SNAKE HUNT 2000
Greetings Internuts!
Today I'm going to share with you my latest adventure. So down some coffee and act as if you are interested. This weekend I went on Mattel's own version of "Survivor," the 7th Annual Mattel Snake Hunt! Now I have done some stupid things in my life, e.g.: jumping out of an airplane, owning a pet rock, buying Firestone tires, etc., but this may top them all. The idea behind this is to drive to the middle of the desert, at night, drink a bunch of beer and look for rattlesnakes! Now I have survived bouts of drunkeness in some of the meanest places on earth, Miami, Bourbon Street, Dormont but out in the middle of the desert with a bunch of gun toting supervisors, now that is something different. Did I mention we did this at night?!
My co-worker and compadre, Kenny G, no...not that one, comes picks me up in his '94 Thunderbird, this is important later. We set out for Louis' house, way, way, way in the middle of nowhere. Louis is one of the supervisors at Mattel who also part-times as a search & rescue teamer for Arizona. We drive, drive, drive to the end of paved roads in metro Phoenix into Indian reservations. We pass saguaros, tumbleweeds, casinos and then send dust flying all over them as Kenny is now doing 70 mph on dirt roads and fish tailing his way through sanity. Did I mention we are in a '94 Thunderbird?!
I am stupefied to understand how Louis can drive this distance to work everyday. 64 miles each way! But as we pull up to his home it is easy to see why. The man has a stable of animals that would make Mr. Douglas from "Green Acres" envious. Three horses and about five dogs, most of them cadaver dogs, cats, lizards and, of course, uncorraled snakes. Situated in the canyon of the surrounding mountains, he is at the mercy of the weather. Actually, I still do not know why he lives here.
We are the first to arrive. His neighbor is setting up for a party. He is going to have a DJ, free beer and has a grill large enough to spit an elephant. Soon the other attendees arrive. There is Johnny, another co-worker, who brings Kenny G a .357 Magnum. I am now the only one without a gun, bad sign number one. Scott, my supervisor, comes along in his six-wheeled diesel pickup truck. Scott is the American sportsman of the group. We secretly call him Noah, as he has probably killed two of every species on earth. His favorite food is "squeer burgers," a mixture of squirrel and deer. No snakes will go to waste. Louis' other friends arrive in one pickup truck. First there is Shea. Shea is a gregarious black guy, who gets a kick out of picking on me for being a virgin to the snake hunt. "You know snakes looovvvve Spalding tennis shoes?" Then he jumps on Kenny G for his supposed ignorance of gun safety for posing for a picture with his magnum. Shea produces a NRA card to underscore his ignorance. His buddy, Yankee, is a tall, gray bearded biker looking dude who likes to laugh. Actually, Yankee, looks like he is from South Carolina. Then there is Tim. A scary looking dude who has had his whole face skin grafted. He doesn't say anything. Nor do I ask him anything. At the last minute, Louis' nephew, Jerry, joins us. He's sixteen, looks forty.
We drink beer while I strap on all the regalia I'll need to look like Jim Fowler. I have my machete, cop-beater flashlight, compass, Swiss army knife, snake stick and toilet paper, in case the inevitable happens...I get really scared! Yankee and Shea fire up a joint, I start wondering what the NRA Safety Course has to say about smoking weed before firing guns. Did I mention I have no gun!
Well, we drink a few more hundred beers and I endure more virgin jokes, "Snakes just love crawling up High Sierra jeans!" I didn't say they were good jokes. We are finally off. We pile into three trucks and head further into the desert. On the way to the wash we stop to check out a sidewinder snake. I haven't seen a weirder locomotion since the moonwalk. These things literally jump sideways while slithering, it reminds me of a lawyer. We push it out of the way and pull up to the wash. A wash is a dry riverbed that flash floods after rain. This one is very wide and is so dry it looks like an asphalt road. We have a full moon and cloudy skies so we won't be seeing any of the meteor shower that was scheduled for tonight. Thank God for the full moon because we need all the light we can get.
