Silly Me





Stepping on snakes scares the bejesus out of me.  I hate the way the once solid ground becomes a writhing mass under foot.  Not usually a screamer, I react loudly as I fly as far as I can to get away from the sensation and its cause.

I’m not a snake hater.  In fact, I’m fine with most snakes when I am over here, and they are over there where I can keep an eye on them.  Sometimes that arrangement doesn’t happen.  Sometimes, a snake and I try to share the same ground space. When that happens, well, I am getting too old for the sudden adrenaline rush that sends my heart rate into the danger zone.


My attitude changes a bit when the snake in question is a poisonous one.  I don’t want to be in any kind of proximity to poisonous snakes.  I don’t like to look at them in a relatively safe environment such as in the snake house at the zoo (Glass breaks, you know).  I don’t like to see them in dioramas at the Natural History Museum (Are you sure they are dead)?  I don’t want to watch shows about them on National Geographic or Animal Planet, or see pictures of them in magazines or field guides (That’s the stuff bad dreams are made of). Larry McMurtry planted a permanent bad image in my head with a description in Lonesome Dove of someone falling off their horse in a rain swollen river and landing in a ball of rattlesnakes which was being swept downstream. Yikes!

Most days, I don’t have to worry about poisonous snakes in general.  I just have to worry about rattlesnakes. Rattlers live in the desert. It’s their home turf. They have every right to be there.  I am the intruder and I intrude on a regular basis. I walk in the desert near my house almost every day. Almost every day in warm weather, I run the risk of bumping into a rattler. I don’t wish the rattlers harm.  I just wish them elsewhere, far elsewhere from where I am at the moment

One reason I walk is that it is good exercise.  Another is that it is usually quiet where I walk,  so I can get into my head to think. However, once the weather warms enough for the snakes to come out, I do not think anymore, I am devoted to watching the trail carefully for an anomalous shape, the shape of a rattlesnake.  A shape I really wish never to see.

Every time I venture into the desert, I figure my chances of bumping into one get better.  New Mexico is home to nine species of rattlesnakes, according to the New Mexican Herpetological Society. Four of the nine can be found in the desert near where I live. That’s two more than I thought, thanks research.


I haven’t figured out what disturbs me more about the fact that I could see a rattler at any moment while out for my walk. Whether it’s the startle response, the pain and suffering which could follow being bitten, or is it that I am being pretty silly about the whole thing.  I’ve been walking in the same area for four years now and have yet to see a rattler.  Maybe I should just relax a bit about the whole rattler thing or are the odds of seeing one increasing every time I take a walk and don’t see one? But isn’t that tempting fate just a little too much?


Thanks to Gail Leedy for the pictures.  She has seen rattlers on her runs .  These are some of them.









The Trickster

Saturday morning the temperature dropped to 32 degrees, colder than it had been for a few weeks.  Sadie and I had waited until the sun was over the ridge of the Sandias before we headed out on our walk in the open space near our house.

It was good we waited as the air was warming and the birds were singing now.  Sadie spooked a rabbit and tore after it.  Ridgebacks can run fast, but rabbits, having more to lose, can run faster.  She rejoined me and trotted along a few paces in front, as I walked along sheding layers of clothes thinking about how nice it was to have the warm weather birds back.  Earlier I heard a western wood pewee and a spotted towhee.  Further along, I spied a canyon towhee on a pile of rock.  It also started singing, as did a curved billed thrasher from its perch on a cholla.  Ahhhh spring, I thought as I strolled along imagining that the concert was for me, rather than for some female of their species.

cholla cactus in bloom
cholla cactus in bloom

Just as I was threading my way through some boulders near the top of a hill, we heard the characteristic, shrill bark of a coyote very close.  Sadie, who has no use for coyotes was off like a shot.  I yelled at her to come back.  As I came around the rocks at the crest of the hill, she came trotting up.  Another bark sounded and I looked up. There was a coyote about 20 yards away barking taunts at Sadie.  The coyote showed no fear of me.



I grabbed onto Sadie’s breakaway leash to make sure she stayed with me.  After a  hard stare at the coyote she came along willingly. I headed back toward home.  As we walked down the hill a chorus of three other coyotes started in calling and taunting trying to lure Sadie into chasing them.

Many of the Southwestern Native People refer to the coyote as a trickster.  I had just observed one of the reasons why.  Sending one member of the pack out to lure dogs to come play or chase is a common tactic.  The lure then leads the dog to an ambush by the rest of the pack.  I think Sadie may have fallen for this trick once.  Her speed and endurance may have saved her.  She knows this trick now and was content to escort me back home.