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Lessons from a ‘local’

Posted: July 10, 2017 3:14 p.m.
Updated: July 11, 2017 1:00 a.m.

Recently, during a visit to Gorges State Park in the North Carolina mountains, I was privileged to see an amazing, rare and, yes, somewhat unnerving sight. 

We were pulling into, of all things, a remote picnic area parking lot when I saw it -- a large-bodied snake crawling on the hot asphalt trying to get to the nearby grass and woods. As I pulled up for a closer look, I realized it wasn’t just any snake. It was a good sized timber rattlesnake.

I have to admit -- other than the fact that it’s a, yikes, snake and if it wanted to, it could make you mighty sick or even punch your one-way ticket for the nearest marble orchard -- it was, as the late great Steve Irwin would say, a beautiful creature. It was clearly made for this place -- colored exactly like the rocks it undoubtedly lives around, which makes me think I’ve probably been a lot nearer to them a lot more often than I’d like to think.

It’s against the law to kill anything in Gorges, so I wasn’t going to try to run this one over, nor did I really want to. And since I’m not completely stupid, I wasn’t going to get out of the car and harass it.

I hadn’t seen one of those, outside of a zoo, in many years. As I said, I wasn’t dumb enough to get out of the car for a closer look, but I was able to get pretty close. It apparently sensed the car, because it gave us a quick buzz as it entered the grass and high (or is it low?) tailed it for the wilderness beyond. But it wasn’t threatening anyone; just letting us know it was there and didn’t want any trouble. I certainly didn’t give him any.

I grabbed my phone to take a couple of pictures, only to discover my great big old solar panel cabbage staring back at me -- a sight scarier than any snake -- but finally was able to get the angle reversed and shoot a couple of photos.  

But it occurred to me that as much as I enjoy nature, one definitely should always be aware of one’s surroundings. They preach that in places like Gorges -- you’re the interloper, not the critters. Leave them alone, keep your distance, respect them and all will be well. It is incumbent on you, not them, to make sure a negative encounter does not occur.

Sounds reasonable to me.

Because I’m something of a weirdo with a touch of ADD, I got on the internet a little later to look up snake facts. One item I ran across was the number of snake bites in the U.S. As it turns out, the numbers are pretty few and far between – and fatalities are even lower. Even more interesting -- but not particularly surprising -- is the vast majority of bites, fatal or not, were totally avoidable. From bizarre religious rituals to the more garden variety moments of epic “Hey ya’ll; wartch this” stupidity -- the guy who tried to kiss a water moccasin for a Facebook selfie immediately comes to mind -- it seems to me most folks who ever got bit by a snake probably deserved it.

Now before I get inundated with calls and emails caterwauling about the safety of our children and people first and such, allow me to state, unequivocably, that I don’t wish a snake bite on anyone, nor do I believe all snakebites are caused by humans. Unfortunate accidents and weird events do occur. Occasionally, it becomes necessary to remove them from around people -- certainly no one needs to live with a rattlesnake condo under their back deck. And yes, I do believe there are individuals more prone to malevolence than others. That pretty much goes for anything that walks, flies or crawls.

Nonetheless, the old adage, “leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone” holds great truth. Indeed, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that push begets pushback and the more obnoxious one is the more negative payback one can expect.

So it makes me wonder why the world seems to be a far shriller, obnoxious, adversarial place than it used to be.

Leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone. Don’t tread on me. Do unto others, etc., etc. That seems to be pretty good advice for almost any situation. If we would all take care not to bother each other unnecessarily, then maybe, just maybe, we could live a little more harmoniously.  

Alas, such states of being apparently only happen on Planet Jimmy.

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