Snake herder

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been kind to snakes. I know there are a lot of ophidiophobes out there, but I’m not one of them. I’ve always found snakes to be exotic and yes, even beautiful creatures. They are beautiful, as anyone can see; anyone, that is, who can look at them without puckering up their exhaust pipe and going into some kind of Freudian vapor lock.

My kindness to legless reptiles manifests itself mainly in one way: I help them get across the road. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, snakes have an affection for roads. Being cold-blooded beasts, they like to stretch themselves out on those thermal strips of highway and just sorta hang out. Unfortunately, that’s also a great way for them to get tore up via killer rubber. As in, “that ole bull snake looks like it done got ’oodyeared.”

So I was cruising at about 45 mph on an absolutely deserted strip of Nevada back road. I see what I think is a twig up ahead—a twig that turns out to be a snake, unmistakable as I pass by. My usual m.o. is to stop, get out, walk back to the serpent (usually a gopher snake), take a stick and herd him off the road and into the brush. I do this because I know a lot of you snake-haters out there in the Neon Babylon aren’t gonna be so nice to Mr. Slithers. It wouldn’t surprise me if you went out of your way to put a hurt on that writhing, wriggling demon that so haunts your unconscious. I get ’em off the road so they can carry on with their rodent-eating lives before you happen upon them with your lethal car and bizarre psychology.

But on this day, I kept on going, figuring there was simply no one else out there. I’d no way to know this; it was just the dominant impression of the last hour. But then, the Snake Voice came up in my head and said, “Stop. Turn around. What’s the rush? You are, after all, A Friend of Snakes.”

I obeyed and came back. And waddyaknow, it’s a rattler, laid out on the right side of the road. I stopped my truck in front of him, and, just as I opened my door to get out, another truck roared around a curve, approaching from behind. I’ll be damned. Looks like the Snake Voice knew what it was talkin’ about. As the truck moved past, I saw the driver. He looked like a local, probably a rancher, probably wondering why I’m stopped. Then he saw the snake. By the time he spied it, it was too late for him to do anything like make a quick veer over to squish it. Being a rancher, that might well have been his move, since ranchers don’t seem to be real fond of buzzworms. But since I obstructed his angle to the snake just enough, he didn’t bother it and drove on.

“Well, Mr. Rattler,” I said, “looks like I mighta just saved yer nasty ass.” The snake, a two-footer, reacted by heading across the road and into the sagebrush, like a smart pit viper. As I got back on my way, I realized I was again being shown the eternal lesson about taking stuff for granted.