Jim was glad he had worn his jeans today instead of shorts. Cautiously he climbed into the cave. There wasn’t much head room, but he was able to maneuver and turn around without much difficulty.
The leaves that had blown into the cave smelled dank and musty. But they were dry and made it easier on the knees for Jim.
“I can see why you chose this cave to get out of the snowstorm,” said Jim, as he settled into the spot where George had spent the night. “Between you, your gun, and pack there is very little room left.”
It really was a tight fit, George replied. “There was so much of me in there, there was no room for the cold! But it did keep me somewhat comfortable through the night.”
Jim laughed as he scrambled back out of the cave into the sunshine and onto the flat rock where George was sitting. By now the sun was high overhead and George suggested that this might be a good place to eat their lunch.
“You know,” said George, as they ate their sandwiches. “We are sitting right at the spot where that Mountain Lion would have been that night. It was pitch black, I could not see anything, but there was a slight reflection from the snow.”
“How did you know where to shoot if it was that dark?” wondered Jim.
“I could hear heavy guttural breathing out on this flat rock, George replied. “Not wanting to take any chances, I decided to shoot before it stuck its head in the opening. As a result, I must have just grazed him, from the light blood stains I found the next morning.”
“Wow! Thought Jim, you were a lucky man.”
Jim’s mind wonder off, thinking about all that George had gone through that cold night two years ago. He was so glad that his friend made it home again and had recovered well from his triple by-pass surgery.
Jim offered George one of his chocolate bars as George pulled out some dog biscuits for Old Blue. Blue snatched them up and chomped down on one crushing it between his strong teeth. Sitting on this particular rock with George gave Jim a warm feeling and he was glad George had drawn him away from his reading to come along with him.
Old Blue gobbled down the biscuits and stood wagging his tail, giving a bark letting George know he would like another one. George gave him the last biscuit he had brought along. After eating it, Blue wandered down to the creek below for a drink.
As Jim and George sat on the rock finishing their lunch, Old Blue went sniffing a little farther up toward a large pile of rocks nearby. After a few minutes, he started barking furiously standing his ground near one of the rocky outcrops.
“I wonder what he is so excited about,” chuckled Jim, as they closed their packs.
“Probably just another ground squirrel that ran under a rock,” George replied. “Lets go see what he is up to.”
They put on their packs and headed down and back up to where Old Blue was having a fit. As they got closer, George stopped and listened. He immediately called Blue back to him and took out his pistol. Jim was surprised at George’s actions until he looked at what Old Blue was barking at.
There curled up under the ledge of the rock was a timber rattler! He was eyeing Old Blue and his rattles were shaking with a steady warning rhythm. Fortunately, Blue’s instincts told him to keep his distance, but that did not stop his barking frenzy.
“Just stay back,” George told Jim. “This is not something we want to tangle with today.”
“Are you going to shoot it?” Jim asked excitedly.
“No,” George replied, “we are going to keep our distance and move on away from it. It wants to avoid us as much as we want to avoid it. Those warning rattles are telling us to keep away.”
“Shouldn’t we kill a poisonous snake,” Jim inquired.
“Snakes are a very important part of the ecosystem. They help keep down the rodent population as well as the rabbits and squirrels. So, no we are not going to kill it. Many people are afraid of snakes, but they are seldom aggressive unless cornered or messed with in some way.”
George went on, “Old Blue is lucky he kept his distance and waited for us to come. If a dog gets too close the snake will strike at his face. In most cases the dog will recover, although there will be swelling, and it will be painful for him. It is important to get them to a veterinarian as soon as possible.”
“With humans, antivenom is used to counteract the bite. Timber rattlesnake venom is considered a hemotoxin, which means it acts to destroy tissue as an aid in digesting its prey. It also has neurotoxins, which affect the nervous system. Getting medical help is very critical to preventing tissue damage. Most people will recover from snakebite!”
For more information on Timber Rattlers check out this YouTube clip: