A Rattlesnake With an Incredible Story

This is a very large western diamondback rattlesnake that my wife and I encountered. His story and ours is one of the strangest I've ever heard described, even if you go back and read all of J. Frank Dobie's Texas classics where rattlesnake stories are told. And this story was not one of just surprise, wow, we were lucky to be alive kind of close call story, at least for us two humans. In fact, it was just the opposite and it was the snake who we could not believe was alive, so let me tell the story.

One night in early March in the early 2000s Elaine and I were returning home to Johnson City from a shopping trip to Austin. We were just a few miles inside Blanco County where the highway, US 290 twists and turns over several steep hills and valleys and one of those had a blind corner as you crested another steep hill. We were driving our Doge Caravan in the left hand lane with very little traffic on the road that late winter when our headlights illuminated what quickly came into focus as a very large diamondback rattlesnake coiled in the middle of our lane. At 60 mph there was no time to miss the big snake; the best we could do was straddle the critter which we did. But just before the big snake disappeared under the hood of the Caravan it was clear the snake was taking on the moving vehicle and he struck as he disappeared from our view.

From other experiences we've had with rattlesnakes and autos, - almost all in west Texas, we knew the outcome of this confrontation was not in the snake's favor. We made a quick decision to turn around, go back and take the snake off the road where his body could be consumed by other critters without becoming road kill themselves. When we arrived at the scene our fears were realized. I stopped the car off the road, illuminated the prostrate snake in the headlights, took a large stick I keep in the car for such purposes and picked the limp snake up, it's head dangling lifeless with blood oozing out of its mouth and dripping on the highway. I moved the snake off the road and dumped it in the drainage ditch confident that it would be a feast for raccoons and other varmints. With that we got in the van and went home to put up of groceries goods and get to bed.

That night a cold front came through and the morning was overcast and cool - really cool. By this time I had begun to think about the snake again and then decided to go back, and at least just cut the rattler off for a souvenir - probably one of the surest ways to get snake bitten. But that didn't happen to me but I still wanted that very large snake's very larger rattle. So I went back to the hilltop to perform my sad act. But the snake wasn't there. Well, so that's natural. My prognostication was right, the snake was probably some critter's meal and thinking so began walking the ditch back down the slope from which the snake had more than likely taken out of his canyon. In about thirty steps I found him again. Only now he was not dead or eaten, but coiled in rope fashion and lying quietly still. He did not move nor rattle at my approach and I'm sure the cooler weather was having an impact on his comfort. Most importantly, nothing had touched him in the night and the blood from his mouth was now dried and not weeping. So what I did next, anyone of you would have. I picked him up with my stick again, put him in a huge cardboard box and took him home to nurse him back to health. And that's what happened to him. Three weeks later he was actively looking for a way out of his 75 gallon trash can container, giving us every indication that he was ready to go home. He obliged us our support by never rattling or striking at us when we opened his locked trash can to see how he was doing. Finally, I took him back to the uninhabited (by humans) canyon, carried him well down the side of the hill off the highway and set him free. Then I took his picture. You can still see the dried blood on his nostril.

So how big was he or she? I didn't measure or weigh him, but he is one of the largest - if not the largest - diamondback I've ever seen. And I'd say I've seen five around his size, mostly in west Texas. I give him five to six feet of length, his girth, as you can see from the photo is nearly uniform and his head was almost as wide as my hand on which I've been bitten before, say three or more inches in width. While he is a large snake, I am a small person. His color, as you see here from my old 35mm Konica camera was a very dark ground color, nearly black as seems to be the norm in this part of Blanco County in way of comparison to other observations on this website. Anyway, he crawled away into his rocky terrain and I climbed way back to the highway and went home. We have never again seen a rattlesnake on this part of US 290 even though I've seen three in this area off road, it really does speak to the secretive lives of these - and most - snakes. Oh, if you want to read the story of my snake bite, look for Alan Tennant's article on snake bite in one of the issues of Texas Monthly in the late 1970s. A special note is that this snake never fed while captive. He did show interest in a store bought rat, but did not attempt to kill the rat, so the rat was removed and the snake liberated as we had no intention of keeping such a dangerous snake in our home.

Posted on 09 de outubro de 2017, 02:14 PM by billarbon billarbon

Observações

Fotos / Sons

What

Cascavel-diamante Ocidental (Crotalus atrox)

Observador

billarbon

Data

Março 3, 2005 08:50 PM CST

Comentários

This is fabulous. My hair is standing on end.
Thanks for all the trouble you went to , to bestow that kindness.

Publicado por ellen5 mais de 6 anos antes

I'm a wildlife rehab volunteer. Have been unofficially all my life. My most recent rescue occurred here at home when tree trimmers whacked some pecan trees late summer tossing baby squirrels onto the ground where they were apparently stomped (five died) and left for dead. Three managed to crawl under the fence to our property, were discovered by our cats. I scooped them up and nursed two of them (my dog got to the third before I knew it was there and he was history) to adulthood. That was over three years ago and the male still hangs out in the yard and takes a treat now and then. He rules the neighborhood from what I can tell and one of his kids hangs out with him. I've learned a lot about squirrel behavior that I want to put up in this journal. I think I can dispel a couple of notions about squirrel behavior that might surprise.

Publicado por billarbon mais de 6 anos antes

There's a squirrel project. . . . just sayin'

Publicado por ellen5 mais de 6 anos antes

And how do they avoid big boys like the rescued rattlesnake? The stories squirrels can tell;-)

Publicado por billarbon mais de 6 anos antes

Cool.. thanks for sharing

Publicado por butterflies4fun mais de 6 anos antes

Checking up on the reason why I chose to follow you. This journal post is awesome.
I, too, abhor tracking and strip mining. I happen to be from from Milam and Lee Counties.

Publicado por connlindajo mais de 6 anos antes

@connlindajo: My favorite uncle was from Lee County, Tanglewood to be exact. Grew up on a small farm bought out by Alcoa years ago. I know you know the story. Striped the land for the powerplant making a moonscape of the land. Anyway, Cook was the family name and most of the boys moved to Austin in the 20s and 30s. One became Commissioner of the of LCB - Liquor Control Board for Governor Coke Stevenson, the guy, my guy, Lyndon Johnson defeated in the 'rigged' election of 1948. I noticed your Lee County location in your profile. One of the activities my aunt (my mother's sister) and uncle used to do for us kids in the fifties - and beyond- was taking us berry pick'in. We would spend all day on a week end driving the roads of Lee County locating good Dewberry vines and picking the ripe fruit in April/May. or so. Had to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes and copperheads, but I only caught a big rat snake in our pickings. My aunt made the best Dewberry pie.

Publicado por billarbon mais de 6 anos antes

@connlindajo BTW, my uncle - who was an incredible shot and hunter - had some incredible rattlesnake stories of his own he loved to tell me when I was a kid. I'll bet lots of these stories are generic and have been repeated by other story tellers from those days of rural America as well. J. Frank Dobie compiled many of those, as you probably know for Lawerence Klauber's seminal work on the subject. That reminds me. I need to add Dobie's Rattlesnakes to my library.

Publicado por billarbon mais de 6 anos antes

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