Well, today’s big event was the Rattlesnake Encounter, which becomes more epic each time one of us recounts the story. We were walking one of the trails at a local nature preserve—a wonderful place, all chaparral and low hills, where the wind smells like sage. Whenever I’m there (and it had been a long while since our last visit) I wonder why I don’t go every week. It’s my kind of landscape, those rocky, rounded slopes lifting up the blue, blue sky. I stand there like Heidi on her mountain, drawing deep breaths of the fragrant air.
Then something will happen to remind me why I don’t go more often, like OH SAY A RATTLESNAKE WILL APPEAR ON THE TRAIL THREE FEET FROM MY CHILDREN.
Rose and Beanie spotted him at the same time—they were in the lead, fortunately; they’re sharp-eyed lasses and I was distracted by a hot, red-faced, cranky Huck. If this had been the part of the trail where Huck suddenly charged ahead and we larger folk had to scramble to catch up, he’d have been on that snake before any of us saw it. It was lying quite still at first, stretched out across our path. Rose had just enough time to ask “Is it real?” before it twitched, and I took in the triangular head and the rattle and hollered EVERYONE BACK UP IT’S A RATTLER GRAB THE LITTLE ONES!! (I used more exclamation points.)
We edged back a yard and stood watching it. Huck, who’d been begging me to carry him, now clamored to be put down. Not a chance, pal. The rest of us were still and silent. After a long moment, the snake began to move; it slid across the trail into the underbrush.
“This is the best thing that EVER HAPPENED TO ME,” Rose declared.
“I think we’ll just go back the way we came,” I said weakly. Suddenly the trail ahead, curving into a clump of trees, seemed spiked with hazards. Huck was squirming for freedom and there was no way I was putting him back down to run loose on that path.
So we came home and drank a lot of water and ate lunch and played Oregon Trail and weeded a flowerbed and I read two picture books to Rilla.
In Oregon Trail, I lost one of my children to cholera and another to dysentery. Which is ironic, since usually in that game it’s the snakebite that gets you.
From the Archives: Life on the Trail
All About Wonderboy
Peace Comes Dropping Slow
If You Plant It, They Will Come
The Whales Are on the Move