An unexpected encounter

Stephanie and I were out hiking the local Placitas NM hills today, mainly looking for signs of springtime growth — found interesting flowers, cactii just beginning to wake up. And while approaching the top of a low, rocky hilltop, I almost stepped on this:

No worries, I didn't get bitten or anything. Rattlesnakes are usually very good about giving warnings, and fortunately I had the same reaction as the last time I encountered a rattlesnake on the other side of the Sandias. I jumped backwards and stepped well away.

Needless to say though, this rattler maintained its guarded strike-ready posture for as long as we were within sight of it, staying put long enough for me to get a few decent photos.

Anyway, this is a fine specimen — no idea if it's male or female, but it certainly was big. Easily as big around at its thickest part as my forearm. I'd estimate at least five feet long, maybe six.

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2 Responses to An unexpected encounter

  1. ZorbearSr says:

    Reminds me of a time when I was living back in the woods in East Texas, doing my monk thingy. I was walking along a path I usually trod, thinking instead of looking where I was going, feeling all peaceful and one with the world. I carried a staff for cadence as much as for support, and liked the thunk, thunk, thunk sound as I walked along.

    At one point, the path narrowed and slid between a tree and a fence post. As I lifted my leg to squeeze through the space, I saw a huge snake laying across the path, now between my legs. Before I had time to think, I lept into the air. Before I landed, I’d already struck out at the snake several times with the staff: whomp, whomp, whomp!

    When my feet touched the ground (and I realized, thankfully, that I’d completely missed the snake), my first thought was: ‘Yeah, mister monk — all one with the world.’ I laughed myself into enlightenment as the snake lazily flowed away, wondering what the heck that human was going on about…

  2. Bukko Canukko says:

    I saw one similar to that, Eastern Diamondback variety, for a moment on May 9, 1972, as I stepped into a little clear space in the palmetto scrub on MacDill AFB in Tampa, Fla. The bugger didn’t rattle once, just struck out and hit me in the left lower leg. I got to the base hospital within 15 minutes, but the Air Force doctors screwed things up so badly (not enough anti-venin, not given soon enough, didn’t do surgery to relieve swelling in the leg so the pressure cut off blood flow to the muscles) that I got gangrene overnight. I was lucky that the military hospital’s operating room was out of commission the next day so that I had to be transferred to Tampa General Hospital, where they had rattlesnake bite specialists, or my nickname would be “Pegleg” or “Stumpy” instead of Bukko. Military medicine is not like what you see on “M*A*S*H.” It’s battlefield surgery instead, where the maxim is “If it doesn’t work, cut it off.” I wound up with half of my left lower leg gouged out, although my foot is still attached, even if it only halfway works. I also wound up with a fair bit of money (not enough to avoid having to work in life) because my dad had the balls to sue his employer, the U.S. military, for medical negligence, which is why I can state the above-mentioned medical facts with confidence, since they were proven in federal court. The experience helped form my lingering disrespect for the military and the federal government.

    In the ensuing years, I lived (and limped) all over the United States, including another 15 years in Florida (1987-2002.) I was always rambling through the countryside, in part to stay fit to counteract the effects of my injury. I spent uncounted hours walking my hyperactive Dalmatian through the bush where we lived on the Florida Gulf Coast. And only one other time did I ever see another rattlesnake in the wild, and that not until 1996. (Luckily it was when I was riding my bike through an abandoned housing development and the dog was not there, because he was a fanatical snake-killer, and he most surely would have been bitten.) Rattlesnakes are getting rare, because anytime anyone sees one, they tend to kill it. I harassed this one in 1996, bashed it with a stick, cascaded it with abandoned beer bottles (backwoods Florida is full of trash) and left it bloodied but alive. I didn’t want to kill the thing, because snakes have a right to live too, but after a quarter-century, I wanted a little payback.