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 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

For goodness sakes:
Seems I'm done being rattled

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

The Trew Ranch has always been a bit "snaky." We have miles of caprock ledges and canyons that provide many homes for snakes.

From 1949 to about 1960, we had three resident prairie dog towns located on the ranch. Between the dog towns and the canyons, we would harvest a quart jar full of rattlesnake rattles each summer.

No person was ever snakebit that I remember, but cattle, horses and dogs became victims each year. Snake sightings dropped drastically after the demise of the dog towns.

The Rana Ranch in New Mexico continued to produce more than its share of rattlers, even though no dog towns were present. A day's ride in summertime always harvested a rattling souvenir or two, some more than 2 inches long as displayed in a memory box in our home.

We can tell stories for hours about snakes and snaky experiences.

In 2003, I killed two large, almost black diamondback coon-tail rattlers in our backyard at Alanreed. It had been years since we had seen this type of snake, especially in our yards. In 2004, I killed three more, the same size, color and type. I began to suspect they were littermates from a nearby den. We began looking for snake holes each time we left the yards.

In 2005, I found three more of the same type and markings, but maybe a little larger and longer than the others. I think they even had the same family names - at least, that is what I called them when I found them. We were convinced we had a snake facility and factory somewhere close by.

Then came 2006 and the million-acre range fires during which almost every acre on the ranch burned. We had two long rows of junk collected down through the years and piled down under the hill west of the house that burned all but the scrap iron. I hauled it to Amarillo and proceeded to clean up the junk pile area.

The last item was a rusted, 500-gallon gas storage tank I had used as a trash burner at one time. It was standing upright, welded to two pipe skids. I tied on with my tractor and pulled it backward on its way to the landfill.

Something caught my eye, and looked to see the spot under the tank was clean and polished, as if sanded by sandpaper or maybe snake bellies. Sure enough, coiled in the center of the area was the largest diamondback rattler I had found so far. It was a snake den, no doubt, as the polished area proved, plus, a ridge of black snake manure had been pushed out around the edges.

So, a snake den does not have to be a hole or cave in the ground. They are very adaptable to use any shelter, such as a protected place in your junk pile.

Since that time, I have found only one small prairie rattler in my yard. My snake plague has ended.

Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" October 13, 2009 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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