Tales from a Texas Ranch from a City Boy with a Cowboy Hat
Once upon a time several years ago (I think it was the early 1980’s), I drove from Dallas to join my parents for Easter at the ranch…just the three of us, or I should say, the four of us since I brought along my yellow lab puppy, named Tyler.
I say puppy, but he was about a year old by then and filling out fast.
The folks made their trek from Houston (about a seven hour drive) and were bushed when they arrived Friday night, so we had a quick supper of bar-b-que ribs, beans and slaw that they had picked up at Cooper’s in Llano and a splash of second-round Cabernet my dad had brought along from Houston.
Winding down, my mother repaired to her voluminous reading habit and dad and I talked guns and ammo and hunting.
Tyler wasn’t allowed inside so he slumbered in the breezeway impervious to the chill in the air blowing in from the north.
Not long afterwards, the pillow beckoned and we all decided to turn in for the night.
The folks went to their master bedroom and I repaired to the other end of the house, inviting Tyler in as I went.
He sat in front of the door, outside, with me inside holding the door open.
“C’mon,” I said.
He looked over his shoulder, then back at me.
And I heard him thinking, “What if your mom finds out?!”
I scruffled his ears, urged him inside and it wasn’t 10 minutes later that I was snug in my sheets and he was snoring at the bedside.
As the morning broke, the weather was crisp and chilly. No wind; no clouds in the early morning sky as the sun peaked over the eastern horizon.
As I dressed, Tyler followed me around, his tail a-wagging so hard that I was awonder that it didn’t hurt when he whacked this piece of furniture or that piece with a hard “knock” or “knock-knock.”
I tried to avoid that waggin’ tail; it was dangerous.
The folks were just beginning to stir so I made up some coffee in the kitchen, poured myself a mug and started a stroll in what we call the northside yard.
Now the northside yard is mostly brush and mesquite, so the “stroll” was a careful stroll.
Tyler followed, then led, but staying within about 20 yards of me.
I was still a little sleepy, but with the steaming mug of coffee in my hand, I was enjoying the quiet, the crisp air, cloudless sky and rising sun.
I had cracked several dead sticks under my boots as I walked but I didn’t care…I wasn’t hunting.
Then, I stepped on something that went kind a “squish” under my boot.
I looked down immediately to see I had stepped on a rattlesnake!
The rattler was slow, probably because of the temperature, but it turned its attention to me immediately and rattled, just a little.
Well, I’m here to tell ya, this city boy went straight up in the air, coffee mug and all.
Now, if you think about it, if you go straight up means you gotta come straight down…which I did.
I no more than whispered the earth’s surface with my boots before I went straight up again.
The rattler was coiling up beneath me while I did this two or three times, which caught Tyler’s attention.
I couldn’t get my weight moving one way or another because I was so freaked out.
Didn’t realize it then, but I still had the coffee mug in my hand, spilling nary a drop.
Jumping up and down another half dozen times, not able to leap sideways for some reason, I had a dim recognition of Tyler, standing about 10 feet away nodding his head up and down, following my antics as I went up and down. I think I was cursing, too.
And, in afterthought, I wondered what that snake must have thought as this obviously crazed human kept stomping on and around his whereabouts.
Anyway, I finally landed on Mother Earth a fraction of a second long enough to launch myself sideways and away from the rattle-tailed serpent.
I landed on my butt, spilled my coffee and threw the mug at the rattler about four feet away. It hit him, full body, and he rattled, as much as a cold and partially stomped-on rattlesnake can.
Unfortunately, my escape from my freaked out up-and-down leaping landed me completely opposite from Tyler, meaning that the rattler was between him and me. And I could tell, then and there, Tyler had no idea there was a snake amongst us.
“No!” I shouted.
Tyler didn’t care, I was on my butt, on his level. He smiled and trotted toward me, right across the rattler.
Immediately on my knees, I reached out to grab and pull him to me as quickly as I could to get him away from the rattler.
He had gained momentum coming to love and lick my face for having provided such wonderful entertainment on this Easter weekend vacation, so at the moment I was able to grab him, his 50 pound chest dislocated my right thumb at the very same moment the rattler struck him in the hind quarters.
“Ouch!” I groaned, and dragged him by his collar away from the battleground.
He didn’t seem concerned…don’t think he even knew there was a snake about.
I curled the hair back on his left hip looking for a bite, watching warily as the rattler slowly slithered under a nearby bush a few feet away.
I looked everywhere on his hind quarter, over and over. Nothing. The rattler had missed.
Relieved, I scrambled to my feet and returned to the ranch house kitchen where my doctor father, with Tyler looking on and no little pain, re-adjusted my right thumb.
The rattlesnake? It died, not too far away from my empty coffee mug.
All said and done…it wasn’t a bad Easter weekend.
(And what’s even more fun - none of my visiting buddies know if they’re drinking from the same coffee mug that battered that snake)