Generally I don’t swear when writing, but here I’m attempting to capture the moment. If you have sensitive ears you may want to read elsewhere. You’ve been warned.
Background: I am currently camping down in the Mojave Nature Preserve, tapping this post on my tablet. I won’t have Internet to post this for a few days.
I was hiking a wash at the edge of the Cinder Cone Lava Bed. I was hiking the wash because the lava bed is hard on the dog’s feet. Shadow (my senior Aussie) was earning her name faithfully at my heels. Smokey (my feisty Blue Heeler) , as is her wont, was 30 feet out on my flank looking for jack rabbits.
Most of my hiking is early in the day or late in the afternoon to avoid the heat. But today was different as we had been to town for supplies and Internet. So it was a hot sunny hike. I had just found a desert tortoise shell and stopped to photograph it, wishing I was on BLM land so that I could take it with me. Shortly after resuming our hike, Smokey started barking. I called for her to come, but her bark became more shrill, more insistent, more a yip then a bark. I scrambled up the wash’s bank to see what her problem was, I could partially see her behind some scrub creosote. As I rounded the bush I saw that she had something cornered at the base of a mesquite tree. Just as it registered that it was a coiled snake, the snake struck. Smokey pulled back and still yipping went back after it.
“Holey Shit! Did that snake just bite her? “ Running now, I close the last few feet and grab her by the back haunches and jerk her away. My mind was racing, ” fuck, how long do I have?” 2 miles back to the car and a solid 80 miles to the nearest vet in Barstow. The snake is coiled and rattling as I back away with Smokey in my arms. The snake was green! Who ever heard of a green rattlesnake?
As I ran from the snake with Smokey in my arms, Shadow noticed the snake and went to investigate. I frantically call her away and thankfully she listens. I run maybe 50 yards down the wash, somehow sure the snake was chasing me. Once safely away, I knelt and searched Smokey for signs of a bite. She has a double layer coat and even though I could find no sign of a bite, I couldn’t be sure. I decided to carry her back to camp, keep her heart rate low and watch for symptoms once back at the car. I used to carry a snake bite kit in my back pack but it had long since dry rotted and been discarded. Not that the suction cup would work on a hairy beast. I think cutting the bite to suck out the venom only works in the movies.
I set out jogging… and remembering. Before I had left on this trip I had mentioned to a friend that I have seen a bunch of rattlesnakes in my life, but had never run into one when the dogs were with me. Did I jinx myself? I don’t believe in magic, only coincidence. And what is up with a green rattlesnake? I’ve seen Western Diamondbacks in the Western deserts and Timber Rattlers in Appalachia, but never heard of a green rattlesnake.
My luck changed as I neared camp. I ran into a naturalist studying the desert flowers. She asked what was wrong with the dog, and I explained between huffs as I fought to get air into my lungs. She advised that it was a Mojave Rattlesnake and that they are indeed green. She had me put Smokey down and asked how long it had been. I told her 20 minutes or half an hour. She laughed and told me to quit worrying, had Smokey been bit she would be showing signs by now. She went on to explain that the Mojave Rattler is the most aggressive and deadly of the rattlesnakes (it wasn’t clear if she meant all rattlesnakes or just the three species that reside in the Mojave desert.)
I gave that dog a hug and she growled at me and I knew all was right. Freaked out by the experience, I was seeing snakes in every shadow. We packed up and moved camp 5 miles north.
Moral of the story is to keep a better eye on that dog.