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Thursday, October 27 2016

I stood in the road with my gun drawn and yelled at him, "This is why I can't wear pretty sandals to church!"

The dusty boots on my feet gave an apologetic shrug.  I stepped out of the fired bullet casings that were scattered in the dirt, climbed back into the truck, and turned the key off. Without the roar of the diesel engine the forest stood in silence, waiting to see what I'd do next.

When I retired from police work, I thought I could actually be normal, but like an ill-fitting coat, normal just doesn't hang well on me. We moved to a beautiful ranching community, joined a traditional country church, and thought we'd slide into the roles of normal people. Be just like everyone else. Who was I kidding? Here I was supposed to be on my way to choir practice at the church, but instead I was standing in the road like Matt Dillon, waiting for my Other Half to bring me another gun.

There were more bullets in the gun I had, but it's a good rule of thumb to never empty your last gun. So instead I snatched up the phone, gave thanks that there was cell reception in this part of the dirt road driveway, and called the husband.

"I need you to bring me The Judge! I've got a rattlesnake in the road by the main gate."

"How big is he?"

"How big does he HAVE to be? It's a rattlesnake! He's small. About the size of a copperhead. I shot at him but he was moving so fast that I don't know if I hit him. He stopped in the weeds. Right now he and I are just looking at each other."

"Okay, on the way."

The Judge is a revolver that shoots .410 shotgun shells, thus greatly increasing your chances of hitting the target. It's tough to hit a fleeing snake with the .380 I had in my hand. Snakes tend to do that whole serpentine thing really quickly, because, well, you're shooting at them. Bullets whizzing into the ground tend to speed up a snake, but this one had reached the safety of the weeds and stopped. I quit shooting because I lost sight of him. So there I was, in my dusty boots, standing by the weeds, looking for a snake. Rattlesnakes take that camouflage thing to a whole new level. You can be shooting at one that's running across a gravel road and the minute he reaches the weeds it's like he activates a cloaking device and poof!

He's gone.

Except that he isn't.

And you're standing in the tall weeds with a rattlesnake. That you can't see.

I finally located the black and white stripes on his tail and worked my way up to the whole snake. He was looking at me. Trying to decide whether or not to fight or run for it. I backed up into the roadway and waited. If he tried to run then I could take the chance and waste bullets but otherwise, it was easier to wait for The Judge.

While waiting I texted the pastor:

"Running late to choir practice. Killing a rattlesnake."

Even as I typed the words, the irony struck me. Nope. Still not normal. Normal people drive past rattlesnakes. They do not stop the truck and do battle. If they happen to shoot and miss, they certainly do not follow said snake into the brush and call for reinforcements. And if they do the above, they definitely do not advertise their special brand of crazy by texting the pastor.

But I was gonna late. And I'd just joined the choir. Being late might give people the impression that I didn't care. And these people don't yet know I'm crazy. They think I'm normal. On the other hand, after that text, I'd say they figured it out.

So I stood in the road in sturdy boots instead of sandals because running into poisonous snakes at the gate was not a new thing for me. You can be fashionable or you can be prepared, but you cannot be both.

A low hum in the distance assured me the wait was over. The gravel crunched beneath his tires as Other Half rolled to a stop and carefully stepped out of the mule. Since possession is 9/10ths of the law, and he had the gun in his hand, there wasn't much argument about who got to shoot the rattlesnake. We've killed 14 copperheads by the house this summer. There are plenty of snakes to go around.

