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I like my job but…

On densely forested tracts like this 800 acres north of Newton,TX,  I know they are out there.  It just goes without saying.

When we first get on a job and we are talking to the landowner or Ranch Manager, one of the questions I always ask is “Rattlesnakes bad around here?”

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Now mind you, I am not scared of snakes or anything like that.  I just don’t like the way they complicate my life.  Texas is home to 10 species of rattlesnakes, more than any other state except Arizona.  Out of the 10, only 3 of the species really are aggressive and account for most of the bites reported each year. The herpetologists and researchers say most of the others will avoid you at all costs and are really not an issue.

Except in our case…  A few years ago, we had an old dog of the woods helping us who owned a D7 Caterpillar.  We were getting ready to start a job at Cranfills Gap, TX. This was rocky scrubby country between Gatesville and Hamilton and the old man simply said ” When we start clearing for the lake, do not get off your tractor (dozer) unless you can step on bare ground.” Now he was a man of few words but I guess my blank look spoke volumes because he went to great pains to elaborate which was not his normal nature. “You see what happens Andy boy is we are in there gouging and pushing to clear cut that area for the lake and we just plain upset them snakes. Sometimes we run over them a little with a track or we knock ’em with a limb or stump and it messes them up. It may be because they are hurt or maybe they are just confused but they will not rattle before they strike.” Oh great I thought. We killed 7 rattlesnakes the first two days. After that nobody had to tell me to watch out. I went to great pains to stop the tractor in a patch of bare ground if I had to get off for something. At lunch, I would clear out a big area of bare ground to park the tractor. When I was pushing that brush up into a pile, I could just visualize how many big ol’ rattlesnakes I was rolling up in that pile. I was probably just about right. That was snaky country.

So in a week or so we are going to do it again here in East Texas. It is starting to be Spring now and those big ol’ rattlers will be hungry after denning up all winter. I’ll be watching for them.

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