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Thursday, May 30 2013


Two things scared the crap out of me as I was a child - tornados and rattlesnakes. As kids we watched The Wizard Of Oz every year and frankly, few things scared me more than tornados and flying monkeys, but since to this day, I've never run into a flying monkey, the rattlesnake trumps the flying monkey.

Let me begin by saying that I grew up in rural North Carolina where the timber rattlesnakes were longer than the shovel that killed them. And while I appreciate the fact that everything plays its role in the ecosystem, since a rat snake is pretty fine rodent control, I've never been a big fan of rattlesnakes. My mother impressed upon me early that if a snake that big bit a small child (i.e. "me") then there might not be enough time to get to the hospital before said child died. Alrighty then . . . Made a believer out of me!

That said, we three children, two dogs, and numerous cats played in that forest and except for some close encounters no one was ever bitten by one of these monsterous snakes. For the most part we simply understood this simple rule of survival in the country:

non-poisonous snake = good     poisonous snake = bad

Then I grew up and the snakes grew smaller. Well, they didn't actually grow smaller. I simply moved to parts of the civilized world where a foot long snake of any sort sends everyone into a tizzy. Since my measuring stick for impressive snakes was a shovel, most of these snakes were found lacking. Don't get me wrong, I'd still shoot a foot long copperhead in the blink of an eye, but I would pause to apologize first. Rattlesnakes? No. Rattlesnakes get no apology before I pull the trigger.

So what do I do? I buy a ranch in North Texas that is so wild you can't sling a dead cat in the woods without hitting a copperhead and neighbors tell of killing multiple rattlesnakes in one day.

So here we are. Ahhhh, spring in North Texas, when the tornados and the snakes are on the move. Even though last spring we saw no rattlesnakes, I wasn't naive enough to believe we didn't have any. No sirree, my experience with rattlesnakes has been that when they do show themselves, it's in a big way. (like just when you think you've made it safely back in the cabin)

The two things I worry most about at the ranch are snakes and hogs - and the solution to both is down the barrel of a gun. I wear snake boots to protect myself, but for some reason, Cabela's doesn't sell snake boots for Labrador Retrievers. (probably because in order to work, he would have to wear it on his head)

I always monitor the dogs closely during any outside time. During the snake months, instead of a morning run, they ride on the 4wheeler. It satisfies their urge to run and explore without giving them access to snakes. All bathroom breaks are closely supervised. (experience has just proven that this does not prevent the dog from being bitten RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU)

Our first night at the ranch I killed a copperhead on the gravel driveway close to the cabin. (right where a rattlesnake would be 2 days later!) This reinforced the message that snakes were on the move and we needed to be careful. And were we careful? YES! We were so careful that while supervising the evening potty break, we walked right past that rattlesnake ourselves before the damned thing bit the dog on our second pass.

We had already walked down the driveway and were less than 25 yards from the cabin when Dillon leaped 4 feet in the air. I heard the buzzing immediately. Other Half is partially deaf and never heard the buzzing even when he was standing beside it.  I grabbed the dogs while he grabbed my gun.

Since Lily and Dillon are stimulated by gun fire, I held them while Other Half opened fire on the snake with two guns. Trace ran like a spotted ape back to the cabin. He now associates the smell of rattlesnake with the dreaded sound of gunfire and has some serious Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (but in this country, that's a good thing)

We saw that Dillon had been struck on the bridge of the nose, slightly below his eyes. So I rushed all the dogs back to the pickup truck, started the engine and air conditioner, and grabbed my beloved Henry 22 lever action rifle. The snake was mortally wounded, but still very much alive, and very angry.

So was I. I know it's not right. I know that no joy should be gained from killing something, but looking through the peep sight at that snake staring right back at me brought immense satisfaction. I said unladylike things as I pulled that trigger and sent him to his maker.   And while this snake was certainly not as big as the timber rattlers I grew up with, he was still large enough to get my attention - and kill Dillon.

I lowered the rifle and glanced at my phone to see what time it was - 7:40 PM. And so the countdown began to save Dillon's life.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 09:48 am   |  Permalink   |  4 Comments  |  Email
Be sure to keep some steroid - injectable - on hand.. I used Dexamethasone. When my Boxer was bitten on the side of the face, per the vet we never even took him in - just gave him 15 CC of Dex right then, and 5 more every 4 hours if needed. (this was before rattlesnake vaccine) He never got swollen and was right as rain the nest day. We were lucky.
Posted by Susan on 05/30/2013 - 06:10 PM
That's what we used with Dillon. Dexamethasone and Epinephrin! Now I will always keep that stuff on hand.
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 05/30/2013 - 06:25 PM
I HATE those f'ing snakes! One of our barn cats was bit on top of the head by a rattler years ago. That poor cats head swelled up like a cantaloupe and he recieved antibioticts for a week. He survived and became a awesome mouser. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Dillon!
Posted by shawna on 05/31/2013 - 07:40 AM
16ga shotgun with #8 shot works wonders (on the snakes). Good enough that a follow up shot isn't needed!
Posted by Eric on 05/31/2013 - 02:21 PM

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