Driving in Cars with Rattlesnakes AKA: What I Did on My Christmas Vacation!

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I have a deathly fear of rattlesnakes which I only learned of after moving to The Holler six and a half years ago.

I have encountered nine rattlesnakes at The Holler, none of whom seemed very nice.

The first one I nearly stepped on with my flip-flops. It did not back down. I did in the nick of time. But I was terrified and a second from being bitten. Of course I should have been watching and not wearing flip-flops, but I was a newbie to rattlesnake country. I now wear Chippewa rattlesnakes boots when out and about at The Holler. I have them for everyone, even guests.

The ninth rattler I encountered, I felt compelled to kill because it came at me while I was barbecuing, necessitating me to dispatch it with a bbq spatula…. all while preparing some nice filets with chipotle-chili-pepper-sauce.

I was terrified, and thought the snake was going to bite me, and I was angry that I was afraid yet again of another rattlesnake. There is of course a direct causal relationship between fear, anger and aggression. I was sure it was either me or the snake, and I was motivated to live…. remember those filets!

I know, I know, some people (like my son) think I over-reacted. He was unimpressed with me.

People have strong opinions about killing rattlesnakes.

People have strong opinions about a lot of things. Check out this person’s opinions:
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This person has a lot of opinions.

The only opinion I have about these opinions is that trying to read all of them on this car bumper while driving, nearly made me crash, which I have a bad opinion about.

I have a compulsive reading disorder (which you probably guessed from my compulsive reading of your blogs) and you had to tailgate this car in order to read the sticker that warned you that the driver braked for tailgaters, which in my opinion, wasn’t really super nice, especially considering how interesting the bumper stickers were.

Anyhoo, you know what they say about opinions……”Opinions are like a**-h***’s, everyone has one.”

Sorry…..don’t blame me, I didn’t make this up, I’m just citing it as a reference.

Besides, in my opinion, it is kinda true……..

But, I digress from the topic of this post, the one thing I am really scared of, which are rattlesnakes.

So, of course my son is studying them in grad-school, which necessitates that he locate them in the wild, PICK THEM UP, and tag them with telemetric tracking devices, follow them wherever they go, PICK THEM UP again, and so on! Just the mere thought of this whole endeavor creates heebie-jeebies in me that won’t go away. He is doing this for purposes of species conservation as rattlesnakes are little understood yet critical components of the ecosystem. He didn’t actually purposively select this species to study, it was an encouraged option from a revered advisor. I consider this my contemporaneous Karma.

As a licensed psychotherapist with over 27 years experience treating and evaluating many 1000′s of people, I am, unfortunately, able to diagnose my own particular disorder(s), in this case Specific Phobia, AKA an irrational and excessive fear of rattlesnakes.

I have a opinion about mental disorders too of course. Everyone has at least one…… just like a**-****’s.

Sorry, but this includes not only me, but errrrrrrr…… possibly you? If you think you are completely mentally healthy and have no sort of disorder, than you may suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, although I can’t diagnose you without meeting you, and I am retired. So if you have strong opinions about this, I’ll just agree with your opinion.

We all have our issues and therapists are no exception. I don’t like it when therapists pretend otherwise. It’s best to be straight. We all have feet of clay. This is of course, just my opinion…..

Matt goes INTO places like this and lifts things up: to find the snakes:

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Maybe I exposed him to too much adventurous travel as a child? That seven day Grand Canyon rafting trip was probably a mistake.

He opines that, “people (read me) are not conservation-minded about venomous snakes.”

When I responded to this with, “No s*** Sherlock,” he took it upon himself to rid me of my irrational fear by a tried and true psychotherapeutic technique called Exposure Therapy.

I have used and touted this technique to good effect with many, many clients over the years who suffered from anxieties, fears and phobias. Now in true, “Et Tu Brute,” form, Matt was calling me on my own errrrr opinions and practices (read shit), and suggesting that I, in effect, subject myself to my own recommended therapy.

Quelle horror!

