J.C. Mattingly: A Socratic Rancher 4-18-11
After reading my last piece about rattlers trapped in a bale of hay, a good friend told me a snake story that really takes the cake, or perhaps you might say, “Takes the rattles” when it comes to snake stories.
My friend, whom I’ll call Buck, was driving his in-laws around the farm during one of their infrequent visits. It should be mentioned here that the in-laws were from a socio-economic group that thought a person would farm or ranch only if they absolutely had to, only if they couldn’t get a good job in town with regular hours, a real paycheck, and a pension.
Buck had heard a lot from his in-laws on this topic and how it related to their daughter, his wife, who loved the rural life and never complained.
Once the in-laws let up on the life-choice lectures, Buck explained their crop rotation and water systems, but the in-laws were more interested in taking a drive up in the foothills to look for arrowheads.
“Well,” Buck said, “there’s a lotta rattlers up there.”
“Oh, we’re not afraid of snakes,” they assured him.
Buck was actually more concerned about the chores he needed to be doing than the rattlers, but hoped that the prospect of rattlers would discourage them from diverting his time. Yet, even when he persisted with snake warnings, his in-laws insisted he take them up to the hogbacks.
When they found a good place to park, everyone exited the station wagon, but – perhaps because she was in a hurry to hunt, or perhaps because she saw an arrowhead glistening in the sun – someone, whose name will remain unmentioned, left the passenger’s side back door of the station wagon wide open.
When they all returned after a good walk, Buck happened to peer into the back seat of the wagon where he saw a rattlesnake stretched out as if it owned the place. The snake immediately coiled when the rest of the humans looked in on its sanctuary.
Buck had a few thoughts, such as, Be careful what you wish for, and Never cry Wolf! But there was a situation that had to be dealt with. Everyone went to the opposite side of the car to give the snake a wide berth, but the snake only turned his coil at them. After pounding a bit on the door, the humans convinced the rattler to slither out into the brush.
Now, however, the in-laws wanted no part of the station wagon, even after Buck poked around under the seat with a stick to be sure there wasn’t a whole family of rattlers involved. The station wagon received a thorough inspection of wheel wells, engine, and chassis, but the in-laws would not ride in that station wagon.
Buck had to drive back to the farm and get the car to drive the in-laws home. The in-laws waited at the hogbacks for his return, which, as Buck pointed out, was probably more dangerous from a snake standpoint than getting into the station wagon. “Goes to show you,” Buck said, “there’s something about seeing a snake in a certain place that haunts a person’s memory.”
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