Carol is 85 and beats the heads off live rattlesnakes. Then she skins the rest of the snake. And salts the skins.
This is her collection.
She and the rattlesnakes live, and some expire, on a big ranch down the road from me.
Every Thursday, my art friend Regina, myself and our art teacher Stan, come to Carol’s house to paint. Many times when I walk from outside the house into Carol’s laundry room, I jump half my body length into the air. I jump because Carol has several snake skins or more, laid out on the top of her dryer, right next to the door. They’re just lying there like live snakes in repose; relaxed and salted as they dry.
I often shriek.
Today turns out to be a special day. When I arrive, there are no new snake skins in the house but there are 2 Forest Service fellows who have driven onto the ranch in a honking white truck. Now they are inside the house. As I find out, these particular Forest Service workers are called ‘The River Divers.’
They are cute, very handsome young fellows. Much cuter and more appealing than rattlesnakes. I get a very nice chill when I see them in Carol’s kitchen.
I know why they are here.
At the locked gate onto Carol’s ranch where I stop to press the secret code, I have just seen 2 young guys. They are fisherman with packs on their backs and long fishing poles. They are sitting on a large boulder.
I have seen these fellows before, trudging down and up the old cement road on Carols’ property, going to and from the dam. Carols’ ranch abuts a reservoir that is filled with fish and promise. Unfortunately, the road is closed to the public and has been since the 1960’s by The Dam Authorities. The old, cracked cement road that runs through Carol’s ranch is now locked and gated. There are many belligerent signs on the gate that say, “Private Road. Stay Out. Beware of Dogs. No Trespassing.”
I would like to personally add signs that say, “How Dare you? This Does Mean You. This is private property. You can not just walk down here past Carol’s house through and on her property and go to the Lake. The City closed this lake to you. This does mean you. You can only access this lake by going to another town on the other side of the lake, pay your fees and fish. Period.”
Many people ignore the signs. They make friends with the dogs on the ranch and pet the loose horses. They amble down the long old road to the lake, even with their little kids and various friends and family members. As I have painted, week after week, I have seen the human parade. The signs do not deter them.
Somebody in power has finally had enough of this.
As I’m fiddling to open the gate, I say ‘hello’ to the young men there and ask how the fishing is. They seem puzzled. One says they didn’t get a chance to fish this time, that he just got a $200 ticket for being on the property down below. The other fellow says his fine was $400. Why? Because he has been ticketed here once before!
The River Divers in Uniform have done the deed.
I’m friendly. I don’t say anything incendiary to the fishermen like, “You Mouse Heads. Who do you think the signs on the gate are referring to?”
Down at Carol’s house, the men have advised Carol about what they have done at the gate. They are lingering in Carol’s kitchen. She has fresh cookies. And crunchy potato chips in a big blue bowl and a tub of chocolates. There’s a head of ruby red lettuce from her garden, arranged nicely in a yellow vase. And tea or coffee, take your pick. Maybe a sandwich?
The men finally must take their leave. They don’t want to. It’s so pleasant and friendly here.
Carol puts 3 scoops of salty, peppered chips in a paper cup and hands it the the most charming man of the two young men.
“Think of me while you eat them,” she says. She flicks her eyelashes and grins with painted lips. She loves to flirt. She’s sorry to see the fellows go, but she does let them out the door.
I wonder what the young man would say if I dashed after him onto the patio and whispered in his ear, “Listen, this is serious. What if I told you there is a high probability that those aren’t potato chips? What if they are salted rattlesnake skins? Are you OK with that?”
I would like to see him jump half way up into the air, shriek and fling the chips into the wind. I really would. Then I would whisper, “I know you’re really young and inexperienced but seriously, you can’t always trust ladies in their 80’s. People’s habits get odder as they get older, you know?”
Then I would chuckle, swing my hips and idle myself back into the house. There I would think about all the other tricks I can pull, now that I am ‘older’ myself. Ha. There’s a lot of freedom that comes with age. That’s when some women, Get Even.
They have their reasons.
Think about it.
“Venus you are great at knowing what my boyfriends are really thinking about me. I always call you when I want the truth about any person or situation.” x Hazel
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