Rattlesnake!

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
March/April 2001

By Ben Guarino, Illustrated by Garrett Landon

In the summer of 1996, I was lounging in the moss of my grassy backyard. The perimeter of the yard was bordered by a leafy hedge, which led to a huge pine forest. Our pine forest covered about fifty square acres, and housed giant evergreens. In the corner of the yard was a log pile, with half-rotted logs jumbled in a heap. Next to the decaying mass of wood was a green garden, which belonged to my mother. She had planted many bright yellow marigolds, light green cucumbers, and ripe, red tomatoes. This was a perfect feast for a mouse, which we had an abundance of.

Even though I was only seven, I knew there were some snakes living in either the pine forest or the log pile. I loved reptiles, and I often scoured the woodlands for them. That day I had decided to search near the rotting logs, which were home to a family of mice. Snakes love to devour mice, by first biting, strangling, or poisoning them, then swallowing them whole. I crawled on my hands and knees, peering through the tall, yellow grass. I was as quiet as an owl, looking for any sign of movement.

Very suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a fast-moving ripple in the dead grass. As I turned to face it, I could then see the brown, slithering snake. I should have gotten up and left, for my father had told me never to approach a wild animal. But I stayed, held there by curiosity.

Rattlesnake! seeing a snake

Little did I realize that the agitated snake would think I was threatening it by my action

I studied the snake for a while, staring at it in awe. I watched the snake intently, wondering what type of snake it was. The thought that it was a rattlesnake crossed my mind. I shook the thought off, saying to myself, “There are no rattlesnakes here.” But I was wrong.

The sun reflected off the snake’s brown scales, which were shimmering like diamonds. The small, beady eyes of the snake stared up at me. Its tongue was as red as blood and it flicked in and out, smelling the air, sensing my presence.

The snake backed up, I leaned over to get a closer look, and . . . I heard the sound of an angered timber rattlesnake. The shaking noise of the snake’s rattlelike tail bore into my head. My heart froze. The rattlesnake rose up into its curved striking position, and again, the crimson red tongue shot in and out of sight.

“Nice snake,” I mumbled to the venomous terror. The snake hissed and I felt a shiver run down my spine. I sat there, transfixed at the sight of the beautiful, but dangerous, creature. I then realized I had to leave the yard, and run into my house.

I was sitting on my knees, so when I rose to get up I put my hand on the ground for support. Little did I realize that the agitated snake would think I was threatening it by my action. That was a costly mistake.

FOOP! The snake shot out of its poised stance and sunk its fangs into the muscles of my hand. The strike was as fast as lightning. The rattlesnake’s mouth was wide open, and for a few seconds I could see its fangs glisten in the sunlight.

At first, I felt excruciating pain in my hand. Then the world started to dance around my head. I felt like I was on an out-of-control roller-coaster. “Help!” I screamed feebly. Even though it was a pitiful attempt to attract attention, I saw my mother coming to the window. Flashing lights illuminated the sky, and then the earth went black.

Two days later I awoke, with a doctor standing over me. I was in the hospital, but I had recovered, all except for the puncture wound the snake had inflicted on my hand. The doctor had explained to me that normally people do not become unconscious when bitten. I had had a severe allergic reaction to the venom. Later that day, my brother told me that the flashing lights I had seen were on the ambulance that my father had called, which had come screaming to my house.

In the afternoon I returned home. I have never seen another rattlesnake in our woods, and hopefully, I won’t encounter any more of them.

Rattlesnake! Ben Guarino

Ben Guarino, 11
Colchester, Connecticut

Rattlesnake! Garrett Landon

Garrett Landon, 12
Santa Cruz, California

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