Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rattlesnake Wrangling

A long silence from me will now come to an end. What have I been doing? Well, as it turns out, I cleaned my entire house to prepare for my parents' visit. Had a delightful visit from my parents. I turned FORTY. My husband whisked me away for a magical night of dining and drama, I got a head cold, and finally, now, things are beginning to settle down to a more quiet and normal pace.

One exciting adventure that I have to share with you was a rattlesnake wrangling class with the multi-talented Mike Smiley. Some of you will remember Mike Smiley from my previous post about welding and plasma cutting. Click here, if you wish to read more. I received a phone call from Mike the week my parents arrived. He told me he likes to teach people how to deal with rattlesnakes safely. Living in the desert, you quickly learn that snakes are just part of this place, and I feel that it is good to learn about your neighbors, whether human or other. I wasn't sure if my parents would be interested in the rattlesnake class, so I told him I would come if I could. My father hates rattlesnakes, so I had my doubts.

Fortunately for me, I was able to talk my Dad into coming with me. Mom was sleeping in, since they had only flown in the night before, and it was late when we got home. When we arrived at Mike and Betty's house, there were two large plastic garbage cans with lids clamped down. When Mike kicked one of the garbage cans, the unmistakable sound of a rattling snake was heard, coming from inside.

Mike is such a patient and thorough teacher. He explained how rattlesnakes are often misunderstood, since many of us are afraid of them. Yet, rattlesnakes are important members of the food chain, since they help keep the rodent population in check. I look at rattlesnakes with an equal amount of fascination and trepidation. Mike went on to talk about how a snake sees us as giant monsters, and mostly, they just want to get away from us. When you think of the size of a rattlesnake compared to our size, that seems logical. He showed us how you can determine which way a rattler is moving when you look at the tracks it leaves in the sand. We learned that when a rattler is about to shed, its eyes are a milky blue, and it will want to hide someplace quiet until it is done. He shared all sorts of rattler trivia with us. They really are fascinating creatures.

Now, rattlesnake wrangling is something you need to know if there is a rattlesnake that has decided to camp out in your garage, or front porch, or (ulp) in your house. Basically, what you want to do is encourage the snake to take refuge in a large garbage pail, so that it can be safely removed from an area where it could cause problems or be a danger to human beings. He had three different tools for guiding and moving the snakes around. I chose to use the broom, because I figured that would be the tool I would be most likely to have if a rattler decided to come for a visit. Mike showed us the safe way to guide and move the snake, and then we all got to try, with his attentive supervision. At first, I did not think I would do it, but when all of my girlfriends bravely took a turn, I felt I had no choice! I couldn't be the chicken - the peer pressure was too much. So, with jittery hands, I took a turn.

Happily for me, by the time I took my turn, the five-foot rattler knew exactly what to do, and obligingly slithered pretty quickly into the huge black garbage pail. Wow! Once you are certain the head of the snake is at the bottom of the pail, you grab the handle of the pail and lift the can upright. Next, you want to put the lid on, clamp it down, and then you can safely transport it to the less populated areas. Cool! I am not sure you should try this until someone has showed you all the details the way Mike did for us. Maybe if you are brave, and have an extremely long handled broom. Oh, and even though I was wearing sandals, you really should have shoes if you try this. Especially if Mike Smiley isn't standing right next to you to step in when the snake becomes agitated!!!


lee said...

I am with your Dad I hate rattlesnakes or anything slimy like that. I think that Grad school missed a great artist by not accepting you.

pRiyA said...

I am speechless at the pictures. Oooof!

Melissa and Emmitt said...

oh my gosh karine!
you are so brave!
i got scared just seeing the photos let alone being in the same room with a rattlesnake! :)
happy birthday!

bindu said...

This is incredible! Mike is doing a valuable job educating people about rattlesnakes and teaching them to live with them. It's so sad how misunderstood they are. They have these awful rattlesnake roundups in Texas where they torture them for no reason. You are brave to try this! Belated birthday wishes. And btw, I have a little snake picture up on my blog too - not as exciting as yours though.

ArtPropelled said...

They are rather beautiful aren't they.

Abby Creek Art said...

First of all...happy belated 40th!

Now on to the snakes...icky! Gotta say...even though snakes are beautiful creatures...me no likie.
Do you remember the Bull Snakes of Colorado? We've had several slivering their way through the garden this year. Yikes!

Patricia said...

Happy Birthday Sweetie! Some people are satisfied with eating cake on their birthday. Not you- You go snake roping!
I am impressed-

High Desert Diva said...

OMG! Happily, I've never had to deal with one in our desert.

Happy, happy belated 40th birthday!