Thursday, July 17, 2008

More Memories to Rattle You With

Yesterday's POST and Ray Gunner's comment reminded me of another animal experience I had while a kid growing up in Wyoming.

We were fly fishing the North Platte River, which as hunting and fishing guides, we were compelled to do frequently, at the expense of going to school. It was a tough life we had... Anyway, the typical strategy was to cast upstream and dead drift the fly down, and then strip it back in slowly. This means that a lot of time is spent facing downstream. Now, my dad had always warned me to keep an eye upstream, because there were lots of sitings of prairie rattlers floating on down the river, and they seek out stumps and rock outcroppings to take a break. Very much like rattlesnakes tubing on a hot day with a beer in hand. It was a tough life they had... The worry here was that a snake is not so good at distinguishing a tree stump from a guy in waders, and it would be very likely that it would swim over to you to climb up and catch some rays.

As a typical teenager, I thought my dad was full of it, because I had never seen this before, therefore it must not be true. So it was to my surprise when my dad, some 100 yards upstream, started screaming at me. Not just because to make a noise while someone was fishing was tantamount to genocide, but because my father was never, ever, afraid of a damn thing.

Consequently, I turned around to see him waving his arms and yelling at me to get out of the water. Something about a snake. So I thought, being the 14 year old genius I was, that it'd be cool to toy with a snake, and pretty soon, I saw it coming. But what I didn't see was that that snake was just the leader.

Thankfully, and by the grace of God, I did finally notice the others--about 200 of them.

Those of you familiar with the difficulty in locomotion amidst a belly-high strong current on gravelly river beds with waders on will appreciate exactly how lucky I was to reach the shore--only 15 yards away--before a couple hundred tired and cranky rattlers made the last 75 yards to me.

We told our story around, but like most fishing stories, it fell on deaf ears. That is, until a BLM manager caught wind of it, who just happened to be a rattlesnake buff. He said that they don't know why it happens, or how often, but it's certainly rare. The only other documented case he knew of was a woman who was water skiing and fell into a group of rattlers when she was spooked by them. Imagine water skiing and all of a sudden you're skipping over a boatload (hah! didn't even catch that till it was out) of snakes. She was bitten multiple times and didn't survive.

Thankfully I didn't suffer the same fate, which means that I was around to spawn my own offspring, with enormous cheeks and long black eyelashes over beautiful blue eyes (blue eyes? I hope they stay!).


Ignoramus said...

OK, I'm telling this one to my kids tonight before bed. Especially because we live in Wyoming now.

BTW, what does BLM mean?

The Vitruvian Duck said...

Great idea. Maybe a short story or two from Stephen King as well?

That actually happened not too far from you...south of Seminoe Reservoir.

BLM = Bureau of Land Management