Back in 2004, I was in the Big Bend area of SW Texas. That area is about as unwelcoming as a place as is yet it has a kind of beauty unlike anything found here in Southern Ohio. I was watching a video taken from the veranda of an old abandoned ghost town mansion that was being used as a two-room B&B. The sunrises and sunsets were spectacular and even during the day, the light changes the color and shapes of the hills and canyons. Every day is different as is every moment of every day. Except for the heat that veranda would be a wonderful place to sip a cold one and watch it all unfold.
Besides the heat, the other turn off for me is knowing that everywhere you turn there’s something waiting to scratch, sting, or bite you. We explored some of it by car but rarely by foot. I remember the deserts of California and how cautious one had to be when walking around. Only once, however, did I actually encounter a rattlesnake. I stopped along a roadside to answer nature’s call and as I stepped off the berm I heard the unmistaken rattle of Mr. Diamondback nearby.
Two years later, in 2006, I visited the Hill Country of Texas and while it wasn’t as barren and rugged as the Big Bend it still had that distinct look of your flesh being in danger. We stopped for a few hours in Sweetwater, TX which is known for its annual rattlesnake roundup. It was the wrong time of year, December, but a local told us about a liquor store that also bought and sold rattlesnakes and snake hunting equipment. A few minutes later we found the place and sure enough, the friendly owner ushered us into the back room and from one of the several locked boxes he extracted a small rattler to satisfy our curiosity and need for a fear fix.
A little later we stopped in a local Western apparel store at the edge of town. Like many such Texas shops, they sold a variety of hat bands, belt buckles, boots, etc made out of rattlesnake hides and heads. Knowing this was where the roundup was held we realized the local snake population had to be pretty big but I wasn’t ready to be told that when the weather warmed up you could literally, “walk out back and find a rattler under about any rock.”
Back in my world, I live with the knowledge that there are venomous snakes around me. But, after living in my woods for over 40 years I’ve yet to come across a poisonous snake. We have black rat snakes, milk snakes, water snakes, garter snakes, and lots of things that go bump in the night, but I can walk these woods with little fear of, “being pisoned [sic] by one of ’em ‘er copper-moccasins.”
Gee but it’s good to be back home!