It was pleasant out early this morning when I walked down the hill to the lake, touched the edge of the dock and started back. A few strides up from the dock, I jumped backwards with a small, involuntary scream. Stretched out in the road just ahead of me was a pigmy rattler, about 15" long and an inch in diameter, warming himself in the sun. I had just passed him on the way down, without even noticing. He coiled and shook his rattle at me. I didn't hear the rattle. Those who have heard the sound liken it to the faint buzz of an insect, and there were plenty of insect sounds this morning to compete with it. But I saw him rattling, and the message was clear; he wasn't one to be trifled with. I quickly retreated to a safe distance.
High water in the lake this summer has sent many snakes to higher ground, and this may have been one of the evacuees. There were plenty of rocks around, so I picked up a couple of large ones, weighing my options. I had killed larger copperheads with rocks, but this was a full grown rattlesnake, and he had a certain glint in his eyes that made me think that this might not be a war I wanted to wage.
Pigmy rattlers are the only rattlesnakes we see much around here, and though they are the smallest member of the rattlesnake family, they still pack a powerful punch. Only two days ago I had talked with a friend who had been bitten by a pigmy three weeks earlier, and she was still feeling the effects of the poison. "I have good days and bad days," she said. I thought she was putting a brave face on it.
The snake looked like a target that couldn't be missed, but my history with copperheads had taught me enough to know that what looked like an easy shot might not be so easy under pressure. Even if the percentages were good, I hated to take a chance. I pulled out my cell phone and called Don. "I'll be there," he said, "keep an eye on him." "I will," I assured him.
As I waited, the snake uncoiled and slithered slowly away from me into the brush at the side of the road. This snake redefined camouflage for me; when he stopped moving, I could hardly believe he was there. Fearing that my hit man would be too late, I glanced up the road. Big mistake. When I looked back, the snake was no longer in sight.
Don arrived moments later, his revolver loaded with snake shot, but there was nothing to shoot. We carefully peered into the weeds and brush and decided not to wade in after the rattler. Don drove back home, and I continued my walk, jumping every time a weed moved.
Thankful as I am that I didn't get bit, I was sorry the snake got away, but Don assures me that it was still a good outcome; I didn't miss with a rock, and he didn't miss with a revolver.
Linking with Weekend Reflections