Close Encounter of the Racklenake Kind

August 3, 2012 @ 6:08 pm | Filed under: Family Adventures, Nature Study

Yes, again. This is what happens when you build suburbs in the chaparral.

This time, we weren’t on a hiking trail in the hills. This time, we were running down the path from the water fountain to the playground at a park we only just discovered this morning. Upon arrival, I wrote Scott: “This is the best park I’ve seen since we moved here.” Beautiful place. Towering trees shading a narrow creek (more stones than water) and an elaborate playground—a welcome improvement on the sunbaked playgrounds we usually frequent. Enormous rocks for climbing, glorious golden hills rising up just beyond the park’s borders, a conveniently located restroom, a functioning water fountain. Before the first child had reached the top of the slide, I was envisioning a regular weekly park day at this heretofore undiscovered (by me, at least) gem.

The kids ran around the playground for half an hour; Beanie spent a long time pushing Rilla on the swings. Then we meandered over to the creekbed, watched a squirrel, climbed a tree, and after a bit, I decided it was sunny enough on the trail beyond the park fence that we could risk a short walk. Too hot for rattlers on the path at that time of day, I reasoned. But Wonderboy was spooked by the memory of that other rattler, the big one we happened upon on a similar trail, and we turned back after a only a few minutes. Back to the swings, the rocks, the blissfully cool shade under the trees.

On the way to the water fountain, Huck complained of mulch in his shoes. I stripped them off: he’s happier barefoot. He raced up the short stretch of sidewalk between playground and fountain, following the others. I trailed behind, stepping over a few fallen leaves and scattered twigs. Drinks accomplished, we turned to head back to the playground. Huck was in front, still barefoot, and I registered that the stick he was about to jump over wasn’t a stick at all just as he did, in fact, jump over it. His chubby bare foot hit the ground about an inch from the slithering, diamonded, triangle-headed, rattle-having stick.

I screamed. Launched myself in front of Huck. It wasn’t a big rattler, and it was leaving the path in a hurry, heading for the aforementioned blissful shade under the trees. I backed the kids way up, looked around wildly for snake companions, because in my imagination they always come in packs—and then, yes, took a picture. I mean, I was already holding my camera, and it was clear the thing wanted to put some distance between itself and my pack of wild monkeys.

By this point the playground was filled with a group of day-camp kids who’d arrived for a picnic. I hustled my kids back toward the parking lot, stopping to alert the camp counselors to the presence of the snake. They put in a call to Animal Control and herded their charges to the cement-floored picnic area. The snake hung out under the swings—Rilla’s swing—for a bit and then changed its mind and hastened toward the tennis courts. A fire truck arrived. I had my kids back in the minivan by that point, but we hung around to watch the exciting capture. I explained the mechanism of the long pinch-handled snake-catching stick. The firemen returned to the truck and opened their bucket to display the furious, coiled, really not very large at all rattlesnake.

“I adore rattlers,” said Beanie.

The firemen raised their eyebrows. “Well, maybe don’t adore them,” one said.

“From a distance,” said another.

“Me don’t like racklenakes,” announced Huck.

“ME EITHER,” declared his big brother in the firmest of tones.

“Can we come back tomorrow?” asked Rilla.

Sure, honey, as long as it’s pouring rain.


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Comments

11 Responses | | Comments Feed

  1. Wow, scary! I feel blessed every day to live in a country which has no snakes.

  2. “Me don’t like racklenakes, either!” agrees Huck’s uncle . . .

  3. Eeek! Oh my heart was in my throat reading about barefoot Huck jumping over the rattler. I bet Bella’s response would be the same as Beanie’s, though.

  4. Right. Right. Well. You know, we like snakes …. Grass snakes. Those are nice to have around the yarden.

    I’m very glad he didn’t try to pick it up, thinking it was a stick. Poor Wonderboy, though, will he ever want to go to a park or on a walk again?!? Ya’ll need some anti-rattler juju.

  5. You sure manage to take a lot of pictures under duress.

  6. Only when duress conveniently happens while I’m holding the camera. 😉 What I don’t get is how none of my careful, trying-for-artful Comic-Con shots came out, not a one, but when I barely bother to aim the thing to get these snake pictures, they’re ok. I mean, for ten-second frenzy photos.

  7. Could Huck be any cuter? I think no, no he couldn’t… and then he is.

    Faith also likes rattlers. Crazy.

  8. I am SO VERY PROUD of you for getting those great photos!!!

    Good for you!

  9. Melissa, you ARE Wonder Woman! Wow…..that was some ‘day at the park’!

    Yeah, what is it about those point and shoot shots that turn out and the try so hard ones that don’t? An enigma of life.

    So glad you all came away with just a great story and all safe & sound!

  10. Melissa, you ARE Wonder Woman!

    That used to be comic industry legend Dennis O’Neil’s nickname for her. 100% true story.

  11. Oh. My. Word.
    I’m with Beanie…
    I admit to leaning toward the side of “adore.” But, okay, fine. I’ll adore from a distance. I’m slightly unnerved that Huck was so innocently, barefootedly close…

    And yes, your photos are hilariously focused and detailed! Isn’t that always the way it goes? Try and take a good picture, nada. Shoot literally from the hip, perfection.