|Western rattlesnake (Idaho State University).|
The rental cabin was taken for a long weekend by a couple from somewhere in the Denverplex — Aurora, I think. It was the wife, and she sounded kind of shaky.
"I went out to my truck, and there's a SNAKE!"
"OK, "I said," I'll be right over."
I had a seen a bullsnake over there before. People are always mistaking them for rattlers and going all herpe-cidal. I got a five-gallon plastic bucket and a shovel and walked the couple hundred yards to the cabin.
Curled by the retaining wall that holds up the parking space was a Western rattlesnake.* Well, hello, little guy, are you the reason that I have not been catching mice in my cabin traps?
The woman was inside the back door, practically chewing her knuckles. Her husband was on the steps with a big stick, but keeping his distance.
I scooped the snake and dropped it in the bucket. Look at me, I'm Ranger Rick!
I surely was not going to reach down and pick up the bucket's bail, so I tried to work the shovel blade undernearth it. And I knocked over the bucket, and the snake slithered out onto the lawn, heading for some thicker vegetation.
"X*%$," I thought, "Now I will have to kill it to keep them from panicking."
But the snake was so angry that when I prodded it again, it coiled up, and again I scooped it, dropped it in the bucket, and walked away with the bucket held by the shovel blade.
"Kill it!!!" she called through the window.
No, I said, I would relocate it. Perversely enough, my experience ten years ago makes me more tolerant of rattlesnakes. Maybe the venom changed my brain.
This rich Texan has bought up a lot of land around us, including a small ranch whose previous owner had decorated one area with signs proclaiming "RATTLESNAKE TEST AREA. KEEP OUT." (Works better than "No Trespassing," don't you think?)
Those signs are gone now, but we all remember them.
Once home, I dropped the bucket into an empty garbage can, snapped on the lid, and secured it with a bungie cord. Mr. or Ms. Snake had been buzzing the whole time and kept on buzzing while M. and I took it for a drive. That was one angry snake.
Where the county road parallels a creek in the former "test area," I tipped over the garbage can, spilled out the bucket, and then removed bucket and garbage can with the shovel. We left the snake there by the side of the road, still coiled and buzzing.
Now if I could just find a bull snake, I could relocate it down in the gully where I have been dumping all the mice that I live-trap in the garage and basement here at the house. There was even one in my study wastebasket earlier this week — it has been a huge mouse year.
*It seemed two feet long, so it was probably 18 inches.