The Man has his own rattlesnake story.
We were in New Mexico, house sitting for a friend during the week leading up to Memorial Day.
Our friend lives way out in the sage, past the last of the power lines, at least a mile from the nearest neighbors. His place is three miles from the highway, down a dirt road, ten miles from the nearest convenience store. He uses solar power to run his television and his mini-fridge, and he shits in an outhouse. He’s way out there.
Our friend’s brother was dying, and our friend wanted to drive out to California for one last visit. He needed someone to watch his place and feed his big dog, goat, and donkey while he was gone. We were the only friends he trusted to actually care for his critters and his place, and he offered to pay us well if we would help him out. We agreed, because we wanted to be good friends, but also because we needed the dollars.
Using the outhouse wasn’t such a huge problem, but plumbing wasn’t the only amenity lacking. Our cell phones got no service out there, and our friend had no internet access. He did have a landline, but an unexplained and annoying hum on the line made even a short conversation virtually impossible. The Man and I were out there cut off from everyone but each other.
I spent a couple days writing blog posts by hand in a notebook, but when eight or ten were written, I needed to use the internet to schedule them. I drove about 15 miles to the public library in the village nearest to our friend’s home. The library had fast, reliable WiFi, and I enjoyed working there. I wished the library was open longer hours, but noon to 5pm five days a week was all the village government was paying for.
I went to the library several times during our house sitting engagement. Sometimes The Man came with me and sat in the van and used the internet on his phone. Sometimes I went alone and left The Man and Jerico the dog back on our friend’s land.
One day when I’d gone to the library alone, I returned to our friend’s place around 5:30. I found The Man in the sunroom lean-to built onto the side of the school bus living space.
How was your day? I asked him.
He led me outside and pointed to a headless carcass hanging on the fence.
I had to kill a rattlesnake, he said.
The Man had been working in the sunroom all day, making leather and stone bracelets to sell. He heard a buzzing and wondered if it was a rattlesnake, but then decided, no a rattlesnake would rattle not buzz. He looked around the room anyway, but didn’t find any snakes, rattle or otherwise.
About an hour and a half later, Jerico trotted into the room through the open door, and The Man heard the buzzing again. This time when he looked over toward the door, he saw a rattlesnake coiled up in the corner next to the door where Jerico had just entered.
The Man called Jerico to the back of the room and told him to Stay! Whether because of the serious tone of The Man’s voice or the smell of the snake, Jerico did as he was told.
The Man grabbed a metal pipe and used it to crush the snake’s head. He wasn’t happy about killing the snake. He hates to harm any living thing, but having a venomous snake in a room frequented by people and a dog was just too dangerous.
They shouldn’t call them rattlesnakes, The Man told me, shaking his head, because they don’t rattle, but I guess “buzz snake” just doesn’t sound as good.