

Except, of course, the two downcast guys who left without any rattles or snake-skin.

‘You can’t always get what you want, because if you try sometime…,’  you’ll just end up in the ER getting antivenin and wishing to heck you’d left that rascal alone.

icky rattlesnake bite

icky rattlesnake bite

Ironically, I had my trusty revolver loaded with snake-shot, sitting in my pocket all along.  Kind of a cool counterpoint; I out-rednecked the rednecks, without firing a shot (or getting bitten!)

Smith and Wesson Model 60, in .357 magnum

Smith and Wesson Model 60, in .357 magnum

(Mercy means you can do something to harm another, but choose not to do it.)

Our bike rides keep getting more interesting.  A few days prior to that, we were almost sprayed by a skunk.  You’d be surprised how fast you can ride up-hill when you face the prospect of tomato-sauce baths and being a temporary social outcast!

Scenic Upstate South Carolina!  I love it here.  And if I don’t belong, between a house-full of kids, a hotty of a wife, rattlers for neighbors and a gun in my pocket, then nobody ever did.

Yours in all things Southern!


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