A tale of two tails

26 07 2020

Now, the standard warning: If you don’t like snakes, you might want to skip this post. (Oops, maybe I should have led with this warning: This post is about snakes – rattlers, to be specific.)

It looks like one – a big, rather long one – all coiled up (but not at all aggressive). But it had two tails. I can’t imagine where the other head was (well, I can IMAGINE where it was; I just couldn’t SEE where it was).

I was just walking along when … (don’t all good tales start like that? especially when you walk into the bike shop with your bike – or some part of your bike – in pieces, and you say to the mechanic in tones of absolute incredulity, “I was just riding along when …” …)

So I was just walking along, in the basin, after a lovely, quiet visit with a band, some sprinkles falling randomly, at times, not seemingly connected, dark spots appearing spot by spot on bits of shale and flaked sandstone like magic, when, in the middle of a stride across the still-parched and -cracked earth, I heard the sound no one really wants to hear when their thoughts are still with the ponies they left behind and though they *think* they’re watching where they’re going, they’re really not because they think they’ve seen it all before …

Do you see it – err, them?

When I composed the pic, I put them deliberately off-center so you’d have to search for them a bit. The first thing you might see is the rattle (one of the rattles, the bigger (by far) rattle of the two rattles). Fortunately, IT (they?) heard ME, AND it rattled, AND I heard it because I was walking right toward it – not a foot to either side. (And how does THAT happen, in such big, wide-open country?)

I should also have taken an even bigger-view pic to show that I had (practically) miles of open space on either side of the snake pile on which to tread before – without the warning rattle – I would have tread right upon Mr. and Mrs. (?) Snake, of the Rattler family of Disappointment Valley, specifically County Line Drainage.

So the rattles gave me the heebie jeebies – and if you don’t understand that technical term and can’t find it in an *urban* dictionary (!), let me tell you that you might need, like Harry Potter in order to speak Parseltongue, to be actually confronted with the heebie-jeebie-inducing sound to understand the true heebie-jeebieness of it. My first reaction was to change direction in mid-stride (!) and give them a wide berth and apologize for (nearly) disturbing their repose. (I was, in fact, quite grateful that they heard my apparently thundering footfalls and gave me the warning.)

I was about to leave them to it – I mean, ya see one rattler in the middle of your path in the wilderness, ya’ve seen ’em all … right? Then I saw the weirdness (other than the kind of big bundle of snake itself) of the two tails and decided to whip out my trusty cell-phone-slash-camera.

Of course, it didn’t take long to realize that the moment needed the big gun, in order to record the moment for posterity (and you faithful blog readers, who always think you’re going to see lovely images of wildly wonderful wild horses). … Don’t you guys know anything by now?! Including the fact that although snakeys give me the heebies, I might as well share the joy of the jeebies?!

Are you ready? I think I’ve rambled on long enough to spare delicate viewers, no matter how large their screens might be (even if they’re vertical like we page designers used to have ours – and they who are still page designers may still have theirs).

I mean, it’s not gross, but in-your-face rattlers with one head and two tails IS rather, um, off-putting.

OK, you were warned.

Every time I shifted closer (because, I mean, you have to fill the frame, right?), out came the tongue.

Again, the disclaimer: For taking pix of the four-legged wildies, I have a telephoto zoom lens. It also comes in handy when photographing less-desirable (and less-legged) critters. You can see (I think, for those of you familiar with the behavior of reptiles of the slithery variety) that the snake is pretty relaxed here, about a minute or so (time flies while your heart stops racing from the heebie jeebies, not to mention the crazed and totally unnecessary dancing around you do in joy of having NOT been injected with other heart-racing-inducing material) after I first (nearly) disturbed it (err, them). The tails are relaxed, not upright and buzzing.

The temp was in the 70s, which is pretty unusual for Disappointment Valley (for anywhere in Southwest Colorado) in July, and it occurred to me that their piling might have been an attempt to ward off the, you know, *cold*. Who knew snakes could get *cozy*!?

