I saw him out of the corner of my eye.  A diamond back rattlesnake silently slid to the back of the shed only three feet from where I was standing.   The mesquite trees were hanging low around the shed making it difficult to walk through so I was pruning them.  Up to this point I had never seen a snake back there, but I had taken to calling it the snake pit due to the piles of old concrete blocks and buckets of old construction pieces combined with the high weeds. David planned to load up the trailer and haul that old junk to the landfill one day but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. 

My Apache friend, Guati,  told me if I ever ran into a rattlesnake to give him a call.   He  would come and shoot it. He showed me his snake shooting pistol and let me heft it in my hand.   Better yet, Guati encouraged me to get my own gun, said he would teach me how to shoot.  I don’t think I could kill any living being, though, not even a rattlesnake.   So I told Guati I’d leave the rattlesnake hunting to him.  Guati lives a good half hour away and I figured by the time he arrived any snake I ran into would be long gone. 

 I’ve familiarized myself with rattlesnake prevention.   Tall concrete walls around the yard are recommended but that is not a practical solution for the ranch.  It’s too big.  There is some kind of mesh you can buy as well but again not practical.  So I do my best by keeping the grass cut short.  I’ve also worn out two pairs of work gloves clearing piles of brush and debris to minimize hiding places.   A rattlesnake had the misfortune to show up on Easter Sunday when we had a family party going on here.   One of the guests, a tough young kid, chopped that snake’s head off then skinned it.   He said it was good eating.   I like to try new foods but when it comes to snake I told him I would take a pass.

 I am always cautious outside.  Who knows what kinds of things I’ve missed because my eyes are on the ground watching for snakes.  It’s not an obsession, merely caution, something everyone around here does.     So when I decided to prune those trees, near the snake pit, I wore steel toe shoes and I went in slow.  I scanned the ground carefully before taking any steps, looking right , looking left, looking straight ahead but not behind me and that was where he came from.  I stood still and calmly watched him.  About three feet long, his geometric markings were definite but subtle in color.  You can tell a rattler’s age by the number of rattles.  He had five.  Between the rattle and his body he had a few black and white stripes.  If he rattled I never heard it.  If he watched me working I never knew it.  If I unwittingly came close to him, I was unaware.   He gave me a wide berth, headed to the shed and glided behind the concrete blocks.  After all my fears about rattlesnakes I actually found him to be quite beautiful and full of grace.

But I am going to leave the clean up in back of the shed to David.

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