One dose of .410 shotgun shell and the rattlesnake had moved on to a greener patch of weeds. I kissed my Snake Soldier on the cheek, climbed back in the truck, and continued my journey towards normal. I will never arrive there, but it's a nice illusion.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 12:48 pm   |  Permalink   |  15 Comments  |  Email
For someone who seemingly cares so much about the lives of animals, it's a shame that you were running one down just to kill it. This was a sad read and really disappointing.
Posted by Anonymous on 10/27/2016 - 01:36 PM
When you have one bite your dog in the face, we can talk. When you have not one, but 14 by your back door, we can talk.
Posted by Forensicfarmgirl on 10/27/2016 - 01:49 PM
I missed church altogether because I had my arm inside a goat and because the dog wouldn't quit having seizures and because the horse needed eye drops every 2 hours, if I wanted to save the eye, but never because of a snake. Yes, they know I'm crazy, but they also know they can call on me when they need my brand of crazy. Pretty much everyone else at church has their own brand of crazy too. You will fit in perfectly.
Posted by Patty on 10/27/2016 - 01:54 PM
Great read! I would have done the same. Any venomous snake on my property is one that has the potential to be found by my dogs. Not a risk I'm willing to take.
Posted by Sierra on 10/27/2016 - 01:55 PM
I've had several friends lose their dogs to rattlesnakes. It's just not worth the chance. Relocating them is more dangerous than it's worth too. Been there, done that. Dog got bit anyway.
Posted by Forensicfarmgirl on 10/27/2016 - 02:27 PM
I am a fairly live and let live kinda girl, but I draw the line at anything that would kill one of my dogs. I am also not normal. We might be the same person! No one's ever seen us in the same place ...
Posted by Lisa Ochoa on 10/27/2016 - 04:11 PM
I see you got a Judge! That's my choice too for walking through the woods around our cabin in Adams Co., PA. It's always loaded with bird shot when in the woods. We have Timber Rattlers there. Someone has mistakenly named them PROTECTED! Can you believe it? I do try to avoid them but if it's one of my dogs being threatened, then game on. As for the first commenter, obviously that person has never come up close and personal with a venomous snake and been at a disadvantage.
Posted by Pam on 10/27/2016 - 05:54 PM
Lol! Thanks for the support. I am an animal lover and to the dismay of friends, I even ignore or rescue and relocate spiders in my house. There's a black widow living in my barn that I just avoid. She's not in a spot that's a danger to my animals. But I draw the line on pit vipers. Their bite is not a simple bee sting. We're talking hospital, vet, or possible death. We have neighbors who have been bitten. My apologies to snake lovers, but I don't cut slack to a poisonous snake.
Posted by Forensicfarmgirl on 10/27/2016 - 06:01 PM
That's true, Lisa. We could be the same person!
Posted by Forensicfarmgirl on 10/27/2016 - 06:04 PM
It is good we humans can keep learning. My sister, an ardent Antigun activist, heard the dog barking like mad on the patio and found the dog had herded her 3 yr old twins to the corner and was between them and a " copper-headed- rattle-mocosun" She went and got her husband's .22 and blew its head off on the first shot. The first time she had ever held a gun. Lucky, because it was against concrete. She now wants a permit.
Posted by Andrea on 10/28/2016 - 11:43 AM
Yes, there is nothing like having family in danger to turn even the most kindhearted people into bears. Children are especially at risk to the bites of poisonous snakes. I wouldn't hesitate to shoot.
Posted by Forensicfarmgirl on 10/28/2016 - 11:52 AM
Sad that we have an Anonymous join in. I too live and let live but this is a case of protecting and not just shooting for the sake of shooting. Here it would have had to be a spade or something as guns are not easy to get [for which I am grateful] As I have said before snakes here usually nick off when they feel vibration BUT that hasn't stopped animals and people getting bitten and die. Our snakes are protected as they are vital for our ecosystem [eg kookaburras eat them] but there are times, as above, when something has to give.
Posted by Liz [Vic Aust. on 10/28/2016 - 05:18 PM
That's funny, I don't have any friends named Anonymous! Anyone who knows anything about living in the country, out in the sticks, not in the concrete jungle, knows, sometimes things, especially snakes are going to die. Not of old age, but because of the other animals and humans we love, poisonous snakes pose a serious threat and women like us will kill whatever the creature is who means harm to them. Great photo of the lil' monster!
Posted by RDYC on 10/29/2016 - 07:07 AM
I would be happy to package up the next venomous snake and re-home with any volunteer.
Posted by Forensicfarmgirl on 10/29/2016 - 08:58 PM
People at my church believe I'm crazy too. I've missed church because of goat's due date and impending kidding, because a chicken is injured, because the temps are below zero and the eggs will freeze if they're not collected every 1/2 hour, because a lamb has just been born, and any number of other reasons - usually involving some animal. But when one of the ladies was expecting she asked me to be there at the birth if her midwife was unavailable. Yup, crazy, but experienced in life situations.
Posted by Sandy on 11/13/2016 - 08:57 PM

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