X — Denoument

Montana Answers

“Yeah, our dogs used to get bit by rattlers. You never knew ’til the dog got sick. I’d say to my dad, ‘What’s wrong with the dog?’ Dad’d say, ‘Oh, he’s just been snakebit.’ Sometimes the dogs’d make it; sometimes not.”

“What happened then?” she asked her uncle. He’d grown up on a ranch west of Billings, Montana.

“Oh, they’d swell all up, here, around the neck. They’d be real sick for a day or two, maybe bleed from the nose, seizures. They’d make it or we’d shoot ‘em. It all depended how much venom they got.”

That conversation with my uncle told me what had killed my dog Maggie. The city vets in San Diego wouldn’t expect a dog to be snakebit, but here in rural Colorado every vet would expect that. Now there’s a rattlesnake venom vaccine. I don’t know how good it is — even vets have given me mixed reviews. I guess its one main advantage is that it slows the progression of the venom so a person has a longer to get the dog help. I also understand that the antivenin has to be matched to the exactly type of rattlesnake.

I was out pretty early this morning with Bear. As we walked I passed a dead garter snake. I had probably run over it. I felt bad for a moment then thought, “Hungry birds.” A raven flew overhead. Later we passed a living garter snake. Bear is no longer interested in them, and I’m glad of that.

I thought of all the snakes I saw back in the day. Most often it was one of the three kinds of rattlesnakes that lived there — but sometimes king snakes — the yellow and black California Kingsnake and the rare and elusive Laguna Mountain Kingsnake with his red, black and yellow/white stripes. Gopher Snakes were always nice to see as were my favorites, the Desert Rosy Boas. Ring-necked snakes are small and beautiful. I guess it was lucky that I have no real aversion to snakes though a snake on a trail will make me scream. Even the skinny little garter snakes I see out at the Refuge.

Rattlesnakes will never be my favorite critters, but I learned about them. Most useful is that they are territorial, and I could expect to see one in certain places along the way. As much as I truly miss my little house in Descanso, CA, I don’t miss living in a place where there could be rattlesnakes in my yard.

These are all stories from a folder I found in an old trunk. As I was busy shredding them, I stopped to read. This turned out to be something I didn’t want to shred. I’m sharing it here and I have also put the stories into a little book. The stories are from the very first years I lived with dogs and hiked on my own, with dogs, in the California Coastal Chaparral of San Diego. The stories are a kind of record of the beginning of the best things I’ve done in my life — hiking in nature with dogs. I wrote these stories in my late 30s.

In other news, Tu Fu, Lao She, and Pearl Buck — the Scarlet Emperor Beans — and now Li Ho!!! have emerged and I am very happy to see them. I recently read an artlcle about genetically modified — what does the O stand for? — anyway GMOs. The writer is a farmer and he explained that all seeds are genetically modified just by being grown and harvested. It’s true. I look at my beans, see who is busy pollinating them, and (to me) it appears pretty random. The writer explained the obvious, that hybridization is genetic modification, and people have been doing that as long as they’ve farmed, even unwittingly, just by harvesting what grows. He said that using the seeds that come from the previous year’s crops isn’t such a great idea and that buying new seeds every season will give a better yield. He gave a litany of reasons all of which made perfect sense. But every year my beans (so far) have been very very happy to grow from the seeds of the previous summer. Maybe his assessment doesn’t hold for a handful of beans grown by a lady in a 4 x 8 garden but it should be even MORE true when there aren’t many plants. This is the sixth generation from the TWO seeds I planted from a packet that was a year old. Anyway I will give them my best. They are wonderful beings. Or beans.

Lao She

18 thoughts on “X — Denoument

  1. One summer I was out hiking with my dog ( a husky ) and before I heard it rattle my dog must have caught it’s sent because he growled and started to back up a few seconds later I heard it and my dog kept backing away and I followed him- backwards lol. But it’s true. They are territorial. My dog refused to take the trail he heard the rattler. Pretty smart, if you think about it.

    • My dog Truffle did the same. So many times she let me know. The first time I saw a rattler, I was with her. She was a puppy. I got scared and ran back to the car. After that, Truffle got the message. The second time, she ran back to the car all on her own! 🙂

  2. Well, yes, choosing the healthy ones for seed is genetic modification of a sort. BUT I think that is hugely different from Monsanto inserting a gene to produce a bacterioside into corn and wheat and soy. It kills corn borers by giving them leaky gut syndrome within 24 hours. Now, Monsanto’s site says it doesn’t hurt mammals. But CLEARLY it kills some gut bacteria and it doesn’t occur in our corn or wheat or soy naturally. I have watched the huge rise in gut problems in human mammals over the last 20 years and I think Monsanto is a huge part of that. So that is a GMO that I want nothing to do with.

    • The writer of the article was arguing for a better term than GMO, something more specific. It seems to me (not an expert) any chemical that gives ONE creature a systemic problem is ultimately going to give it to EVERY creature. At the same time, I get that a farmer wouldn’t want to lose a wheat crop to a borer — and the cascading ramifications that are pretty big. Consumers don’t want to find empty bread shelves in their stores because “give me convenience or give me death.” (Masterpiece Dead Kennedys album 😉 ) It seems to me to be a hugely complex and cyclical problem that I probably cannot do much about or even understand. I’m pretty sure that he would agree with you — in fact he did in his article. Me too.

  3. Bacteriocidal Bt toxin. Which is naturally produced by a bacteria to kill other bacteria. They used to spray the bacteria on crops and it would wash away in 24 hours, after the corn borer got it. Now we are eating. How smart are we?

  4. The only snakes we have around here are black garden snakes. Harmless, but long and very slithery. White Paws was so very proud to have brought one into the garage. **thank you, sweet boy, but we will carry it across the street and put it back in the bayou** Not a snake fan.

  5. Snakes are not something I worry about in Indiana. We do have Copperheads as the only venomous snakes but they are a very small population and far from my area. That used to be the way – if a dog was bit, you waited and they either lived or died. Every vet clinic I worked in had an emergency kit that included snake antivenom. It would expire every 2 years and we’d reorder. It was always a relief that it expired – that meant we hadn’t had to use it!!
    As for the beans and GMOs – I currently have bigger worries. I work with GEM (Genetically Engineered Mice) and they are helping make major health advances… So there is good and bad with every technology.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.