My husband doesn’t look like an arsonist but a former neighbor and aspiring novelist, David Frankel, recalls on his new blog the time when Kevin set the Salmon Creek hills on fire. David gets a few details wrong but the story is well written and funny.
If you want to catch a rattlesnake, the very first item on your list would be to locate one.
One of the best ways to find a rattler is to be a twelve year old boy, riding all over the Northern California hills with your younger brother, the Horse Liar, and the Supergirls, your neighbors and henchpersons in crime. Grow your stunningly blonde hair into a long ponytail, lose the shirt, and you’re all set to get started.
Ride around aimlessly for a few hours, so as to lull any snakes in the area into a false sense of security. This will also give the temperature time to get scorching hot, rendering the reptiles torpid, and the humans involved, stupid. Start cruising the areas near the creek, as it’s a likely spot to find your prey. It’s also as far from the roads as you can get, which will come in handy as the day progresses.
As luck would have it, you locate a likely victim, sunning himself at the foot of a spreading old live oak tree. He’s got those tell-tale diamonds on his back, fading into a deep green, denoting his membership in the Timber Rattler Clan. At four plus feet long, he will make a great trophy when you return triumphantly to your tribe, the Mud House People.
Unfortunately, Mr. Snake is not in a cooperative mood today, perhaps because you were so rude as to wake His Irritableness up. At any rate, before you have a chance to snatch him up barehanded and ride home bareback with your furious trophy wriggling in your pearly white teeth, the ungrateful bastard has the temerity to slide into his previously unnoticed burrow beneath the roots of the oak.
So there you are, with no snake, your cohorts trying halfheartedly not to laugh, and you gotta come up with plan B. Being a young male, there are any number of choices you can make here, but the somehow all the ones that appeal the most involve the misuse of fire. Most of a young man’s teenage years are spent searching for situations in which a little arson is the appropriate tactic, but since such circumstances never been known in all of human history to actually occur, you sometimes have to just forge ahead regardless.
A thorough education consisting of reading every novel Louis Lamour ever wrote is all any country kid needs, and what would Louis’ heroes do? They would gather a a pile of dry grass and twigs, and smoke the varmint out. Only in the books, the smoke goes down, and in our woods this blazingly hot summer day, the dry tinder hardly smokes at all, and it’s all going up the tree, not down the snake hole.
Curiously enough, the flames are going up the tree, too. They also are sending out scouts of flame into the surrounding meadows, and sensing no resistance from the dry grass, immediately rampage out of control.
A Western Hero always owns up to his mistakes, so you cowboy up, ride a mile to the nearest phone, and call in the fire report. With the local volunteer firefighters and the State firecrews all alerted and arriving imminently, you thoughtfully fade away in the direction of home, not wanting to distract the firefighters with your presence.
A good fire is just too exciting to ride away from, however, so you compromise by circulating around out of sight, watching the fun.
Read the rest of the story here. (Just remember that my husband did come back and fight the fire all day.)
Photo by Daniel Montoya