Yesterday it happened. Silver Oak was gone and a big rattlesnake showed up. We had practiced just in case, especially since killing one this spring, but I was sure hoping it would never happen.
It was naptime and the younger children were snoozing before our traditional Friday night date in town while the children spend time with Grandma and Grandpa and the cousins. My peaceful afternoon was about to be disrupted. Around 4:30pm Blossom, our 13 year old, came breathlessly sliding across the deck (literally). “Mommy, Mommy, there’s a rattlesnake out here!” I had a headache and was quite tired after a tough night and shoveling rabbit manure earlier that morning. Somehow the word “rattlesnake” transformed me instantly.
I yanked on my leather cowboy boots, hollering instructions to the girls to stay behind me unless given permission otherwise. I grabbed Silver Oak’s .22 rifle and took off, then wheeled around and went back for the key to unlock it. I may have practiced these moves, but somehow in the excitement of the moment my memory failed.
Blossom said our two dogs and the two surviving bachelor guineas were raising a fit in front of the barn, and upon investigation discovered they had a big eastern diamondback rattlesnake cornered. Now that is a blessing! Wish I could have gotten a picture of them, but I wasn’t in photographer mode at the moment. Those faithful guard animals may have saved someone’s life! One reason we got guineas was because of their reputation as snake-watchers. Now we’ve witnessed it first hand.
As I rounded the corner, sure enough, there were the guineas up on a mound of uprooted palmettos, fussing at something. The dogs were barking furiously, but as soon as he saw me, our gun-shy Australian shepherd disappeared into the woods. I couldn’t see the snake because it had crawled up over the pile and was trying to gather its wits on the other side. I cautiously followed the ominous rattling sound and found its large body coiled up under a palmetto at the base of the mound.
I am not a good shot, especially when nervous, so I got as close as safety allowed. It helps to know that a snake cannot strike more than 2/3 its length, so initially I stayed six feet away, standing on the mound above it. At the first shot the rattling stopped, and the snake appeared dazed. I unloaded the gun on it, trying in vain to hit the head, getting closer as it became clear that it was quite disoriented. When I ran out of ammo I laid down the gun and hollered at Blossom to get the long handled square shovel I had used that morning for scraping up rabbit manure.
With the shovel (and a prayer for help) I lunged at the snake from my perch above it on the mound, pinning it down about eight inches behind its head. Silver Oak told me later that may not have been the safest thing: if the shovel would have broken or slipped I could have ended up right on top of the snake! Shudder!! But the Lord helped me and with my weight leaning on that shovel I held that snake down. It was NOT getting away! Then the snake did a strange thing. It reached its head around and bit itself! I guess it bit the first thing it came to, which was its own body. I saw the side of its fangs and a big white balloon (the sac of venom?) in its jaw, as well as a bit of blood oozing out. Shudder again!!
With me pinning the snake down, I instructed Blossom to take the pitchfork and stick its head to the ground, keeping her boot-clad feet and legs at a safe distance. When that was secure, she chopped its head off with the ax. Only when its head was off did I feel safe releasing my weight from the shovel. I know that was probably overkill. But I would rather kill it three times than take the risk of it escaping and possibly harming one of the children or animals, or myself.
We dragged out the snake and measured it at six feet long! I took pictures, then dug a hole and buried the head. By that time I was dripping with sweat once again, so headed in for a second shower.
I asked Blossom if she feels like a hero, because she is the one who actually killed the snake by stabbing it in the head, then chopping it off. I don’t know what I would have done without her quickly and bravely following instructions. Our oldest daughter, Evensong, was gone with Silver Oak in town.
We’re thankful for the Lord’s protection once again, for faithful guard dogs and guineas who alerted us and kept the snake at bay, and for cooperative children willing to step out of their comfort zone in a crisis. And I now have a tiny bit more confidence to face a scary creature like that again if necessary, but hope I never have to!
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