This is how I ended up driving, for three long hours with rattlesnakes, getting up close and personal with them, taking their photos, and setting them free. The obstentive reason for me being there was to take photos, but Matt and I both knew this was BS, and I was really there to try and get over my irrational fear of rattlesnakes through advanced exposure therapy. Forget steps 1-9, I was going directly to BINGO, step 10, direct exposure to the feared object or event.

So join me on this adventure please, and if you are afraid of rattlesnakes, take heart, this is low level exposure therapy, reading about your fear and looking at photos of the object of fear, and I am a trained therapist….. Besides, if it really bugs you, you can just double delete it and read some posts about more uplifting things.

So, we meet Matt at the crack of dawn, which for us is 10 am, for the excellent rattlesnake adventure. I was to drive, Matt to navigate the mostly dirt roads, and my husband to sit in the back seat and not boss anyone around, or Matt might get distracted, which is not good when managing multiple rattlesnakes.

My husband took one look at the rattlesnake canister in the back seat which he is to sit next to, and said, “I thought they would be in the trunk.”

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Matt replies, “They couldn’t all fit.”

My husband retorted, “No way am I sitting next to those bastards.” (This is an actual quote). He then takes it upon himself to excuse himself from this adventure just like that, saying, “They can sit by themselves.”

Jim is smart.

So now it was just me, Matt and the snakes.

The trip was really uneventful and I was quite relaxed except for two occasions. One when we stopped for gas and Matt inadvertently electronically locked me in the car with the snakes while he went to the restroom. I found this experience somewhat nerve-racking, but tolerable….. barely.

My second scare came when we were driving down the final bumpy dirt road and Matt suddenly said “Oh shit….” in a dead serious voice.

I said, “What?? What?? Don’t say that when there are rattlesnakes in the car.”

I looked back and saw the canister was tipped over despite the fact that it was carefully seatbelted.

“Can they get out?” I asked horrified.

“No” Matt said. “Righting the canister. I’m just was worried they might get hurt.”

Jeeeezzz!

Maybe I was too conservation focused as a parent?

When we arrived at our destination, the release back into their habitat commenced. It required these holders:

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And these trackers:

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It also required intricate snaring and telemetry placement which was done beforehand thank God! Finally, it was lid-off and lift-off:

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Telemetry firmly attached to rattle:

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And what happens?

The lightening fast bolt I was afraid of?

Snakes coming after us in a tear?

Chaos and snakedemonium?

Nope.

Fear is what happened.

The snakes were immobilized by fear, afraid to leave their confinement. They were afraid of us. They retreated back into their terrariums, unwilling to move. They tried to hide.

I was shocked. This was not what I was expecting.

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Slowly, cautiously they used their tongues to check the environment.

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Oh, so fearfully and cautiously they started to move away from us.

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Matt cheering them on, “Come on, come on, your free…. Go, Go!”

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And then he said to me, “They’re beautiful aren’t they?”

And all I could say was, “Yes.”

Because in their rattlesnake way, they were.

It’s good to have kids, they teach you about yourself, if you’re willing to let them.

The exposure therapy did work and I am far less afraid.

Cheers to you from my less rattled self at The Holler!

248 thoughts on “Driving in Cars with Rattlesnakes AKA: What I Did on My Christmas Vacation!

  1. What a great story Cindy. It is interesting that I lived in Arizona for 3 years and never saw a rattlesnake. I also only saw 4 black windows. Three of them in an outside storage building and the other because I asked the grounds keeper if he ever has seen a black widow. He showed me one. I am very creeped out of snakes and spiders really bad.

  2. Great writing….awesome…oh next time you find yourself beside one again and pee your pants….please do a followup piece. :) Wonderful piece and of course perfect photos!

      • Thank you so much:) I enjoyed awarding you of this award as you are very deserving:) I enjoy your blog and look for your posts if I have been off of the blog a few days. And yikes on the rattlesnakes…we lived in Central Oregon for a while and in one summer we killed 36 rattlesnakes around the headquaters where we lived. It was creepy! The low land snakes were 6′ that we killed but when you rode horseback up in the higher altitude of the mountains behind us, you still had timber rattlers, they would coil themselves in the trees….and they were fat! I was glad when we moved!

