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  • On Snakes...

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        Monday, January 08, 2007

    On Snakes...

    Velociman is contemplating attending a rattlesnake round-up, and I wish him well. Go in the morning, when it is cool, and they are sluggish. Come at them with the sun behind you. Won't affect them, they're blind-ohs, but you'll see the buggers better.

    I have been 'struck at' many times, but only bitten by a snake once. A 19' constrictor of some sort...Boa? Python? Fuck if I know, but it was as tame as a kitten, yet I managed to piss it off (as had been my goal) and my favorite cowboy boots, and the underlying foot, got ruined for my efforts...

    Imagine 20 or so good size rose thorns thwocking into your foot, and you, being young (= stupid) hop back out of range, fall to the ground, attempt to pull your boot off, find that is is anchored to your foot by pale white barbs, and a jury of your peers is laughing their asses off at your discomfort.
    I had to hobble off and procure some pliers, and slip the barbs from my boot, procure more assistance to remove my boot from my now swollen foot, and damn if I didn't want to kill me some snake (and would have, too) except that he redeemed himself by throwing a few loops around the assistant dean's neck (him, a Mexican) and nearly popping his fool head off before a crowd of boys reluctantly removed him. Dammit.

    Some years later, I found myself living in a high mountain subdivision, in Northern California. Reserved for the 'rich', it was one of those places (with the most incredible canyon view I've ever seen, which includes the Grand Canyon, which I found to be far overrated and boring) where you bought a plot, and eventually got around to building your luxury retirement home, but...

    My family was among the first settlers, there, and thus, the land was wild. Untamed. And rotten with rattlesnakes, to my delight. At night, they would creep up onto our manicured lawn to drink out of the standing water in the sprinkler heads. I'd look out there, from the deck, and the sprinklers would look like the spokes of wagon wheels.

    I would raise my Ruger 10/22 up quietly to the rails edge, signal whoever was on switch duty, they'd flip on the yard floods, and I would pop rattlesnakes in the head until the yard was full of squirming dead spirals of nerve endings and meat. It was a rare thing for one to escape.

    My Dad taught me how to skin them out, and render the meat, and use taxidermy pins to cure their hides on lengths of 2x4's. Sometimes, for the big ones, we had to flay them out on a sheet of plywood, because the skin at the widest point (usually the middle) would spread out to well over a foot, from edge to edge. It was not rare to exceed 20 inches.

    And oh, did we feast. Dad loved to do the cooking, and he would cut a section of coil that would fit in our largest (and very large) iron skillet, and brown it some, then cover it with tomato sauce, and onion chunks, and garlic, and shaved carrots and seasonings, and simmer it until the meat just came out in perfect pale medallions from between the ribs.

    After a while, it dawned on me, through the clog of sperm that clouded my teenage brain in those days, that we were living amongst a plague of serpents, of Biblical proportions. When you have to carry a pistol with you to take the garbage out, well...

    Plus, my Dad, through his University contacts, knew a lot of hippies, and I found that a lot of those fuckers liked to do craftish shit, headbands and belts and vests and stuff, and I could sell them rattlesnake pelts for top dollar so's I could afford my own dope and movie tickets and beer and bullets (I was seriously into Fast Draw, and fired at least 500 hand-loaded rounds a week) you know, the important things in life, so...

    I mean, these fuckers were clamoring for skins, so...

    Well, the mountains are closer to the sun, the air is thinner, and these slippery sonuvabitches (the snakes, not the hippies) would hide out during the day, and come out in the evening. Now, the places they chose to hide weren't terribly convenient for me, being caveish places, dark, and full of envenomed beasts, so I fetched me a wheelbarrow, and did a thing I hated: manual labor.

    I fetched me rocks, from here and there, Mount Shasta having blessed me with an abundance of them, in all sizes, some aeons ago, and I made me a passel of 'rattlesnake traps'.
    You make circular containers of rock(s), about three feet across, with the opening towards where the sun will rise in the morning. About two feet high. Then you put a nice thick piece of plywood over it.

    Place them about fifty feet equidistant from each other...rattlesnakes are territorial.

    Load your .38 revolver with snake-shot (what, you want a bullet back in the mouth?), put on some excellent quality polarized sunglasses, a wide brimmed hat or good ball-cap, some good high boots, an go git you sum snakes.

    Away from the opening you left, tap lightly on the wood with the gun barrel. If the snake alarm goes off, step back a little, kick off the wood, and shoot the fucker in the head. They will have likely coiled up, and you don't want to mess up the skin or the meat, so wait til they strike up at you, then squat and blam!

    Keep an eye out in the corner of it (your eyes) for crawling sticks, high-tailing it for the bushes. Sometimes they think they can get away, and will brave the heat, especially the big ones. And a six inch rattler can kill you, so take no prisoners.

    Leave the corpse there, go to the next trap, and so on. Eventually, I decimated the population, and we saw no more rattlesnakes. King Snakes, yes. I love them, and they love to eat rattlesnake as much as I do. Once I lowered the rattlesnake population, the King Snakes took over, and kept them down.
    Eventually, the ridge became rotten with houses, and lost its appeal. Once you get a 'neighborhood committee', you're fucked.

    Still, I like to think I did my small part for the environment...


    Safety Note: Have a burn barrel well away from the house, and burn everything from the snake you don't eat or sell. Burn it well. They are vengeful beasts, and travel in pairs, like motorcycle police. You see one, there's another lurking somewhere close.

    No, I'm not joking.