A Rattlesnake Kill On Little Shuckstack

Down under Gregory’s Bald at the west end of the park is Big Shuckstack.  A lookout tower is there.  Forest rangers used to climb up and sit and watch for signs of smoke. Lower still is Little Shuckstack.  It is steep between the two and your knees will let you know, don’t worry, as they did us ten or so Scouts the day we climbed down.

Shuckstack Fire Tower in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Along the top of Little Shuckstack is a level break where knees rest and a rattlesnake might too. Rest right under some dead leaves about the same color as him or her. Where I hiked all by myself, thumbs hooked under the pack straps, sweat drying and cooling around the collar, putting one foot in front of the other, not thinking much.

Until motion caught the corner of an eye, and short hairs raised up straight along the back of my neck.

Damn! Holy shit!

Life slowed down to frame-by-frame speed as I tried to get the legs to move or jump or something at least, which they finally did.

I landed some distance away.

He was coming after me, no.  He was watching me, yes. Coiled up tight with his tail raised at one end now and his head at the other.  Long tongue flicking out, eyes shiny as black beads.  I felt behind for the hunting knife in the tooled leather holder on my belt.

Maybe I could draw and throw that thing like Tarzan.  Pin his head to the ground with perfect aim. Or maybe quick as a cat I could fake him with one hand then grab him just behind the head with the other as he struck and missed. A kid of high school age will think such thoughts.  And then go hunting for a forked stick.

Found one.

The heart is pounding as I approach.  All twelve of his rattles are buzzing like bees in an angry swarm.

I wonder if John Wayne or any war hero would be scarred like me.  Crawling along somewhere in a field, bullets kicking up the dirt, shells exploding, buddies dying.

But the dying I worry about is right here in front of me now.

He does not like my stick at all.  He keeps jerking his head around and away as I try to aim it.

Yes . . . oops . . . no, there . . . again now . . . yes!  And now I have him pinned and must try to do this.  With my knife I used to slice bacon only this morning.  Slice off his head and begin to steady my nerves.

I have learned since then that we should not be killing rattlesnakes.  There may even be a law against it.  But I did not know that then, and it probably would have made no difference.

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