      • 36!! You must have been near a den in a breeding area! I’m glad you moved too! The six footers are definitely beyond intimidating. I had a gardener who killed one with a shovel. He was a very big man and said that with all his body weight he could barely hold it down with the shovel. They are so strong. Snakes dropping from trees is so creepy.

  3. what a super adventure. (I swear I just exhaled) Wow. Fun read, and brave Cindy! Really liked the coining of “snakedemonium”–and how you related your varying mood states. :)

    The paralysis I can relate to–from a gopher snake i tried to save one day. (take him to the wildlife care, when I came upon this monstro 5 footer as I was out a walkin’)They ARE afraid of us.

    Still…I wouldn’t get on a plane. ;)

  4. This was certainly a riveting post! I don’t think your fear of rattlesnakes is irrational at all. I think they’re like great white sharks, incredibly important to our ecosystem, but that being said, I don’t want to be in close proximity to either one! I love the respect your son has for these creatures, and also how you describe their fear upon being introduced to new surroundings. Most wild animals aren’t naturally hostile and simply want to be left alone. Your photos are spectacular, as always! Here in our area of Virginia, the primary venomous snake is the copperhead, though there are rattlers in the nearby mountains, and cottonmouths in the coastal areas. Last spring, I was visiting a South Carolina swamp, and a photographer out taking pictures of the wildlife stopped me on the path and pointed a few feet to my right, saying, “You might want to stay where you are. That’s a cottonmouth.” So of course I just had to get a picture, and moved even closer to the snake, and fortunately it made its way deeper into the marsh away from me. It was only when I got home and did some research on these snakes that I found they’re quite aggressive, and when approached or threatened, back down only half the time. The snake I photographed must have been in a good mood that day! (My picture of the snake, alas, turned out crummy, since I took it while the critter was on the move.)

    • Funny how reading this raised the hair on my arms. I can see how reading about someone’s snake encounters can be vicariously scary now! Cotton mouths scare me…..but I would have gone for the photo too!!! lol! I am waiting and hoping to see a Mountain Lion at The Holler and I wonder if/when I do, if I’ll stick around for the shot…..I bet I will! Cheers to you and fascinating comment~

    • Thankfully I am unable to diagnose my fellow bloggers, which is a big relief to all of us!! lol. I so look forward to your amazing and creative output in 2014 Sheri & cheers to you!

  5. No, no, no I will shite myself. Not ready for therapy thank you ever so kindly! A snake once fell out of a tree onto my foot. I do not know who had the first heart attack, me or the snake. Deep dark Africa!

    • Now that is another level of creepy. I never saw a snake in either Africa or Australia thank goodness as they have the mothers of all snakes in those countries! Love it that you recognized that you were both afraid! Don’t love snakes dropping on you from trees!

  6. What a great story, I so enjoyed it. What a coincidence that your son deals with rattlesnakes as part of his grad schoolwork and so could help you get over the fear of them. But it also calls for a lot of bravery on your part to try, so kudos to you!

    • He really is the brave one. I am a more anxious sort! Loved reading your always interesting posts yesterday, but don’t love that they are not appearing in my reader! Cheers to you Halim~

  7. Great story and photos. I have studied, handled and kept snakes for most of my life (mostly various types of boa constrictors and pythons). While I find rattlesnakes fascinating (they are very advanced as far as snakes go), I’ve only handled a few of them and never kept any longer than over night before relocating them, because I never thought it was worth the risk and liability to keep venomous snakes.

    I don’t think having a fear of rattlesnakes is irrational. Their bites can be deadly, and treatment for rattlesnakes bites is extremely expensive. If people can avoid killing them they should, but if it’s really down to you or the snake, the snake has to go. Although many people get bitten while killing rattlesnakes.

    But that is really cool that your son is studying rattlesnakes and you got some first hand experience of rattlesnake behavior outside their territory. Rattlesnakes are territorial and can be very aggressive when you are in their territory, but then they are often quite timid once they are taken outside of their territory, as you discovered.

  8. I am sorry but I chickened out when the words about snakes turned to pictures of snakes! Though I grew up on a ranch with plenty of rattlesnakes I have a morbid fear of any kind of snakes. You are brave!

    • You are smart to not look at the post then and I surely and competely relate to your fear! My son is the brave one though. Must have been awesome to grow up on a ranch even with the rattlers. I bet you wouldn’t trade it for a childhood in the city!

  9. I work with rattlesnakes professionally (similar work to your son), and it has always been interesting to me that, when it comes to fear of snakes, many people take a certain pride in it. People will go out of their way to tell me they’d like to kill the animal I am presenting at a nature center or the like, and seem to take new information (such as that they do not chase people) as a personal insult. Any insight?

    • A little maybe. Fear generates a lot of negative, illogical, human emotions and behaviors, most notably it can lead to anger. Think of this scenario, you are speeding down the freeway in the fast lane at 80 mph, when a car suddenly cuts in front of you almost causing a collision. What is your first feeling? Intense fear. What do you do? Slam on the brakes and often simultaneously swear. Shit or whatever is your swearword in an out-of-control, fear inducing situation. You immediately convert your fear to anger. You may then blast your horn, drive up next to the person aggressively, or pass them and give them some sort or gesture indicating your anger. Fear we don’t like feeling, so it commonly is converted to anger, which results in aggressive behavior.
      Many people are very afraid of rattlesnakes so they get angry at them in response and the anger leads to aggression. People may act proud of their aggression to further distance themselves from their fear, ie., I wasn’t scared. I was brave! I killed it! If you challenge this they are back near the fear and they don’t appreciate it. It even happened with me. In hindsight, based on what I have learned from Matt, I should have just gone inside and let the snake leave. The thing I didn’t get before is just what you said, they don’t chase you. You can walk away and not react aggressively in most situations. Thank you for this comment. I am sending it to Matt.

  10. Nice post it should provoke a lot of bites.
    Austrailian snakes are smart they are afraid of humans.
    I carry a itick in the bush not to hit them but to warn them I am comming.
    Some disagree and say the Brown sanke and the Taipan need no provication to attack you.
    People are bitten when they block a snakes escape route.
    Peoples opinions are like you say and they are full of it.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head about snakes getting aggressive when their route of escape is blocked. It’s like they are compelled to take a stand. I know little about Australian snakes except that you have a plethora of lethal, and I have heard, aggressive ones.
      As far as opinions, they are sometimes annoying when people use them to justify their supposedly superior beliefs, whatever the beliefs might be…….and they are often a source of conflict among people and I dislike conflct!……..
      Oh NO!! Did I just state an opinion here???

    • When I wrote this thing, I thought of you, so I am glad you popped over. I remember how you were looking forward to the snake photos in my prior post that touched on this subject, and I thought, “Oh I hope she stops by and sees these!!”
      So I am very happy you did!
      BTB, you are an awesome writer!

      • Aww, I’m glad you did write about all that, I imagine it helped with your stage 10 therapy. LOL I have to admit, that if I saw a rattler headed toward my BBQ, I would probably do the same. Garter snakes raise my blood pressure, and they are harmless. Your description of the snake being afraid to leave captivity was very moving. They are afraid of us. But that won’t stop me protecting my space. Humans are pretty territorial.

        And thanks for the compliment!!

  11. Pingback: One year blog anniversary and Sisterhood of the World Blog award | Nia Simone, Author

  12. Oh my Gosh! You are a brave girl!!! Snakes don’t bother me as a rule but I have to say if there was tipped over bucket of rattlesnakes in the car with me, I might have bailed!!! Good for you for facing your fears:)

    • Laughing……partcularly if the lid came off!!! Yikes! My son and I joked about getting pulled over by the police and being told, “Open that bucket…….” Laughing more!

  13. ok ok ok….if I didn’t like you I would never had made it to the end of this post – never ever again – I HATE SNAKES….bring back the Hummingbirds and Panda Bears! Hope you are having a good day…BTW I am a bumper sticker reader as well which is why I only have one on mine!

  14. The thought of nearly stepping on one while wearing flip-flops did get my attention … and yes, I wondered the obvious question, too! Bottom line, they give me the heebee geebees!

  15. What an amazing post! I swear I have goosebumps – “rattling” experience to be sure! Your writing is so fantastic.Thanks for sharing – again!
    P.S. Did you mention you are going to South Africa?

    • Awwwww, thanks so much! Most posting worthwhile. I went to SA with my husband and son 3 years ago and we all fell in love, We self drove through Kruger. Now we want to go back! We never saw a leopard!! Which is just an excuse…..we want to go back!!!

      • My favorite place – on earth! I have land that is near Kruger Park and my very 1st experience in Africa was flying in a helicopter over the park with my uncle who, at the time was a pilot for the park – herds of elephant, zebra, wildebeest etc. If you haven’t finalized your plans I’d LOVE to talk to you about different options. I am in love with that area of the world and could tell you where to find leopards! :-) or just reminisce! My email address is Mahree@adventuresinafrica & phone is 720-612-0802. Can’t wait to see what YOU write and YOUR photos after you visit!!!

      • Yes Kruger rocks it’s socks off! 2014 is booked but 2015 is still open……..interested in the Northern part of the park and we like to do it on our own, self drive, no butlers and private whirlpools!! lol~ I will definitely contact you once we know we are going. Thank you & cheers to you~

      • LOL – I’m with you! It’s great fun to go exploring on you’re own & who needs butlers and hot tubs?! I’ll look forward to hearing from you – whenever you’re ready! There are some “must see” spots up north – would love to share. :-)

      • I’ll put together some lists – especially where you can see leopards! We are doing a drawing for a free ticket to South Africa! If you’d like me to sign you up, I’ll send you the details. I think you said you were booked for 2014 but I think you could still use it in 2015? I’ll double check. Let me know if you’d like me to enter you or you can email me your contact info if you’d like me to email it to you personally. I can probably send you some good links as well! SO excited for you. :-)

  16. Thank you for this wonderful post! I do love snakes because I love all kinds of animals, especially the weird and wonderful ones that are rather different. Bless your heart for going through all this, and for becoming ‘less rattled’ (Love that!). Hugs to you! xo Gina

    • Visa versa 2 U x 2! I love your blog as well and love that you even love rattlesnakes! Good for you but I’m not surprised. You have the courage of your convictions! Cheers to you~

  17. Yikes, I could barely look at those snake photos. Yes, that’s my phobia. And not just rattlesnakes but all snakes. Icky, blicky. I don’t even like looking at them in the zoo!

    • They are really quite handsome, leather handmade Chippewa snake boots. I also wear snake proof gardening gloves called turtle skin. I could possibly do an “All Dressed Up and Venturing Outside The Holler……” post in full regalia with my bear spray! It looks particularly ridiculous in the summer time with shorts, but almost fashionable in the winter! lol~

  18. Has no one invented a purpose-built seatbelt for a tub of snakes? Ha ha! I don’t think you’d have got my biped in that car – she scrolled past the pictures of the snakes quite quickly!

  19. Fabulous post Cindy and fabulous captures of those beautiful rattlers. I’m certainly all for conversation and controlled situations; our last house in Australia saw many and varied snakes slithering around outside and as long as we BOTH respected each other, all was good but coming at me whilst BBQ’ing, well then, it’s every creature for themselves!

  20. Whew! is all I can say! I don’t care for snakes…I think they’re kinda creepy, but I wouldn’t call fear of rattlesnakes a phobia…I mean they can actually kill you! Anyway, what I really wanna know is how you killed one with a spatula…that’s some kind of heroic feat, IMHO!

    • It was about 26 inches long and had a narrow neck which is how it was possible. It was almost two years old. The young ones can be more dangerous because they haven’t learned to moderate venom injection. I think all these steps were a path in lessening my fear but it was not heroic…….dumb more probably! lol~

  21. AnElephantCant understand one thing
    Although he considers that this great post is sensational
    He may be out of sync
    But why does anyone think
    That a fear of rattlesnakes is in any way irrational?

