One night we were awakened by the spine-chilling sound of rattle-snakes under the house. Anyone that has ever heard a rattlesnake rattle will never forget that sound.
It sounded like there was more than one, and we could tell by the sound of the rattle that it was a large snake. This wasn’t long after Scotty had been bitten by one.
We could hear it strike the armadillo’s shell. Two armadillos had tunneled under the yard fence, then under the house in the Fall. We didn’t mind as they could do no harm and had told the dogs it was alright, so they didn’t bother them.
There was no fireplace at the Milam Six Mile ranch, big cast iron heaters and cook stove were used. But the brick chimney serving as flues for the woodstoves extended down to the ground under the house for a supporting base for the bricks.
Around this base the pack-rats had built a nest. Pack rats are the bane of every ranch in Texas. It does little good to destroy the nests—they will build them back in one night.Rattlesnakes also den up in these nests in Winter, and feed on the rats.
The armadillo’s shell protected them from the rattle-snake fangs, so they were unharmed.
In a short time, Buff and Duff started barking so we knew that one of the snakes had crawled out into the yard.
It would be much too dangerous to go out in the yard with a lantern to look for the snake, and we knew the dogs were wise in the ways of rattlesnakes and would stay out of reach.
As soon as it was light enough to see we got dressed and went out to check on the dogs, and they were still keeping tab on the rattler. It was coiled up near the woodpile not far from the kitchen door. If there had been others they had left the yard. Ray got a rifle with which to kill it.
When rattlers come out of hibernation in the Spring, they are in a vile mood, partly blinded by the bright light, and strike at any sound or any thing that moves. I guess this one was mad as a hatter because the dogs had been harassing it most of the night.
Though Ray was out of reach, it could hear him and struck at him. When he stepped back it heard the sound and started crawling toward him, rattling, with its head drawn back to strike. He killed it with a shot from the rifle.
I don’t think this was the rattler that bit Scotty, as one this large would surely have killed him.
After this we got the chores done early– and on a ranch there are a lot of chores—so as not to be out after dusk.
In Texas every Spring people have “Rattlesnake Round-ups.” And a lot of rattlers are killed. The type there are very large. Not at all unusual for one to be six feet long.
A few days later Pop Milam came out to the ranch from town and told us a Mexican ranch-hand on a neighboring ranch had been bitten by a large rattler. He was alone on the ranch, had no transportation, and the telephone was out of order, so he could get no help and died.
After this we kept a spare horse in the corral at night. We decided on the horse I always rode, a big grey horse named Gray Boy, because Eagle, the horse Ray rode, was too headstrong for me to handle—in case I should be the one for a “mid-night ride” for help.
In the next story, I’ll tell you about the mischief Grey Boy got himself into, and the results.