Before moving to the desert nine years ago, my family and I lived in Colorado for a short time. Prior to that, we lived on California’s central coast and so the prospect of Colorado’s snowy winters was a novel one. Unfortunately, the icy winters I looked forward to came to be well ahead of schedule. You can imagine how a girl born and raised in California was taken quite by surprise when snowflakes began falling in October. Those snowflakes pretty much kept falling through mid-May. By then the novelty of it all had given way to frustration with the bitter cold, the constant sludgy mess and the inability to drive without sliding all over the road. Had we stayed longer, I may have gotten used to mountain life. Stranger things have happened.
We came house hunting to Tucson a few months before we officially relocated. I remember pulling up to the model house in a neighborhood that was still under construction. There were no civilized paved roads, just dusty dirt roads scattered with rocks and cacti and other desert things. The other desert things had me a might bit concerned. I was convinced that snakes of every evil sort were lying in wait beneath those rocks and cacti, ready to spring forth and strike the moment I came within reach. I tiptoed to the front door of that model house, not for one quick second lapsing in my vigilant watch for snakes. Oddly enough, I made it not only to that front door but back again, with nary a snake in sight.
Fast forward nine years and I can assuredly tell you that indeed the snakes I worried about are alive and well here in the desert. My first experience with one was finding it coiled on my front door mat one night in late spring. My second experience was when my husband found one in the back “yard” while he was weeding. My third and most recent experience involved finding a rather large one just steps from my mailbox. All three were rattlers and all three were invading my territory. All three, consequently, were beheaded.
When that last one had been properly taken care of, I felt something I never in one million years would have expected to feel: sadness. I actually felt just the teensiest bit sad that we (read: my husband) had to kill it. It was, after all, minding its own business. It neither rattled nor struck when we approached; he just kind of hung out there on the ground, trying to go unnoticed. But we have kids and a small dog and we really couldn’t risk danger to them and so the snake had to go. I just never thought the death of a rattlesnake would leave me anything but joyous.
When I shared the story on Facebook, many of my non-local friends spoke up in outrage. Not over the beheading of the snake, mind you, but over my remorse for it. They couldn’t fathom what it would be like to live in a place where deadly snakes come with the territory. Likewise, I can’t imagine living in tornado alley or hurricane harbor. But maybe that’s only because I haven’t tried it yet.
The truth is that there are pros and cons to every place under the sun. When we moved here, I was determined not to set foot out of doors and risk coming foot to face with a snake. Yet here I am, nine years later, in remorse over the death of one. It just goes to show that you really should never say never.