I hate snakes. Hate them. They scare me to death. Normally I would not go anywhere near one. But if my punks are in danger...I'll do just about anything. In the past few weeks we found two rattlesnakes down around the barn and one on the side of our house. In all the years we've lived here, we haven't seen any rattlesnakes this close to home. It scares me to death. I'm so afraid that one of my boys are going to get bitten. Especially Chase because I'm afraid he'll happen upon one and fall on it or something.
The first time we found one, we we're opening the north barn door to get hay. Spence spotted it against the barn in the grass. I ordered him (I don't usually order him around or try not to anyway :), but this was an emergency) to kill it. He didn't have a shovel in his truck, so he said he couldn't do it. For those of you who know Spence, this may have just been a convenient excuse because Spence HATES snakes worse than I do. I found an axe in the back of the truck and was desperate enough to give it a try. Images of a snake striking at my kids were flashing through my imagination. So without getting too close (I have on flip-flops of course), I inch as close as I dare to take a swing. Being out of practice with an axe (OK, so I was never practiced up with an axe) I try to make my calculations and aim where the head is coiled in the middle of the snake. I must have miscalculated the length of my arms because I took a big swing and the axe head sunk deep into the ground right past the snake. It quickly slithered into a hole while I was still trying to get the axe out of the ground. Ugh. How as I going to be able to sleep knowing that thing was down at the barn just waiting to get one of us? I was going to be uneasy until I knew it was dead.
A few days passed and I got a call from Spence. He told me that he and Trey had been down at the barn getting hay and that the wind had swung the barn door shut. The barn doors are like 20 ft tall and weigh a ton. The poor, unfortunate snake had at the same moment been trying to slither under the door and had been trapped with his body on one side and this head sticking out the other. One fell swoop of the axe by Trey (notice it was Trey who did it and that Spence still didn't have a shovel in his truck) and it was bye-bye Mr. Rattlesnake. It seemed like a miracle. Yes, I had been praying about that dang snake. We were safe again. For now.
Later that week, Trey calls. More bad news. He had been filling up the horses water tank and curled up next to the tank...yep, you guessed it...a rattlesnake. What was this, an invasion??? I am now really freaked out. Trey, the good brother-in-law that he is...took care of (and you know what I mean by "took care of") it, but this time I wasn't resting easy. Now I was worried that we probably had a family of snakes (colony? pack? den? family? not sure here) down at the barn. But at least they were at the barn. I could no longer let Chase play and wander around while we were doing chores...our freedom was taken by these slithering serpents. Several kids came to play that week with Hayes and I didn't let them go down to the barn, which is their favorite thing to do. We had peace and safety for a week or so.
Then one evening, Spence comes running into the house, "Come quick Kel, Hayes is keeping an eye on a rattlesnake on the side of the house...I'm getting my gun." "What," I replied, "You're going to shoot it?" He didn't answer, but I know the truth....anything to keep from getting too close to the snake. This time, there is no messing around for me. I pull on my cowboy boots with my shorts and run outside where Hayes is a yard or two from one of the sprinkler trenches "keeping an eye" on the rattlesnake. It hits Hayes and I immediately that shooting the snake in the trench poses a major problem...the water line. I grab the shovel (oh...here it is... at the house) and inch closer to check it out. Out comes Spence with the gun. He angles around (about 12 ft away) and says that he has a shot in which he can hit the head and not the pipe at all. I tell him I think we can get it with the shovel, but he says some nonsense about the shovel breaking the pipe. So he takes quick aim and pops off a shot. Suddenly there is hissing, but it's not from the snake, it's from water spurting out the bullet-sized hole in the water pipe. The trench is filling up and the poor snake is trying to stretch up to keep it's head above the water. Seeing that the snake is in preoccupied with the water, I get courage and with a swift chop of my shovel, take the head off the snake. It give me the willies just writing about it. Spence runs and shuts off the water main and I pull the snake out of the trench...with the shovel of course. Upon inspection, we see that along with the water line, Spence did actually nick the snake in the side, so he was a goner either way. Spence buried the head and I headed into the house to get my camera to get some pictures. We were all feeling pretty good about things with the venomous head buried in the ground. Hayes, who is the least afraid of all of us, posed for some pics. The headless snake was still writhing and coiling itself around Hayes's arm. Creepy.
By the look on Hayes's face, the snake must have been moving when I took this shot. If you look down by the rattles, you can see where Spence hit it with the 22.
Well that was a lot of fun. We all head into the house. Dinner had not burned and I get back to work on it. While I'm cooking, Spence decides to look up "how to skin a snake" on the internet. This is the man who wouldn't get within ten feet of it before. Hayes brings in the snake and puts it somewhere in the laundry room. I found out later that he had set it on top of the dryer and that the dead body had moved around and deposited blood out of its neck all over it. Hayes quickly moved it into the sink...much better. So after dinner, Hayes spreads out some newspaper ready to skin the snake. He reads the article online and is ready to go. By this time, Spence's interest in the snake has waned (something on TV has taken precedence) and Hayes is getting upset. Spence keeps saying his famous words...."get it ready and I'll be right there"...at this point Hayes and I both know what that means. We can't tell you the number of times we've heard Spence say, "Go start the car and I'll be right there" and then waited in the car for 15 minutes while he finishes getting ready. So I decide it's up to me. Besides, the snake is now dead and I'm not afraid of it anymore. This is my kind of thing...dissecting things. So we get started.
The bullet hole gave us a convenient place to start.
Spence did actually help us some, so I won't give him the complete bad guy wrap. After slicing all the way up the belly, I held one end with a paper towel so it wouldn't slip and Hayes pulled of the skin. It was moving and coiling the whole time.
Once we got the skin off, Hayes started inspecting the "guts". We quickly found that not only was the dead still moving two hours after we had cut the head off, but the heart was also beating.
The boys had read online that if you're not going to tan the skin right away, you should roll it up on itself and then freeze it until you're ready. I took this pic of the skin and rattles. I thought it was perfect that the newspaper underneath had a picture of a lady with her hands over her mouth in surprise or fear.
So now whenever anyone comes over for dinner, we pull the snake skin out of the freezer and have a little show and tell session. And each time in the back of my mind, I'm thinking, please let this be the last rattlesnake we have to skin. I don't want to have to kill anymore...but if I have to to keep my punks safe, I will. The things we do for love.