Sep

14

Rattlers, from Bo Keely

September 14, 2017 |

 Rattlesnakes are so common out here as to be mundane. One just has to get away from the crowd to visit them. I had a western diamondback for a doorkeeper at my Sand Valley burrow. They tame down quickly, and, in fact, develop a personality around you. There are low-down sidewinders that crouch in that position, and the amiable tongue-flicking uprights.

Once I came across one standing on its tail end in a wash, catching a zephyr, watching me pass. If rattlesnakes had eyelids, he would have winked.

A sidewinder named Sir was my favorite at Sand Valley. I first came upon him when I stooped to adjust my ankle weights, thinking they were leaking. The buzz was a baby sidewinder. He grew up as I pioneered the property, until he was so underfoot like a pet that I had to transport him to a wash.

I've close-up encountered, at last count, 150 western diamondbacks and sidewinders, in a ratio of 10:1 respectively, in the past 20 years out here. Though that doesn't make me an authority, like the local snake handlers who keep them in terrariums or running around their trailers to dissuade burglars, I know a rattle when I hear it.

A rattlesnake is called 'the desert gentleman' out here since he warns before striking. It's the people you have to worry about. One Slab City handler was bitten in the navel, and his wife called the ambulance. An undercover officer accompanied the paramedics, because the guy was on probation. The officer, thinking the call was a prank for a free ride to town, wordlessly hit him in the gut, and then rattled, 'I sealed the wound!' The ensuing fight became a real emergency.


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  1. Dean Parisian on September 15, 2017 8:14 pm

    A friend in MT was bit last summer walking her dogs. Small rattler that let it all go! The total bill was over $70,000 and without insurance would have bankrupted them. She told me the same venom antidote, had she been able to obtain it from a D.V.M was a few hundred.

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