Sunday, June 03, 2007
I love snakes. When I was 12 or 13-year-old in school we were all assembled in the gym and someone gave a talk, but all I remember was that he had a snake that he let pass around from hand to hand. It was about five feet long, thick and smooth and copper colored and I fell in love with it. In Denmark there are not many snakes and it wasn’t until I lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains that my encounters with snakes became frequent.
The first time I heard a rattlesnake, I was walking with a small boy. The sound carries a strong message: “Watch out!” and my immediate reaction was to tear the boy away from the sound, so we didn’t even see the snake.
Sometime later I was sitting in our primitive kitchen when I heard the sound again right outside. I went out to check and there was our cat facing a rattlesnake. The cat lifted the paw to strike and the rattler sounded his warning. The cat lowered the paw and the rattler stopped rattling. This went back and forth a couple of times and I thought it would be better to break it up before something happened, so I stepped up and lifted the cat right out of the situation. While I was still standing there with the cat in my arms, the snake turned around and slithered away peacefully. That confirmed my belief that rattlesnakes are essentially peaceful.
I had been living in a tipi and later I vent to the site where the plywood floor was still lying on the ground to look for some papers I had lost. When I lifted one of the sheets I found, instead of papers, a hibernating rattlesnake. I thought it would be nice if it were living in my garden and helping me to keep the population of rats and gophers in check. I had a plan. First I made a stick with a loop of string that could be tightened and then I prepared a new home for the snake in the hollow stump of a tree I had cut down. There was already an aperture in the side of the stump and, after I had provided it with a roof of plywood, it made a perfect snake home. I picked the snake up with the stick, placed it in a bucked, and brought it to its new home. Unfortunately the snake didn’t agree. When I checked up on it the next day it had left its perfect home!
It may have been the same snake that moved into my friend’s house. She called me for help: a rattlesnake was lying curled up right inside her front door. Armed with my stick and bucket I came to her rescue. I soon had the snake outside but the loop around its neck wouldn’t loosen up. I had to work a pair of scissors in under the string next to the snake’s head and cut it loose. All this the snake accepted calmly until I tried to coax it into the bucket with the stick; then it lost patience and struck once at the bucket, but I got it in anyway and carried it away from the house and let it go.
One curious thing happened. I was walking up a path when I heard the rattle and saw a snake. I stopped and looked, but there was no rattle at the end of its tail. When I moved again, it produced the sound by whipping its tail against the dry leaves; it was a gopher snake trying to scare me away by imitating a rattlesnake!
For facts about rattlesnakes check here