"Does anybody buy rattlesnakes around here anymore?" The young 17 year old customer of a small sporting goods/service station any a local small town asked. Everyone in the store looked over at the young man that had just entered the building. He had everyone's attention.
A moments pause...the qustion still hangin' in the air. "What do ya got?" came the reply of a similarly youthful, camo clad cashier.
"This is the second one I've killed in two days. Killed him out in my driveway. I got him out in the truck."
Two or three old timers, a couple of soon-to-be old timers and about five 17-22 year old young men and one similarly aged girl were mostly camped around one side of the register in various forms of repose, either in folding chairs or leaning against the wall, a couple sitting on the counter, legs dangling. About three of the above mentioned were loitering around the archery pro shop area of the building.
Everyone began to mosey out to the parking lot to check out the rattler. I was among the crowd.
The young man climbed over into the bed of the over-sized 4x4 truck and grabbed a feed sack. Everyone could see that there was some weight to the bottom of the bag. Bag in one hand, the other hand on the side of the truck he gracefully hurtled over the side of the truck landing lightly on his feet. He opened the bag and we all took turns peering in.
Very few things on earth have the effect on me that the sight of a coiled eastern diamond back rattler have. I knew it was in the bag when I looked but I had to physically overcome an involuntary desire to step back and recoil at the sight of that coiled pattern and thick body. I was fascinated by the dead snake. It was such a beautiful animal. I would love to have been fortunate enough to have seen it in the wild. To hear it buzz off angrily with those rattles and to watch it coil and take a defensive posture. I was deeply saddened by its demise. The snake was a good five foot...maybe a little more long and thick as a five pound bag of sugar in the middle. It was a big snake...though I have seen bigger diamond backs this one was very impressive. The skin seemed to have a glow to it. The colors vibrant and alive. As it was dumped to the sidewalk the freshly killed snake moved with the momentum of the toss as if still alive. More than one of the gawkers did take a step back as it landed and moved a bit.
The young man was gleeming in the celebrity of his trophy. His announcement to find out if anybody bought rattlers was more of an invitation to everyone in the building to check out his trophy. I used to be that kid when I was growing up. I couldn't fault the kid for killing the snake and showing it off.
As I drove off from the business the snake was still being proudly displayed and shown off to every new arrival. The kid still gleeming with his trophy.
I couldn't help but like the kid. Like I said, that is who I was when I was 17 but I couldn't help but regret the animal's demise. I know he is poisonous....I think left alone and alive he would never be seen again. The snake is a true native here. Much more so than we are. There are those that if they could mash a button and all venimous snakes would vanish from existence....they would do it without hesitation.
Me, I would miss em if they were gone. I like having some dangers around. I can cope with the risk. The wild encounter is always a thrill and more often a chill.
People talk to me about solo hiking/backpacking/exploring and my inclination to do so. "You are crazy! You are gonna get got" is what I am told. "I ain't gotten got yet" I always reply. What is life without the possibility?
Friends are the best collectibles