Moving on in our observations, check out the rattles on the little tail … and the rattles on the bigger tail. Our rattlers are pretty small (especially compared with the Texas giants I grew up with). I haven’t seen (m)any around here longer than about a foot and a half (? it’s not like I asked them to stay still while I whipped out the ol’ tape measure) and not much thicker than a garden hose (OK, maybe a little thicker). This little pile of lovebirds (err, snakes) or mama (or daddy) and youngster wasn’t any bigger than a dinner plate (and maybe a bit smaller).

Here’s another view that shows the tails/rattles better (because you know you wanted a better view of the least-threatening and best ends of rattlesnakes).

In any case and from any view, I think the feeling was mutual that I didn’t actually step on them.

No snakes, no photographers, and definitely no horses, were (much) bothered or hurt in the making of these photos during this encounter. And I’m definitely not responsible for any dreams (nightmares) you may have if you scrolled down to see the pix (I was thinking about bears recently and dreamed about an alligator – go figure). You’re welcome. 🙂

Ssssssssnake sssssaga ssssssorcery

14 09 2019

At Ace Hardware in Norwood, Colorado, the young man who helped me find the pieces and parts for a snake-pole-lasso quickly grasped the idea of what I needed. It was his first day on the job. What a first day. 🙂

Here are the parts:


Five-foot-long, 1 1/2-inch PVC pipe

1 1/2-inch cap

15 feet of soft, 1/4-inch rope

21/64-inch drill bit

Drill – already mine (battery was on the charger)

This is how it went together:


I drilled two holes in the cap and threaded the rope (the Ace Hardware man burned the ends for me in the store; he also cut a 10-foot length of pipe to the 5 feet I needed) through one hole from the inside, made a loop and threaded it back into the other hole, knotting it inside the cap. The long end of the rope then drops through the pipe to the other end, which is where the snake wrangler wants to be.


Voila! Snake lasso!

Heading to the basin now …


Snake wrangling equipment:

Step stool – because I realized I had to stand basically over the top of the vertical in-ground pipe to bring the snake up, and I really didn’t want to get struck in the shin if it came up less than happy.

Trash can – previously used for feed in the barn. Use: transport the snake from hole to home, away from water trough that the horses use.

DIY snake-pole-lasso. About $20 total.

And of course, my cell phone, which is only slightly easier to operate one-handed than my camera. Because I had to document the process for you faithful readers who are cheering for snakey-snake.

At left: fenced-in aprons that catch rainwater and snow.

Background: Our destination is the green water tank, on the far side of which is the valve pipe in which our reptile has been captive for at least a couple of weeks.

Question: Did rattler make it out on the crossed sticks … or was snakey still stuck?


Answer: See above. The thing had a slightly unnerving way of looking up at me the whole time, like it knew things were happening. Finally.


Here’s my setup:

Step stool on the north side of the pipe; trash can on the south side. Snakey in the hole in the middle.

I won’t lie; my hand was shaking as I was taking these pix. Everything’s all fun and games until you try to lasso a rattler at the bottom of a pipe.

OK. Deep breath. Ready?


It’s not easy to hold a lasso’d snake with one hand (I was holding the pipe and rope coming out the end to keep a snug hold on the slippery slitherer) and a cell phone with another (your only other) hand AND try to two-finger zoom the image because you’re several fraidy-cat feet above it.


It wasn’t heavy, and it didn’t wriggle or writhe. And – maybe wildest of all – it didn’t rattle. I managed to catch it at “neck” level (!), so I was confident it couldn’t reach any shins.


Don’t worry, dude/ette, it’s bigger, and it’s totally temporary.


Valve-pipe cap. Replaced.

When I called my mom from the road, snake-filled can (lidded) safely in the back of the truck, I admit that I was still breathing hard, and not just from carrying my equipment back up the slope (the water flows downhill from the catchment aprons).

Snake couldn’t live in the metal trash can any more than it could live in the bottom of a PVC pipe, so release was the next part of the capture saga.


Rattler relief is close. See that the boulder is shaped so that it provides a shady shelter?


I appealed to many deities, entities and spirits before embarking on this jaunt, including my mom, my dad, snakes in general, rattlesnakes in particular, even Lord Voldemort, that sovereign of serpenty Slytherins.

While carrying the can up to the pictured perfect boulder, I realized that getting the lid off the can wouldn’t be too bad, but having been so gentle so far, I didn’t want to just kick the can over!

