I’M An Animal Lover, But I’M Willing To Make Exceptions


A while back I read a letter to the editor written by someone who was worried about the possibility of some rattlesnakes being “abused” during a training program run by the Humane Society.

Now I’ve got to tell you the truth: I’m an animal lover, and I don’t like to see any animal get abused, but if someone were to ask me to make an exception ...

I do not like snakes. And among snakes I particularly do not like rattlesnakes. And I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one.

Mind you, I’m not going out looking for trouble. But if a rattlesnake slithers into my back yard he — or even worse, she — better be one high speed, machete-proof reptile.

One of the first things I learned about when I finally retired up here were rattlers. Actually, I thought I knew all I wanted to know about the %$#@! things, but that wasn’t quite true.

There’s the matter of night lighting around the house.

Not long after I bought my little place in Pine I installed a new front door light. The old one, having seen its share of Rim Country weather, was inclined to fall off the wall if a bug landed on it and stamped its feet.

Naturally I bought a motion detector light, that being all the rage these days. But after I installed it and saw what a warm, welcoming look it gave the front of the house at night I decided to let it just work as an ordinary house light.

Bad idea!

Here’s what happens when you do that: Light attracts bugs. Bugs die from banging heads on hot glass. Bugs fall to ground.

And then ...

Hungry mice find pile of dead bugs.

After which ...

Rattlesnake finds hungry mice.

Followed by ...

Garrett has run-in with 5-foot-long rattlesnake when he steps outside barefoot to retrieve newspaper.

After burying the snake, I set the light to motion detection.

That ain’t nothin’. You should hear the story that Judy, who used to work at Foxworth’s, tells about the evening she went out to her garden and stepped right on one of the %$#@! things.

She was standing on its neck — if a snake has a neck — and stepping off meant having the rattler to do its fang-a-juicy-leg thing. She never said so, but I believe she let out a scream like a factory whistle. Anyway, one way or the other her neighbor got the message and shot the %$#@! thing.

I hope it didn’t feel abused.

I once mentioned rattlers while waiting for my pickup to get its oil changed and had someone point out that some of them are endangered. “Yeah,” I said. “Ones that slither into my back yard!”

No one in the room argued with that point of view. In fact it was rather heartily endorsed, which just goes to show that the folks up here in Rim Country have their heads on straight.

Mind you, I don’t just dislike rattlers. Truth is I’m not fond of anything that slithers through the grass and bushes. That comes from growing up in Connecticut, which has the honor of harboring the highest population of copperheads in the nation.

Take that and put it together with the fact that even as a kid I just could not stay out of the woods. Add in the small point that I am color blind.

Then consider how hard it might be to tell a copperhead from a stick if you were red-green blind.

Oh boy, do I hate snakes!

And then there are those sneaky little sand kraits.

A sand krait, pronounced “krite” in case you’re interested, is a small dust-colored snake hardly thicker than a pencil, and not much longer than one either. Dang things used to slither under the freight that I had the Pakistani workers stack on the ground near the ramp at Mauripur Airbase, where my job, among other things, was to load and offload Air Force cargo planes.

They weren’t a problem in daylight. If you picked up a box they’d slither off through the dust amazingly fast. But at night the stupid things caused me a problem. My men used to argue about who was going to pick up the bottom box in a pile. It got so bad that if I was there I used to just grab the stupid bottom box myself and hand it to someone.

Who cares about stupid little dirt-colored snakes?

One day, after I had been in Karachi for over a year and must have picked up a couple of hundred bottom boxes for the workmen, I was sitting in my jeep waiting for an aircraft to arrive. Out in the grassy strip between the two runways some peons were cutting grass with the odd-looking little hand sickles they use over there, sometimes to cut grass, or cane, or wheat, and sometimes to cut each other up pretty good — a truly universal tool.

All of sudden I heard a loud, LOUD scream. It went something like this, “A-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a!”

I looked up and saw a peon running across the near runway.

He ran and screamed. He screamed and ran. Three hundred feet from the spot he started running he fell flat on his face.

My boys high-tailed it over there, were gone 10 or 15 minutes, and came back babbling in Urdu and Pushtu too fast for me to catch more than a word or two of what they were saying.

“What happened?” I asked Hasan, my shift supervisor.

“He is dead, Sahib.”

“He’s ... ?”

“Dead, Sahib. He was bitten between the toes by a krait.”

“You mean those stupid-looking little ... ?”

Holy mackerel! The guy only lasted 30 seconds!

How come nobody told me how deadly they were?

Oh, yeah. That way they got me to pick up those bottom boxes.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that Pakistanis are dumb.

Anyway, regarding our legless brethren, take it from me that any snake that dares to slither onto my property ...


Joe Hlavacek 7 years, 2 months ago

Just a thought, Mr. Garrett.

Perhaps if you would do some research, you might find out how to identify some of the snakes indigeonous to the area. There are many that are actually beneficial to the ecosystem here. Even rattlesnakes have thier place in the grand scheme of things. While I agree that it's potentially dangerous to have the buzzworms (rattlers) lurking around the yard, it seems a bit excessive (perhaps ignorant) to suggest killing "any snake that dares to slither onto my property"

Just my two cents.


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