June 5, 2011 by wcobserver
Killing wild things that seemed to threaten something of value was standard routine in our early years on the hill: a possum in the chickens, a raccoon in the corn, and poisonous snakes anywhere. Copperheads were our particular concern with young children racing around in the woodland yard. Stealthy and well disguised, copperheads seemed to possess a particularly belligerent attitude so that once you crossed their path, they would just as likely come after you as go the other way. At least, that’s how it seemed to me. I was moving a brush pile once, grabbing limb after limb to throw onto the cart when I realized I was eye to eye with a fat old copperhead. It was coiled, watching me. Later we figured I would have been bit except for the fact that it had just shed its skin and its eyes were still filmed over. The husband dispatched that one.
The neighbor in the cabin across the road told us he’d gone to crawl under his house to check on his water pipes and discovered a mass of copperheads. It was spring and they were probably breeding, and probably had spent the winter under there where the old rock foundation wall made it snake user friendly. We had heard the long session of gunfire over there earlier and wondered what he was into. I felt mildly concerned that so many snakes were dying at once, but for copperheads it didn’t make me sad.
In the early days, another neighbor had gone hunting on the field just west of us that backs all the way south to the edge of the canyon. He came back with a timber rattler that was as long as he could reach holding its head up above his own. We had never seen big rattlers around our house, but once I had arrived back from town just after dark, parked in my usual spot, and headed into the house when I heard this hissing sound. I thought it was air leaking out of one of my tires, and went back to the car to listen at each tire in turn. When I got back around to the driver’s side, I found the noise located near the front tire. But it wasn’t the tire. There was a rattlesnake coiled and rattling its tail at me. I hightailed it to the house and husband came out to kill it. I probably set my feet out of the car within a yard of it.
One day after I was living up here alone and Morgan the One-Eyed Wonder Dog had taken over the responsibility of running the place, I heard a special bark coming from her out by the compost. The other two were barking too, although more in the excitement of joining Morgan than from any information of their own. I heard the rasping sound but thought it was cicadas. I got about halfway between the porch and where the dogs were barking before I could see the subject of their frenzy: a large rattler coiled and ready to strike. (To be continued)