“There he is!”, my father shouted. He stepped on it to halt its amazingly swift wiggling through the grass and grabbed it behind its head and brought it up to his face. Daddy was looking carefully at the snake’s eyes and examining the markings. Tongue flicking around in the air like crazy to get the scent of this totally irritating creature that was causing such a problem. “What a dandy”, he said. “Looks like he got this mouse not long ago”, stroking the bump in the snake’s body about halfway down. Well, sir, I thought this was the best of all possible worlds; living things making friends with each other. He took the snake over into the garden and released it. “Maybe he can get some of these tomato worms”. Oh boy, this is even better….putting the animal to work for him.
I still had many more years living out in the country so there were lots of great chances to interact with nature’s livestock and I took every occasion to do so. This included bears, flies, ants and a thousand kinds of winged creatures. I developed a kind of primitive inconsistency toward nature, loving and killing without judging whether it was the right thing to do or not. I guess snakes were the ones I loved the most because they ate pests and I learned not to get hurt, just as my dad had done. My mother, unfortunately, was terribly afraid of snakes and every time I proudly brought one in to show her what a fine creature I’d caught she’d promptly escort the snake and I out with a reassuring “Let’s put him back where you found him”, while her heart rate probably went through the ceiling. One day, many years later, I even developed a kind of friendship with this huge old Diamondback in Tucson that lived by our AM radio station out in the desert on the way to Phoenix. I’d periodically move him to a remote location further away so Jack, our engineer that lived across the border, wouldn’t kill him. One day some workers called us to say they’d killed this giant sidewinder and skinned it “Out at the AM rig”. I drove out there as fast as I could and asked them where the skin was. ”Over there hanging on the fence”. I took the skin back, cut it up and make a hatband out of it which I kept until a couple years ago. That was my friend….they killed my friend. I still get kind of sad thinking about it and just can’t really find the humor that probably should be there by now.