Animals on highway deserve swerve

By Grant McGee: Local Columnist

I think that was a bull snake stretched across a county road south of Clovis the other day. It was catching some morning rays, warming up for a big day of hunting field mice.

I pulled over to have a closer look. The snake didn’t like me coming up on it. It skedaddled off into the brush.

I thought about how readily that snake took off as opposed to the rattler I came up on in Lincoln County a while back.

It was an early fall morning. I was on the north side of the Capitan Mountains driving on back to Clovis. I rounded a bend and there was this big ol’ rattlesnake stretched out on the blacktop, warming up for a big ol’ rattlesnake day.

I pulled up alongside the rattler and rolled down my window.

“Hey,” I said to the rattlesnake, “you better get off the road. Somebody’s gonna come along and run over you.”

The snake didn’t move. There was nothing in its eyes to indicate it had understood what I said.

I backed the car up and edged the front fender toward the snake. It coiled up in the classic rattler pose with its neck arched and its rattlers buzzing.

I leaned out the window. “Hey, I’m just trying to keep you from getting killed.”

The snake lunged. I heard a soft, small thud against the car.
“Aw man,” I said to the snake, “give up this aggression thing.”

I drove past the coiled serpent and pulled over about 20 feet away from it. I thought it was so cool. I hadn’t run into a rattlesnake in the wild before. I decided to call my friends on my cell phone.

One of those I rang up that Sunday morning was my friend Kent, Bard of the Pecos.

“Dude, you should see this. It’s a big old rattler all coiled up in the middle of the road and rattling. Listen.” I held the phone toward the snake so Kent might hear the rattling. It was loud.

“Did you hear that?” I asked him.

“You really are crazy,” he replied. “Just turn your car around and run over it.”

“It ain’t gonna hurt anyone,” I said. “I’m out in the middle of nowhere.”

“The only good rattler is a dead rattler,” he said.

Everyone else I called agreed with Kent about the snake and my mental state. I started tossing stones at the rattler hoping to scare it off the road. I was also hoping no one would be coming along who might run over the snake or think I was a can short of a six-pack.

One of the stones landed close enough to the snake to bother it. It straightened out and moseyed off the road to a bush where it coiled up again and resumed its rattling.
Satisfied I’d lent a helping hand I hopped back in the car and resumed my trip home.

Rattlesnakes, just like coyotes and prairie dogs, can get some folks into heated discussions. I figure to each their own. If someone’s going to smoosh a critter on the road, that’s the way it goes.

I know that sometimes it’s hard to avoid hitting an animal on the highway. I just never saw much sense in going out of your way to do it.

So whenever I see a rattler in the road, I’ll swerve to avoid it. They’re fascinating conversationalists.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: