On hot days I take my dogs for a walk in the river on my property. In the heat of summer most of the water is diverted for the purpose of local irrigation, growing crops of New Mexico chili, pinto beans, squash and corn. Irrigation for local farmers restricts the river from a five-foot deep rushing torrent to a creek that barely runs at all. It’s fun to take the dogs up the river and back, chasing minnows, crayfish and dragonflies. On the way back to the house, we run up the slope through the small forest of knee high plants with cabbage like leaves and bright white flowers.
On our run back to the house from the river about five weeks ago, I heard a distinctive sound. Your ear never forgets this sound after the first time you hear a rattler. I quickly yelled at the dogs to stay away, get away, and yelled ‘no’ very loudly. They were unaware of the dangerous reptile at their feet. My feet were bare as were my legs. I am no stranger to snakes and have a great respect for them. Their symbolism, independent strength and grace are to be admired. But anything venomous on your property is not a great idea when you have horses (who fear them), and dogs who love to play with reptiles.
I have had rattlesnakes on my property before, but since they were thick as my upper arm and five feet long, I have had to call in neighbors to deal with them. I called my riding friend a few houses down and told him what was going on. He said “You can handle it. Just take a shovel and do it.” I was stupefied. Me? Kill a snake? Oh, no I can’t do that. No, no, no! Every fiber in my being fought the idea. I hemmed and hawed and danced around and could not do it. But I still had a problem on my hands. I needed to act quickly.
I finally saw another neighbor next door. I said “Hey there is a rattler on my property and I am scared of it.” He said “Well just bring it over here and I’ll take care of it.” Huh? Bring it over? Say what? Oh, the sarcasm was there but, I was stunned at such a flippant and uncaring answer. I have been nothing but a good neighbor to this person. He has even said so to may face on many occasions. But for some reason he was playing with me and being downright rude.
In a panic, I called back my riding friend and said “Look I really don’t have the nerve to do this. I like snakes! This is a living thing and I don’t want to kill it, but it can’t stay on my property.” Since soul dog left, none of my dogs would know what to do, and soul dog would have handled it perfectly. Sigh. My riding friend did not come over, and I would never ask outright. I figure if I outlined the situation it was up to him to offer, and not feel obligated at the same time. He insisted that I could do it. He said I had to learn to do this sort of thing, if I was going to live in the Southwest. He continued in a friendly voice and said “Just suck it up and do it. I know you can do it!” I hung up, and did the deed, which made me uncomfortable on many levels. It made me sick to my stomach. I realized after I did it that this was the most difficult thing I had ever done in my life. It took more courage to do it than I imagined I had. By a factor of 10!
I took a walk to blow off steam, and on the way back I saw a snake curled up on the side of the road basking in the late afternoon sun. I went a little closer to take a look and saw it was a bull snake. Harmless and also beneficial in its appetite for eating mice. I wanted to make sure it was not another rattler in my area. There are a lot of mice on my property and I always welcome most snakes to live there to help with that ‘natural balance’ of things.
This was a tale of two snakes and two men. One man and one snake were dangerous, and the other man and the other snake were beneficial. Had my friend not insisted I had the courage to kill the rattlesnake, I would never have found that supreme amount of courage and guts it took for me to kill it. The ‘bad’ neighbor had been shitty to me, and I would rather have had him say “No, I can’t help you” or anything rather than his sarcastic and dishonest reply. My good friend had done me a favor, in terms of giving me courage, that he is probably to this day not aware of how much he helped me.
Courage can come from anywhere, deep inside you, even if you don’t think you have it.
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