Snake stories always worth sharing

By Ryn Gargulinski: CNJ Columnist

Now that hot weather is blasting the High Plains — as if hot weather isn’t usually blasting the Plains — it’s high time for one of the coolest creatures to come lurking from its hole.

Welcome the season of the rattlesnake.

Perhaps the most regrettable aspect of my leaving New Mexico is that I never got to see one up close and personal.

Perhaps the only reason I am still alive is that I never got to see one up close and personal.

Heck, I didn’t even get to hear its infamous rattle.

Sure, I know what they look like, thanks to those cheesy dioramas at nature museums and one whose head graces a belt buckle I never wear, but there’s nothing like seeing such a feared and revered beast with one’s own two eyes.

I didn’t even get to hear any good rattlesnake stories. The only tales I did pick up about the snake was how folks pluck them up with pitchforks and stuff them in pillow cases to bring to a rattlesnake roundup. I think they win a cowboy hat or something if they collect the most poundage of the writhing critters.

And I did hear a rattlesnake in the truck hood story that involved screaming and a shovel. But I didn’t take that one too seriously since I noted the gal who was sharing it, although she was still pasty pale from the experience, was still wearing sandals.

If something instills that kind of fear and has a biting range that reaches above one’s knee, it is only logical one should don thigh-high leather boots.

In fact, whenever possible, one should don thigh-high leather boots. (Just because they’re cool.)

But I did note the usual reaction to a simple mention of the rattlesnake is complete and total fear.

Come on, it’s not like we’re talking about a cobra here.

People’s eyes get all wide and buggy and they swear they’ll only frolic in weedy Clovis graveyards or climb Tucumcari Mountain in winter or fall.

To debunk some rattlesnake myths, I contacted a herpetologist who lives in West Texas under a rock. He said yes, it’s true the rattlesnake prefers to bask in the sun on top of the rock, which is why his particular place of living is considered very safe.

But he also said the snakes are not out to get you. They only eat when they are hungry, unlike most of us who make a habit of ice cream and chocolate when we’re depressed or to quell a screaming sweet tooth.

The rattlesnake will merely hang around on its rock, not bothering anything, until it decides to feed once every two weeks. They usually feed at night and they usually feed on rodents, another aspect of the snake that makes a lot of people happy until they find out rabbits are in the rodent family.

What will stop someone from getting bitten is simply not bothering the snake. The under-the-rock man said the snakes usually simply slither away when they hear something big coming. My friend also swears they retreat when poked with a ski pole. But he also wears thigh-high leather boots, so I’m not sure which aspect saves him.

What we do know, however, is we can learn a lot from the rattlesnake, the first lesson being to adore them — to gaze at them in awe, rather than terror. To remind myself of their beauty, I may even dig out that belt buckle.

Ryn Gargulinski writes for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: