Queen Anne—as my mother would frequently say—is deaf in one ear and can’t hear out of the other. However, she can tell the difference between me calling, “Anne” and the blood-curdling scream, “Aaannee.” I know this to be true because it happened this week when she rushed to my rescue.
I was busy watering the potted flowers that live on the back deck. We keep them there in the shade during the summer, and I have them arranged on the back doorstep, so the bunnies don’t get to them. It doesn’t work because one or two rabbits will scamper off whenever I open the door. I used my cute water can instead of dragging the hose to conserve water. As I finished the mums, I stepped to the left toward the geraniums. There between the two pots was a western diamondback rattlesnake lying in a wad like a pile of tan rope. It laid there motionless while I involuntarily took a couple of steps backward while I screamed in a voice a couple of octaves higher than my normal range.
When she came to see what the fuss was about, I could only stutter, “porch … snake.” She stepped outside and sized up the serpent, then went back into the house. She quickly returned with a long stick that she had used to knock down a hornet’s nest on the front porch. She marched over to the rattler—which hadn’t twitched yet—took a stance, and began whacking at it. The vermin’s head popped up like it had been sleeping and tried to escape to the left. Anne was too quick and outflanked it, then she took a couple more swings at it. Then the legless reptile reversed course and slithered across the landing before it escaped down a gap between the decking and the house.
“Now what’ll we do? What happens now?” I pestered while dancing from foot to foot like I had to go to the potty. She leaned her stick against the house and went inside and called the fire department. I stood watch, ready to run away the moment I saw any movement. When she returned, she assured me, “They said to leave it alone. It knows it’s not loved and will move on when it feels safe again. If we see it again, we’ll call them, and they’ll come to remove it for us.” I was still upset, and I whimpered while nervously rocking back and forth. That’s when she slapped me across the cheek and commanded me to “Snap out of it.” She went back inside and returned with my camera bag and shoved it into my chest and instructed me to “Shut up and get in the truck. We’ll go take some pictures.”
We drove up the mountain to Skull Valley, where it was cooler. Well, it was under a hundred, and that was better than at home. We turned onto a road named Ferguson Valley Road. The dirt trail is only 6-8 miles long, but there was enough material there to keep me busy in August. The route runs by one cattle ranch and ends at a second. I haven’t found any information about this spot on the map, so I’m surmising that the Fergusons must own one of those places.
Perhaps they live in the home seen in this week’s featured image. I called this photo Ferguson Valley, and I spotted this scene as we crossed over a low ridge. I liked how the white ranch buildings contrasted with the juniper and cottonwood. I also wanted the clouds forming over the Sierra Prieta range. They speak to the feeble start of this year’s monsoon season. In a typical year, there would be spectacular thunderheads building in the mountains surrounding Prescott.
It’s been several days since we last saw Fang—yes, we named it—so we’re more cautious when we’re outside. We assume the snake is out there, and we actively search for it as we move about the yard. We’re careful to keep the garage door closed, and we work as a team when exiting the house. Anne stands with her back to the wall—stick in hand—and when I open the door, she swooshes through it, scans the area, and then yells, “Clear!” The swat-team imitation repeats a couple of times until we’ve safely reached the car. I’m better now, but if we have many more rattlers visit us, we’re moving to New Zealand—if they ever let us in again.
You can see a larger version of Ferguson Valley on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you like it. Be sure to come back next week to see another image from this pretty little valley.
Until next time — jw