    • Smart elephant! I think excessive would be a more accurate word. My fear was exaggerated and excessive. It now has simmered down to a more rational, healthy level of fear, you smart elephant you! You are quite right, a healthy fear of these guys is normative. My previous degree of fear was not. This wouldn’t be a problem for a person at all unless they live around a lot of rattlesnakes which I do and my fear level was not productive in dealing with them. Cheers to you & thanks for noticing~

  22. This therapy could be also something for me but not with me in the same car with these snakes, I think it would cost months to heal me of my snake-fear :) ! Matt is incredible and so naturally, you really can learn something of your kids, you can be proud of him and on yourself :) ! Beautiful impressive photos and great post ! <3

    • I don’t want to have pride is my children’s accomplishments, otherwise I would have to also accept blame for their mistakes! Like most moms I just love them unconditionally and yes I learn from them about myself, sometimes things I don’t really want to learn!! I wonder is parents realize what incredible feedback they can get about themselves from their kids. Afterall who knows your strengths and weaknesses better? Thank you my very kind friend for your wonderful comments~

    • I just saw a Golden Eagle fly by with a snake in its beak and I didn’t have a camera!! Different types of snakes have different behaviors. I remember seeing snakes as a child also. It is a memory that stays with you! Cheers to you~

  23. Always heard that rattlesnakes use their rattlers to warn before they strike. This would not work for me as I am deaf in one ear & with my luck, would be approached from the deaf side. Son might need a thumpin’ (grown up grad student notwithstanding) for not warning Mom to not wear flippers on the rattlesnake quest.
    Thanks so much for reading & liking my poetry…

    • Yes and baby rattlers don’t have rattles yet. They are more likely to bite unecessarily because they lack experience!! I wore the flops at home. For the excellent adventure I wore snake boots!!! Cheers to you and thanks for stopping by~

  24. Hi Cindy, First, thanks for liking MY blog. This was a great post. I, too, came in contact with rattlesnakes when I moved out to the West, killed a few, then felt that I must have an issue with it, and took steps, both physical magical (sympathetic) to deal with it. Put the whole thing in my book, so I won’t quote here. Tell your son, “Good for You!” from me, as they are becoming endangered, and, let’s face it – they were here first.! Cheers.

    • I love what you say here! It is so true! Thank you for knowing this. I certainly didn’t for awhile. I killed out of fear. Knowledge trumps fear. I should have known but I didn’t. I was scared at first when I moved out here. Live and learn. It is good you knew this already~

  25. Cindy, I don’t have the superlatives to adequately express my admiration for you and your exquisite site! You liked one of my haiku, a trivial little bauble, and here I am at your site, just scratching the surface of a cornucopia of delights! Just wanted you to know I’m a follower now and wishing you richest blessings wherever your journey leads you.

    Ron

    • I am honored by your most kind words Ron and equally pleased to meet you! I will head over to your blog for some more exploration…Welcome to you and thank you sincerely too~

  26. Hi Cindy! Great post! I enjoyed reading it again. I read it for a second time because I have a cousin staying with me who also has a great fear of snakes. I had to read this post to her. She couldn’t believe you drove with snakes in the car. What a way to face your fear! Reading about the way the snakes reacted when they were let go helped my cousin a bit. Thank your son for me. ;)

  27. Oh My! I am not afraid of snakes but rattlesnakes, I am not so sure of! Have you read the book Snakewoman of Little Egypt? There is some ratlesnake research in it and an interesting story.
    Thanks for liking my post “Featured Plant: Jewel Orchid” on
    uribotanicalgardens.wordpress.com
    I enjoyed reading through your blog!
    Best,
    Gabrielle

    • Rattlesnakes can be intimidating. The book sounds interesting and I will check it out. I did read a fascinating book entitled something like,”Don’t Sleep There are Snakes, about a linguist in the Amazon that was fascinating! Cheers to you~

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