Check out the perfectly shaped branch I found nearby (pictured above, hooked through the can’s handle)! On the bare, rocky shoulder of Filly Peak! I mean, trees aren’t what this area is known for. But it was perfectly perfect. Some spirits definitely were with us. Using the branch, with its excellent length and hefty hook, I was able to tenderly tip the can onto its side without even a jangly, jarring thump.


But you know how it is when you leave your old home for a new one. Maybe you’re excited, and maybe you’re a little nervous, too.

Rattler was a bit reluctant, so I had to find another stick to tip the bottom of the can up a bit and encourage (!) the slithery sucker to slide to the ground.


And that’s when happiness kicked in, and snakey slithered right into the super space like s/he owned the place.

I’m pretty sure I heard him/her speak Parseltongue ere s/he slithered out of sight: thanksssssssssssssssssss.


Mischief managed!


Thank you all for following along and wishing the best for our rattly reptile!

Happy life and many rodents, rattler!

**Update (and thanks to Sue for the reminder!): I meant to credit Linda Carson at The 7MSN Ranch for the snake-pole-lasso. I admired her nerve in snake wrangling … and never thought I’d have to make a pole of my own!

Comanche moon

13 09 2019


The almost-full harvest moon rises above Spring Creek Basin last night.

Tonight’s Friday the 13th moon will be a “rare, full harvest micromoon“!


Snake update: I’m chagrined to report failure in Project Stick-a-Stick-in-a-Pipe-to-Help-a-Rattlesnake. Slowly and also failingly, I tried to use the stick to raise the snake up against the inside of the slick plastic pipe, but the wriggler wriggled its way back to the bottom of the pipe.

To tell the honest-to-goodness truth, I had no idea what I might do with the slither-critter if I happened to get it to the surface, other than fling the whole kit-n-kaboodle (snake, stick, any pride) in some direction closely related to *away*. I think the hole is so deep and so narrow that it keeps the stick relatively vertical, and the snake just can’t climb it any better than the inside of the pipe.

I texted our trusty BLM law-enforcement ranger. He forwarded my text to one of our other range specialists (our herd manager is on vacation). Maybe he knows a good snake-wrangling technique. I looked up “snake poles,” and I may or may not have handy any bits and pieces that may provide the next chance at rescuing the snake.

In the meantime, I put a second stick in the pipe with the slight hope that the snake might make it to where the sticks cross, and from there to the surface.

Here’s the thing: How many of you are pulling for this basin rattler to return to ground level? 🙂 That has to be *uplifting*!

A snake that needed a helping stick

12 09 2019

If you don’t like snakes, stop reading.

If you don’t like looking down cobwebby holes (pipes) and finding a snake at the bottom, stop reading.

Spring Creek Basin is home to more than mustangs, and some of those things are both creepy (I suppose that’s a matter of opinion) and crawly. If you don’t like those things, stop reading.


I think the story has a happy ending (I’m not sure yet), but really, if snakes aren’t your thing, you were warned!


So … I went out to check the main catchment trough last night after our nice rain, and I remembered that the BLM guys had recently told me that they looked into the valve pipe and found a snake. What? They said the lid was slightly off, and they figured the snake was looking for a cool place, crawled or fell in, then couldn’t get back out. So they left the lid off and figured it would make its way out.

On my way back up to the road to my vehicle, I stopped to check the valve pipe.

Holy mother of a freakin’ rattlesnake!

I expected a bull snake, or a little “racer,” or some other kind of little, *harmless* kind of snake-in-a-pipe kinda snake.

As soon as I recovered and looked back in the pipe, I could tell by the streaks on its face – it was definitely a rattler kinda snake. Great.

I mean, it’s not like I was going to reach in and let any ol’ kinda snake crawl up my arm in order to get it out of the pipe, but a rattler? Well, sometimes ya just gotta laugh at the things Ma Nature puts in your path. 🙂


This was my first view of it. It’s reaching toward the top, about halfway up the interior of the pipe.


For reference, this is the pipe in the ground by the water tank. It has a diameter of maybe 8 inches or so. In order to turn the valve on/off, I have to lie down on my belly and stick my arm in it all the way to my arm pit. I’m tall – 5’10 – so I don’t have short arms.


Here’s another view of our friend. See all the cobwebs?


Because it’s not enough to have a rattler down the creepy pipe, oh, no. You have to also deal with giant, fat black widow spiders. Of course you do.

I told the snake I was going to go find a stick, and I’d be back.

I knew where an old stake was, but I didn’t have to go that far; another one was nearer, so I brought it back after measuring it along my arm to make sure it would be long enough.


By the time I got back, the snake had retreated to the bottom of the pipe. Maybe it didn’t believe my promise.


Is it just me, or is s/he looking up with a hopeful expression? See that rattle? Bugger had the ingratitude to rattle at me when I cleared the cobwebs. I couldn’t help it, I fumbled and dropped my phone. At least I didn’t drop it down the pipe!!!! (Can you imagine?!)


Ever so slowly and carefully, I inserted the stake in the pipe so it didn’t hit the snake, and then I got outta the way! I didn’t know how fast it would come up and out – or how mad it would be when it did!

On my way back to my vehicle, I texted my mom. 🙂

So that’s the current end of the story. Hopefully I’ll be able to report next that the pipe is empty and Mr. or Ms. Rattler has escaped to live a long, reptilian life elsewhere in the basin. I’ll replace the cap, and the blog will go back to its regular pix of lovely ponies. 🙂

They’re out

4 05 2015

Warning: If snakes are not your thing, you may want to skip this post.

And Mom … no photographers were harmed in the making of these photographs!

Thanks to the sharp eyes of friend and fellow mustang advocate Kat Wilder, we found the first rattlesnake of 2015 in Spring Creek Basin.

It may have been the first rattler seen in the basin, but it wasn’t the first Kat has seen this year; she had just seen another one farther south in Disappointment Valley.

The weather is warm – and has been. It seems past due to have this first sighting. Three bull snakes have crossed my path in the last couple of weeks. Bull snakes are awesome. They can eat as many rodents as they like.

Rattlesnakes do kinda freak me out a bit. And part of my childhood was spent in Texas, with rattlers way bigger than those I’ve seen in Colorado.

Live and let live (except when they’re in my house (don’t ask)), I always say.

Did you peek yet?

We did have a great visit with one of the bands – not terribly far away but far enough away from the rattlesnake. 🙂

This is your last warning.

Scroll at your own visual peril.


Kat’s truck is immediately to the left, and she’s shooting from above through the window in the driver’s side door.


Important note: Long lenses are great for photographing mustangs … and other critters best seen from a distance (!).

P.S. This particular critter isn’t nearly as large as it appears; coiled like this, it would have fit on a salad plate.

Baby love

6 09 2010

There’s a theme … really …

The horses were just going crazy with bugs or flies or … I think it’s the wetter-than-usual conditions (although it was fairly windy and dry right at the moment) because usually we’re past the bugs by now – and they weren’t going for me at all. Alpha was seeking a little protection under Storm’s neck and got the double benefit of Luna’s tail; Gideon in the foreground. He’s 2 … but still her baby.

I am completely in love with these two – yep, with Comanche, “back” with “Steeldust’s band.” Love how they’re “sharing” an eye in this image.

Baby ‘Nona is a knockout, and I’m not the only one who thinks so …

She loves me!

Err … she loves me not? Or: Gideon gets his first lesson in the mystery of the opposite sex.

She loves me – I think?!

Oh, that little ‘Nona … 😉

OK, not a baby, but I can’t resist that sweet baby-face – bachelor Mouse.


Depending on how you scroll and the size of your monitor, that warning may not help …

Are you ready?

You’re wondering how this could POSSIBLY fit the theme – I know you are. When I first saw “this” snake, it was little, and I identified by the very teeny tiny tip of its testy tail that it was a rattler. Look at the rattle in this picture. Not very teeny, eh? The out-of-focus blur at right is the rock the teeny tail disappeared behind as I came walking up. Disclaimer: I’m not nearly as close as this photo – cropped after being shot at 400 mm – would have you believe. Impact is everything, after all. Because of the grass and distance, I couldn’t really see much detail through the viewfinder, but I knew enough that I didn’t want to hang around. Theory: This is mama snake, after baby snake of the teensy rattle crawled back to the “home hole” for safety.

Baby love, indeed. 🙂