By Baxter Black, DVM
“Rattlesnakes on the Border.” Some of you might think this is another grim tale about the cartels and gunfights in the Mexican Border states. It’s not.
Most all of roads coming north to connect with the freeway have a manned border patrol checkpoint. The object is to deter illegal immigrants and drug smuggling.
A good deal of the borderland is ranching country. Two young day-work cowboys had been helping gather cows. They put in a good day and were headed home.
Devon was drivin’ and twilight was still hangin’ on as they headed north on AZ Highway 191. His compadré was Duke. They hung out a lot. Each was ridin’ colts for whoever needed it and somehow made the payments…Duke on his rent and Devon on his truck. They were livin’ the cowboy dream, which is to be able to support yourself your entire life without ever having to get a job! They also collected live rattlesnakes for a herpetologist. He paid $20 live, $5 dead but with the head intact. Although they were a team, Devon was ophidiophobic…skert of snakes! He held the bag.
Sure nuf, down 191, there in the headlights they saw a rattler crossing the road. Devon was going purty fast as they whizzed by but Duke said, “Did you see that, Dev, he musta been 15 feet long, probably got 30 to 40 rattles! I never seen one so big! Less it was the one that got loose in your cab that time. ‘Member? We had to fish him out from behind the seat, dang near got kilt!”
Devon kept his eyes on the road and his foot on the gas. Rasslin’ snakes in broad daylight was bad enough, much less trying to do it in the dark.
“Man,” whined Duke, “Ol Doc might even pay us more ‘cause it’s so big! Whattya say? Think we better turn around afore we git too far gone…there’s still time. Long as he was it might take him twenty minutes to cross the road! Whatya think? Whatya think? Whatya think!”
“Alright!” Said Devon. He slammed on the brakes, fishtailed, reversed direction and peeled out like a scalded tomcat! He barely noticed the line of fluorescent cones down the middle of the road directing drivers to bear to the right. The three border patrol agents had their quiet evening shattered! You can imagine what they thought…smugglers on their way north suddenly realizing their GPS went dreadfully wrong? Giant prison spotlights glared, 17 Border Patrol vehicles cranked up, threw gravel, red lights flashing, and sirens blaring in hot pursuit!
It took them 2 minutes to have our cowboys pulled over. The big bullhorn was directing them to stay in their vehicle.“Lemme handle this,” said Duke.
“Don’t move a muscle,” warned Devon.
“Ah, what the heck, they can’t take this seriously,” said Duke as he opened the passenger door and stepped out. “Lissen, officers, I kin explain, see we were huntin’ rattlesnakes and,,,”
“Look at your shirt,” said Devon, a-word-at-a-time.
Duke did. There were three red dots between the pocket snaps.