Fort Collins, Colo.
Well, I hope you’re not getting tired of my story about the events at Boy Scout Camp on Laramie Peak Mountain last summer, because I had such a good time I hated to come back home to the big city. They say an old dog can learn new tricks … and I did learn some things I didn’t know.
One of the first things I didn’t know was that bears are attracted to sweet smelling perfume and after-shave lotion. When I found out that the campers were required to turn in all of their sweet smelling bottles, and that the camp locked them in a bear-proof locker until the campers left, it surprised me. This was done because the camp didn’t want any bears tearing into tents in the middle of the night. But nobody had told me about it when I arrived there, and I didn’t find this out until I was about to leave. I guess they just figured I smelled so “horsey” that it didn’t matter.
I learned the other thing while we were trying to figure out why there were so many rattlesnakes in camp. All together we killed 10 rattlers this summer in camp and I jumped a big one while taking a trail ride with a woman and three little boys. I was preparing to do battle with the snake when I turned around and observed my party headed back to the corral. I knew they would be in a dead run before long, so I tipped my hat to Mister Rattler and said; “This is your day to live, until next time.” Then I turned my horse around to catch up with my party. I kept looking for mister rattler every ride out in his area but never did see him again.
But in camp, someone would report a rattler spotted somewhere almost every day. This caused quite a stir throughout the camp and Bonnie, camp director, sent to town for a number of snake bite kits. It was almost an hour’s drive to Wheatland to find a doctor. But as it turned out none of the people in camp were bitten, even though some came close. The first ones killed were brought in to the cook who proclaimed he would cook them up for anyone who wanted to taste rattlesnake steaks. I was looking forward to it but he never did follow through on his promise.
Then the kids and most adults got excited about skinning the rattlers for hat bands. When rattlers were found, the campers would call for Floyd Barrett, camp maintenance man, to come up with his shovel to cut off their heads so they could skin them. Sometimes it caused quite a squabble between whoever found the snake, and who skinned it.
Staff tents were set up on the mountain just behind the office. One afternoon while I was sitting in Bonnie Willey’s office, Dillon, my wrangler helper, came running in all out of breath saying; “There’s a rattlesnake up at the staff tents. I almost stepped on it.” We all jumped up and headed for the tents.
To my surprise there was a bunch of kids gathered around one end of tents. They had herded the around the tents with a stick and he had slithered under the last one. The tents were set on blocks about 4 inches off the ground and I was having trouble seeing it.
I got down on my belly and pulled the weeds from around the tent, then scooted up where I could see the snake. We were both lying there eye to eye and I was trying to get him to raise his head up to strike for a clean shot. But he just lay there looking at me, so after telling the kids to move from the other side of the tent I took my shot with .38 caliber snake shot. When we pulled him out from under the tent the kids were fussing at me because I had shot off part of his rattlers and big hole in the skin. I guess you just can’t win around a bunch of kids anyway.
Later talking with Floyd, who lives up there most of the year, we decided that it had been so dry up there the snakes were all searching for water The year before they had only killed one rattlesnake in camp.
Roger Thompson is a CHA certified instructor of advanced Western horsemanship and beginning English riding.
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