I'm not a big snake fan, but I am happy to watch one with fascination -- as long as there's no chance it will strike at me or, worse yet, crawl up my pants leg. Yes, I know how idiotic this sounds, but it's where I draw the line with all living creatures other than That Guy On Law & Order Something: no crawling up my pants leg.
So the original idea for this post, way back in April, came from The Mom Bomb's hilarious post about rattle snakes (you really must go read it, but don't ferget who brung ya to this here dance, awright?). And then my boss's wife was bitten by a rattler, and all of the snake stories I ever knew came flooding back.
(Photo stolen from these guys)
The Mom Bomb grew up a few hours from me, in the Sierra foothills. There were, and still are, rattle snakes to be found in those hills, and, since most of California is either on or in view of a hill or mountain, snakes are something we watch for. I have never seen a live rattle snake in the wild, but that's because I try my hardest to avoid that scenario.
(Photo stolen from Derek Curry on Flickr)
Dad used to drive to Chico several summer afternoons a week, in the hottest part of the afternoon, to walk in Bidwell Park. There are two main sections of Bidwell Park, and Dad favored snake-filled Upper Park. He'd walk until he was too hot and sweaty to walk further, then he'd sit in the creek and listen to the San Francisco Giants game on his little radio. He had one close call in which he nearly stepped on a rattler, but he was lucky and was able to draw his foot back.
(Photo stolen from raphaelmazor on Flickr)
Chas grew up in San Clemente, home of Richard Millhouse Nixon, in a subdivision that had recently been carved out of scrubby coastal wilderness. They learned to watch for snakes. Okay, if you're squeamish, here's where you cut and run:
When he was in high school Chas found a baby rattler, maybe a foot long, in his shoe in his closet. They could only guess that it had gotten into some laundry and ridden into the closet in a jacket pocket or something. They were able to flip the shoe into a box to get it outside, shudder.
Even worse was the 2-3 foot rattler that was hiding under Chas's brother's bed; the police had to come get that one.
My aunt and uncle have a family cabin on the side of Mount Lassen in the Sierras. They used to find rattle snakes on the property, but not often, and they were careful. But once when she was out walking my aunt was bitten by a baby rattler and didn't know it. For weeks her foot was swollen and bruised and painful, though she didn't know why. At some point she had gone to the doctor, who asked, "When did you get bitten by a rattle snake?" She laughed, until he showed her the tiny fang marks. She must have been grazed because she didn't die or lose her leg, but still it was not a wholesome situation. And yes, baby rattlers can be more dangerous than adults, because they haven't yet learned how to reserve their venom, and they end up delivering the whole poisonous payload.
To follow up my boss's wife Deni's rattlesnake bite tale, one of our local TV stations ran a story about her last night on the local evening news. The reporter did a great job, except that she reported the bite as having happened three weeks ago instead of two. Anyway, I started getting calls at work today from friends saying they had seen the story on national news. Seems Fox News had picked it up, and ran it this morning. "What are YOU doing watching Fox News?" I asked one old hippy friend, who was uneasy at having been discovered: a closet conservative.
To watch the news clip, click here, but I don't know how long these links are active. (The paramedic featured in the story is a friend and golf buddy of my husband. Small world, huh?)
Snake-o-phobes, you may come back now.