I grab my snake stick...er, mop handle, and my trusty flashlight but I won't leave the truck until Louis relinquishes his snake chaps to me. These are like spats that snakes can't bite through. I'm not all stupid...well, I am on a snake hunt...at night...
Louis, Scott, Kenny G, Johnny and I go one way while Shea, Yankee, Tim and Jerry head the other way. I take a compass reading like I know what I'm doing. It isn't long before I discover a vicious cottontail rabbit with big pointy teeth and..."It's a bloody rabbit, you twit!" Johnny yells. We meander along watching our every step. Fearless Kenny G runs up into the shrubbery tempting fate and ditching us all. Me, I am Louis' third leg, where he steps, I step. After about 25 yards we run across our first Arizona Diamondback, it is not Jay Bell. It's a snake about 2.5 feet long. This thing is rattling like a baby on speed. We poke it, prod it, say "cool" and move on. I am now waving my flashlight around like an episode of the "X Files."
Scotty had the forethought to bring beer in his Harpo Marx pants. I'm sure he could produce a seven-course Szechaun dinner, if we need it, out of them. We walk past a bush and another rattler is irate that we are here. He is rattling louder than my knees and we don't even see him. We give up looking for him. I am looking for him from the other side of the wash. Scott ditches us "fraidy cats" to look for real adventure. We see his flashlight beam bouncing around without abandon. But we have soon tracked down another diamondback. I thought we were doing the hunting! These things are hunting us! It is time to put the fear of God into these creatures. Scotty decides this is a good specimen for eating later. Rattlesnake is a delicacy here. I've had it here in restaurants. Usually it's batter dipped and looks like Chicken McNuggets. Who knows maybe it is Chicken McNuggets. To me it tastes alot like alligator but not as chewy. We even made my sister Janine gag it down.
We hold it down with the snake sticks and Kenny G grabs it's tail. Scotty cuts off it's head and it is still moving like it still has a head. They bury the head because it can still bite you! It's still wriggling as Scotty begins to gut it and it poops in Kenny G's hand. We laugh at him. "Mr. Snake Poop"...ha, ha!..."Reptile Rectal Reader"...ha, ha! Scotty says the important part is not to open a pregnant snake cause it's babies will bite you with all of their venom. Did I mention there is nothing lower than a pregnant snake? Scotty bags it for his freezer and I hope to get the skin someday. Then I can be the great white hunter with large snake stories.
We walk further down the wash with the elation of having killed one of God's special creatures. When all of a sudden Scott says, "Look out!" I am two Kareem Abdul-Jabbar steps from stepping on a coiled diamondback! With the agility of a bow-legged ballerina I stumbled around the asp in fleeting fashion only to narrowly avoid downloading in my High Sierras. I guess Shea was right about my fashion sense.
Without too much other fanfare we circled back to our trucks with the relief of having survived our encounters with two sidewinders, eight rattlesnakes, one scorpion, one tarantula, numerous lizards and one very ornery rabbit. No one had shot their firearms, so we decided to take some pot shots at some cans & bottles. I took six shots with the .357 Magnum and actually hit the bottle! I'm a regular Bat Masterson! I hadn't shot a pistolero since I was 12 years old. My ears are still ringing. Did I mention this was a Magnum?
We headed back to Louis' hacienda and munched down some sandwiches provided by Mattel since this was an off-site meeting, don't ya know? The DJ was still kickin' at the party next door, so we finally got the courage up to go crash the party. We walked over just in time to hear the DJ say, "Last song." I'm sure it had nothing to do with our presence. Here it was a Mexican gang banger party with all the trimmings. A refridge full of beer, tattoos, and punks that were looking for a fight. They tried to get Kenny G to drink the rest of the Girls' (Coors) Light, but we passed. It was time to bid our host, Louis, adios and begin our trek back to the asphalt island called Phoenix.
On the way home we saw an U.F.O.! We watched it dart around and do crazy turns and almost plummet to the ground only to swoop up and start all over again. We watched, fascinated, as we drove closer and closer. I was ready to join the League of Federated Worlds or even to be invited into Space Camp or to be mated with an alien seductress! But we soon realized it was a cropduster flying at night.
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