Rattlesnakes and Gunshots: Welcome to the Neighborhood

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About 10 years ago, I was working for Ron Sachs Communications in Tallahassee.  After lunch one day, our receptionist, Connie, greeted me with the following statement: “Mary just called and wants to know where you keep the shotgun shells.”

That’s not something you want to hear anytime, much less on a busy day at work. I couldn’t picture any scenario in which this was going to turn out well.

Connie then explained that there was a rattlesnake in the neighbor’s yard and Mary intended to shoot it.

I called home immediately.

“Don’t worry about it, I found the shells,” Mary said. “I’m headed over there now.”

Approximate size of the snake based on Mary’s description.

Don’t worry? No problem. I was way past worry. I was on the road to full-scale panic. The main reason being that we didn’t live in some isolated part of town. There were at least 75 or 80 houses in our subdivision. To make matters worse, our homeowners’ association was dominated by the uppity demographic.

My bird dog’s frequent escapes already had neighbors wondering if the Clampetts had moved in. I could only imagine what they would say if we started actually shooting in the back yard.

Hoping to head off their torches and pitchforks, I suggested to Mary that, if she had to kill the rattlesnake, maybe it would be best just to use a shovel or hoe. Better yet, let the neighbor deal with it.

“No way. I’m not getting that close,” she said. “And (our city-bred Yankee neighbor) is terrified. So, I’ll just shoot the snake. It will be okay.”

This raised another concern: Mary owns a gun and knows how to use it,  but she doesn’t shoot very often. And by her own admission, she isn’t exactly a crack shot when she does. I could picture about a hundred ways this might end badly, most involving ambulances, paramedics and/or a S.W.A.T. team.

And it did end badly, just not for the humans involved.

I’ve never felt sorry for a rattlesnake before, but Mary later told me it took three shots before they even wounded him. At some point, the neighbor tried to reload the old single-shot 20-gauge and ended up getting hit in the face with an ejected round. In the meantime, the snake was writhing in pain, no doubt wondering what circle of hell he just entered.

Mercifully, Scott Houston, the only other country boy in our ‘hood, was working from home that day. Scott came over after hearing the gunshots and quickly killed the snake with a shovel. At this point, I’m sure death was welcome relief from the agony of being peppered at close range with birdshot.

Approximate size of the snake based on Scott’s description.

On the upside, that was the last time we had to deal with a poisonous snake close to our house. I guess word got around about the crazy lady and the Yankee who liked to torture them slowly before a big guy came and chopped their heads off.

If you’re a snake, it just doesn’t pay to mess around with people like that. Which, come to think of it, is probably why we never had any more issues with the homeowners’ association, either.

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