Stories Behind the Story #2
You know how somedays are good and you think to yourself that you’ll remember the day and how perfect it is, but you don’t? Well, I remember this day.
It was a cool and sunny Spring day before we had moved into the house at our Double Mountain ranch. We were living in Sweetwater while building and renovating the place. Because it was springtime, knew that it was liable to be a “snaky day”.
By the time we arrived, our two-year old son had fallen asleep in the car. So we parked in the shade, rolled down the windows, and let him sleep. We took the opportunity to scan around the property for snakes and look at the progress that had been made on the house.
While I was in the kitchen, I heard a loud buzzing from somewhere outside. After a few seconds it donned on me what it was, a rattlesnake. But it was unusually loud. I followed the sound and stood on the porch. At the bottom of the steps was a large roadrunner who had cornered two rattlesnakes. (So cool!)
I turned around and ran to find my husband. He grabbed a shovel and I checked on our son. He was still blissfully asleep.
I heard the sound of the shovel against concrete and checked on husband’s progress. I was surprised to see that the roadrunner stayed by his side. The bird was focused on those snakes!. I swear he was cheering my husband on and giving directions. The snakes were quickly dispatched.
Husband walked over to me. “Let’s go get some lunch in town and leave this guy to his business.” I agreed. We wanted the roadrunner to feel comfortable. (Of course I daydreamed about how cool it would be to have a roadrunner who hung around the house.)
We had a nice lunch at the local café, fifteen miles away in Aspermont. We went back to the house and the snakes were gone. We walked around and puttered on the property for the next couple of hours, always mindful to keep an eye out for more snakes.
As we were cleaning up and closing the house, I took another walk around to make sure we hadn’t left any tools out and looked for more rattlers. There was some English ivy growing on the side of the house and it bothered me. Now I know that some people love ivy and the idea of it covering the west side of the house can be practical, especially in the Texas summer sun. But long ago I read an article where ivy had worked its way into a house’s brick facade and caused the entire wall to pull away from the house. It took two hundred years, but I still didn’t like the idea of ivy working its way into the siding. I didn’t want it to damage the century’s old home, so I began to rip it off. I pulled ivy off for several minutes, working my way down to the ground. It was denser at the bottom and more work intensive.
I lifted up the ivy to rip away a big section and there was the prettiest pink, contented, sleeping rattlesnake. I pulled back my hand like I had touched a hot stove. I stepped back six feet and stared at the ivy, expecting the snake to crawl out. How had it stayed asleep? I called my husband over and he killed it.
All day long I had been so careful and for a brief moment my precautions went out the window when I had been preoccupied. We used the situation as a teaching moment to our son and inwardly I chastised myself. I had my own teaching moment. It didn’t fully dawn on me how lucky I was until I was thinking about it later. On the way back to Sweetwater, I said to my husband, “We had a good day. It could have been very different, and I could be in the hospital right now.”
“Yup.” He didn’t have to say anything else. The look that he gave me told me plenty. I don’t know how he does it. But I swear, with one look he can show disappointment, fear, love, and gratitude. No wonder he’s a man of few words. I think he was tempted to scold me but I think the look on my face said plenty too.
I know that we think that we’re in control of our lives. And I think that we are, but only to a certain degree. It certainly doesn’t hurt to be vigilant. But sometimes I still think it’s up to fate as to whether or not the snake is asleep.
Posted in Observations and tagged Aspermont, Double Mountain, Rattlesnakes, Stories by VP with 3 comments.
People have been telling me that I should write some of the true stories that are behind the story of my novel, Gilt Ridden, and other stories that inspire my writing. So, I’m writing a series of blog posts that I’ll call The Stories Behind the Stories.
This is the story of the first rattlesnake that I found in our house when we first moved to our Double Mountain ranch. I included it in some of the first drafts of the book, but later I omitted it and just referred to it in dialogue. People said I had too many rattlesnake scenes already.
We had moved to our ranch Easter weekend. The weather had been hot and dry, but a cold front brought much-needed rain and a drop in temperature. Unfortunately, rattlesnakes were looking for a warm place too.
My husband was off at work at his job in Sweetwater, a 45-minute drive away, and my son and I were playing on the floor of the playroom. We had been playing on the floor for probably a couple of hours and I decided to plug in the phone. (Yes, that was back in the days of phones in the home.) I was looking for the phone outlet and pivoted the couch away from the wall to get to it. I was shocked to find a curled-up rattlesnake. I looked at it for a couple of seconds because my mind didn’t want to register what I was seeing. It was happily asleep, no worries.
I picked up my son and placed him on his bed. He was three at the time. I told him to stay on the bed and I explained the situation. He wasn’t having it. He wanted to stay by my side.
I went back to the playroom to check on the snake. I think it was awake now and not happy with me, but it still not moving. At this time in my life I had seen many rattlesnakes. We had also lived on another West Texas ranch years before, but I had never killed one. My husband had always been around to do it. I tried calling him from the kitchen phone but his employer had not paid their phone bill so my husband’s business phone was not working.
I probably said a lot of cuss words, at least mentally. (Son was still stuck to my leg, not wanting to leave.)
I knew there was a shovel on the porch because we had killed a rattlesnake on the porch a couple of days prior. It had been raining when we were moving in (of course) and it had come up onto the porch. The door had been wide open as we brought things inside. I remember thinking at the time how lucky we were to have found that snake before it had gotten into the house!
So, I got the shovel, went to the playroom, kid still stuck to my leg. I told him to move away and he wouldn’t let go. I yelled at him and stomped the floor to emphasize the importance of listening to me. That only made him hold on tighter. And the stomping on the floor was irritating the snake and he started uncoiling to move to another location.
I think I actually said some curse words aloud at this point.
So, I moved forward and planned my attack. I remember standing there, thinking that I was glad that he was a regular-sized snake, maybe two and a half feet, so his striking distance wouldn’t be far. Even though the shovel was a regular-sized shovel, my arms are really short, I wanted as much distance between us as possible. As I planned my attack, I learned something. Sometimes the more that you think about doing something that you’re afraid to do, the more you can start scaring yourself. I didn’t want to be there. But if I left, then who knows where the snake would hide? And then we’d still be faced with having to get rid of it.
I knew I had to attack before I got too afraid. I hit it with the flat side of the shove, and it got really mad. The second thing I learned that day, killing a rattlesnake on padded carpeting is a lot more difficult than you think it would be. All I did was make it really mad. It started winding and unwinding himself, trying to figure out who the hell I was, why did I wake him up, and what did I have against him?
Since that wasn’t working, I used the edge of the shovel blade. I placed it right behind his head and pushed down. Nothing. So, I pushed harder and sawed back and forth. As my son was still grasping my leg, I was thinking that at least if it left a bloody spot on my new carpet that it would be hidden under the couch. (Hey, I worked really hard to find that good carpet at a decent price!)
I think at this point I had it incapacitated enough that I scooped it up and take it outside to finish the job. After it was over, I had a discussion with my son about the importance of listening to me. Unfortunately, over the next six years we were faced with the same dilemma six more times. But every time I told him to get on his bed until I gave the all clear, he did it. He also got very good at spotting rattlesnakes that I didn’t see.
Maybe for the second story I’ll tell you about the second half of this day and how I learned about the Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup.
Thanks for reading this if you’ve made it this far! One of the reasons I write the stories about West Texas is to show the world what it’s like.
Posted in Observations, Writing and tagged Double Mountain, Gilt Ridden, Ranch life, Rattlesnakes, VP Chandler, West Texas, Westerns by VP with 2 comments.
The other day I had the “privilege” of sitting at the DPS office (DMV to most folks) and got to do one of my favorite things, people watch. The DPS office is one of the best places to see folks from all walks of society- men, women, immigrants, teens, and the elite. (Although, I don’t think I saw any high society types that day.)
And as I surreptitiously watched from the corners of my eyes (Do you think they thought I was creepy?) I came to a conclusion. You can’t really judge a person by what they wear, what hairstyle they have, or even their body language.
Why? I saw two guys who were dressed similar, looked about the same age, both even leaned against the wall in the same manner, but they gave off very different vibes. I couldn’t put my finger on it for a while. What made them different? And then I realized, it was the eyes. The guy who gave off a “danger” vibe wasn’t frowning, grimacing or pressing his lips together. He wasn’t wringing his hands like a villain in a penny dreadful. There was no sign of animosity on his face, but his made me want to stay away from him. The other young man had several tattoos, but his eyes were kind. It was fascinating.
At that moment I thanked my “lizard brain” for the eons of evolution that gave me the ability to pick up on potential danger.
I believe it’s a part of our makeup that we tend to ignore in our modern “polite” society. How many times on the news have your heard people say, “I was picking up a weird vibe. I don’t know why, but I knew something just wasn’t right about that person. I wish I had listened.” I think this is particularly true when it comes to women. We’re taught to be nice to everyone. Please follow your instincts!
Don’t worry, no major drama happened. No one knew I was watching. But in the future I think I’ll be paying more attention to the eyes. Maybe the proverb is right, maybe they really are windows to our souls.
Have you ever had a moment when your gut was telling you of danger? I’d love to hear your story.
Posted in Observations and tagged crazy eyes, danger, Gilt Ridden by VP with 3 comments.