Omir the Storyteller

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Cowboy And The Rattlesnake


Once upon a time not too far from here there was a cowboy. This cowboy was a kind man, and liked animals, and animals seemed to like him. So they all got along pretty well.

Now this particular day had started out fairly warm, but a cold front had moved in and it was threatening to snow. That's the way it is sometimes in those parts. So, as the cowboy was out making the rounds, he noticed something by the side of the trail. As he got closer, he saw that it was a rattlesnake. Now as you know, rattlesnakes are exothermic creatures, which means they don't have any body heat of their own. Something has to heat 'em up. So that rattlesnake had gone out that morning looking to catch some rays, and maybe get itself a nice mouse or lizard in the bargain. But as the temperature dropped the rattler found itself too far away to get back to its den, and the cold air made it slow down, and then stopped it altogether. In short, it was freezing to death.

The cowboy didn't care much for rattlesnakes, but as I said he was a kind man, and liked animals, and didn't want to see the rattler suffer. So he picked it up -- carefully, so he didn't meet up with the sharp end -- and put the rattler in a saddlebag, then rode back to where he was going to bed down for the night.

Well, the cowboy lit himself a campfire, put the saddlebag near the fire but not so near as to cook the rattler, and made himself some coffee and bacon. His intention was to keep that rattlesnake in the saddlebag until the weather warmed up enough, then open up the bag, let the rattler go, and get out of the way fast. But it turns out that rattler had plans of its own. The side of the saddlebag warmed up enough that the rattler started stirring before the cowboy expected, and that rattler decided to explore his new surroundings. He was hungrier than he had been that morning, and his tongue could pick up the scent of something that smelled powerfully like food of an unexpected kind. So, the rattler worked his way out of the saddlebag.

The cowboy's horse was nearby, and like any horse with a lick of sense it whinnied and backed away once it saw the rattler. This spooked the snake, and the combination of hunger and fear triggered something basic in its reptilitian brain. It commenced to rattling and coiled back to strike . . . and exploded as the cowboy, who had heard the commotion and gone for one of Winchester's finest, blew it in two.

"I tell you," said the cowboy as he lowered his rifle and the report died away, "You just can't expect gratitude from the wicked."


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