Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Yup, you were in Texas."

Erin was here in Wyoming visiting her folks while we were down visiting her state, Texas. We met the night we got home and she asked, "Well what did you think of Texas?"

I could not tell a lie and replied,"Everything either scratches or bites."

She laughed and said, "Yup, you were in Texas."

I wasn't exaggerating. We only got off the road four times and everything we encountered encouraged us to stay on the highway. For instance look at the thorns on the above plant. Plus this one below.

A...nd on this yucca plant.

I could go on and on and some of you might think I'm exaggerating but according to Erin even a number of the trees have thorns. Not to say that we don't have some of our own prickles like Buffaloberry bushes that look a lot like a Russian Olive tree and produce a red or orange berry that makes a wonderful jelly. Or our prickly wild rose bushes and the cockleburrs but in comparison to Texas, our variety of pokey vegetation is few and it isn't wide spread.

Their cactus alone outnumbers ours ten to one and I'm not just talking size. Wear a good thick soled boot and you can tromp right on over ours. Wouldn't want to try that with theirs. Some of them are piled into tall mounds looking to be waist high.

Their pricklies were just unpleasant but what really weirded me out was that of the three times we left the highway to pick prickly pear cactus fruit, we encountered snake skins at two of the three sites of at least four feet in length.

Once again, Erin confirmed that West Texas has a dense population of them. Obviously!

But, it wasn't until we had crossed into northern New Mexico that I had the fright of my life. I got out of the car to take some pictures of the beautiful landscape east of Raton. With each step I took, I scoured the ground for snakes. When I was about halfway to the fence, I stopped and fiddled with the camera trying to set it. It wasn't cooperating. Once in a while I'd look up at the buck Pronghorn Antelope that stood staring at me. I often have that effect on them.

Something caused me to look at my feet. Six inches from my bare shins poised a rattlesnake. His viper shaped head was reared back ready to strike with the front section of his body forming an S curve. My brain went into hyper drive. I thought of throwing the camera at him but I wasn't coming back for it and I just might miss in my panicked state. My second thought was that he must be calculating the strike range of six to eight inches as that was about how much of his body was raised off the ground. Just maybe, I could outdistance him before he struck. There was no way I was going to be able to hold my ground. I made a mighty jump, running for the car with my feet high stepping the whole way.

My husband looked up from fiddling with the GPS and saw the terror on my face and the speed I was descending upon the car and figured I'd been bit. Normally, I consider myself fairly calm around the slithering nasties. The week before our trip, I'd almost stepped on a large chocolate brown patterned bull snake stretched out in the tall weeds and a quick side step was my only reaction. But at this moment, I felt shear terror.

When I reached the car, I slammed the door shut, first of all on my right leg, and furiously shouted, "Crap! He didn't even rattle." Even more than scared, I was mad! The snake hadn't played the game fairly. He was going to strike without warning. My husband meanwhile was surveying my legs for fang marks thinking he'd have to put the pedal to the metal so to speak and high tail it for the hospital. It had been close - too close and though I had not been physically injured, mentally I was pretty shook up.

We joke all the way to Raton that I might need psychiatric care and you can bet I didn't leave the car until the motel parking lot. The scenery was still pretty though and I snapped a few more pictures while hanging out the car window. Unknown to me, Kirk snapped one of me also.

That night, I only slept a couple hours for when I'd fall asleep, the snake would strike and I'd jerk awake. After the second time, I stayed up and read. Better to immerse myself into a book and be transported to a small town in Ireland at Christmas time, than to experience the shock of a rattlesnake striking again and again.

I'm still shaking days later and sticks gets a thorough scanning, just in case they aren't what they at first appear to be. Spiders aren't faring to well either as I'm stomping on them. I had just finished taking my high powered penicillin for a Hobo spider bite just before the snake incidence. The spider bite left me with seven weeks of headaches, nausea, and blistering oozing sores. I'd had enough and had gone to the clinic for medicine just before our trip. So though I'm usually much kinder to the slithering crawling creatures. Right now, they're on my hit list all but Daddy Long Leg spiders as they are the only predator to the Hobo spider. Sprays are ineffective. So I thank the Lord numerous times a day for sparing me from the rattler and for how easy I got off with the Hobo spider bite.

(50% of Hobo spider bites are dry meaning no venom is extracted.) (20 to 25% of rattlesnake bites are dry; 30% mild amount of venom extracted; 40% full dose extracted.)

P.S. The Hobo spider bite flared up again this morning and started to weep and a several inch in size Wolf Spider that was lurking by our front door isn't anymore.

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