Hi Ho Dusty, And The Great Snake Hunt
Don't Try This At Home
In the early 70's, when I was a young lad, I was living and working on a small Texas ranch. This was a part- time thing, because I worked full time as an airplane mechanic for the U.S.Navy, just outside Beeville Texas. I worked on the structure and hydraulics systems of the aircraft. But I loved the ranch life. South Texas teams with all sorts of wildlife and reptiles, and being out working the cattle or checking fences, there is a good chance you are going to run into something. All my life I wanted to have a job where you work with wildlife, but lack of schooling prevented me from having that dream. But that is another story. I love all of nature and am particularly fond of snakes.
I also love horses. When I moved to the ranch from Beeville, I inherited a stallion that was as ornery as a mule. He was a beautiful white horse that shined in the sun after a good brushing. And he would stay that way until we would have a good rain storm. That's when I found out how he got the name Dusty. He would pick a nice muddy spot and roll in it. I swear, I would hear him laughing as he was making a muddy coat. It was like he knew that I would have to brush him out after he dried off. And I did! All you horse owners probably know what it's like to brush a dusty horse. We didn't have an outside faucet. I would sponge off as much as I could, then hope he didn't roll again before I got him brushed.
As I said before, Dusty was an ornery old boy, and didn't like to be ridden much. I usually had to trick him to catch him. After I got a rope on him and saddled him up. I would swing up and brace myself for the next little ritual that we would go through before moving on. Now I think old Dusty pictured himself as a rodeo bronc, because he would always try a few bucking moves to get me off. I was pretty skinny back then, and would grab on and stick like a tick. Quickly he would realize that I was staying on (most of the time) and would decide to do what he was trained to do.
As I mentioned before I am fond of snakes, and am always watching for them. Well sir, on that hot and beautiful Texas day, I was headed back to a little pond, way back in the pastures about a mile and a half away from the house and barn. My mission, to check on the cattle and I figured while I was back there I would dismount, tie Dusty up, and do a little snake hunting. Now the reason I would tie up Dusty is this. He would spook any time he saw, smelled, or heard a snake. I say heard, because there are tons of rattlesnakes in south Texas. It was nothing to see at least a dozen or so sunning themselves among the cactus.
What a great plan I am thinking as I am riding along, enjoying the sights, sounds, and odors of flowering plants all around me. This is the life, I am thinking to myself. Just then I sighted the pond and something else lying close to the waters edge. It was the biggest rattlesnake I had ever seen! At the same time it detected us, and started rattling! Dusty exploded! He whirled almost unseating me! I lost control of the reins and instinctively grabbed him around his neck with a death grip. We cleared all the fences and brush on the neck- breaking run back to the barn. After that if I wanted to go out and count the snakes I would walk, but very carefully I might add!