I have a very difficult time remembering that just two short years ago, this place belonged to the wildlife. At first I was diligent about safety, never went off the front porch unless shod in work boots and jeans, kept leather gloves tucked in my back pocket at all times with the phone always nearby just in case. But it takes precious time to pull on those jeans and socks then tuck it all down into boots. Plus – it’s Texas y’all. And it’s hot. Sometimes a girl just needs to skip through the pastures in flip flops and short shorts. It’s not a fashion statement I’m making, it’s just REAL HOT (really). So I got a little lazy and a little tired of the negative attitude I initially used to approach all things off the porch. How could I stay out here if I was constantly worried “out here” was deadly? That’s no way to live.
So two days ago, I took my flip-flip-tank-top-short-shorts-wearing self out into the woods for a daily walk with the goats. If I don’t have them out to cause havoc in the front pasture, then I walk with them through the woods and bring along a pair of choppers (or “loppers” as we have dubbed them) to cut down elm branches and other delicacies. This being October, I am aware it is the end of snake season, a period of migration as they move to places of hibernation. Once a cool front blows through, no matter how hot it might get the next day, the snakes are triggered to start thinking about a winter nap. I know this.
It, therefore, should have been no surprise to discover, along a creek bed just off the edge of my house, a snake coiled beneath a slender branch on the ground. It was literally between my two (flip-flopped) feet, completely still but ominously rough-skinned. I’ve seen so many rat snakes on the property that my heart skipped faintly, but hardly rose with panic. I took one slow step backwards and stupidly (so stupidly) leaned forward to try and view the tail or shape of its head, two factors that would help me determine if it was venomous. The young snake was so well camouflaged I had trouble making out the shape of its head that was tucked back into its coiled form. Slowly I made out the distinct angle of a diamond-shaped head, that sharp triangular shape just at the jaw that denotes venom. I shrank back quickly and shuddered just as a thin, raccoon-striped tail slid from the coils and began to rattle frantically.
“RATTLESNAAAAAAAKE!!!!” I screamed, to no one in particular since I was alone on the farm with only the goats and a few great pyrenees as witness. Pearlsnaps walked up behind me with curiosity, an oak leaf dangled from her mouth in mid-chew. I jumped to the right and over the snake (Hey kids – never jump OVER a rattlesnake, mmmkay?). In the middle of my deft leap-and-bound maneuver, I managed to look over my shoulder to see my little goat follow my lead. Because this is what goats will do. Follow you to the ends of the earth. Off a cliff. To hell and back. Over a rattlesnake. “Noooooooo! Pearl, noooooo!” I shouted in slow motion, just as I landed on the other side, certain I’d see the image of a snake strike her leg. Nothing happened. At that point I sprinted blindly towards the house, away from the (formerly) beloved woods, tossing a glance over my shoulder to see if all goats and dogs had safely made their way behind me. Once at the barn, I counted animal heads, then retrieved my phone from my pocket with shaking hands. I furiously punched in the numbers for Jeremy’s phone, “Hey, what’s up” he asked casually. “What’s UP?!” I was already angry with his flippant attitude, completely disregarding the fact that he had no idea what just happened. “Um – let me tell YOU what’s UP, buddy.” “Huh?” Poor guy. “What’s up is that I’m not LIVING HERE anymore. This is LUNACY to live in a place where I have to RISK MY LIFE in order to make some freaking goat cheese and RISK MY LIFE in order to take one STUPID LITTLE WALK. So WHAT’S UP is that we are going to have to talk about moving. Tonight.” Three beats of silence and then, “Oh. Ok. So something happened you’re upset about.”
I could see his eyes roll, 30 miles away in Austin.
Since then, I have timidly moved away from my demands to purchase an apartment in downtown Austin. In fact, that evening I squashed another scorpion in our kitchen without a thought, the level of poison is – after all – relative. I’ll take a scorpion in the kitchen over a rattler between my feet any day. It’s just that time of year, and I have to adjust my habits, understanding that they were here before me. Will always be here, I’m sure. If only we could enact a peace treaty and shake hands on some boundaries. I’d draw a wide line around the property, “Snakes, you can have everything outside of this line – deal?”
No deal. These little shock waves make me uneasy for a minimum of one week after happening, every time. I walk everywhere with a stick now and jump with fear when a cricket springs from the grass. I am ridiculous. But then, the idea of living in the middle of a place with lordknowshowmany poisonous snakes swarming and winding and curling around together – that’s a little ridiculous too. Right?
Today, I do not have a picture of the snake. Instead I will share a photo of me with my goats, the only reason I chose to live amongst the rattlesnakes in the first place.