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King Cascabel

Submitted by Italo J. Zarate

On a warm December day, my brother Tino and I were rabbit hunting with our dog Blackie alongside the Rio Grande River near Boca Chica Beach. I left my keys in the car so I went back to get them. Tino and Blackie, a Lab/Chow mix with satiny jet-black hair, continued into the brush ahead of me. They had traveled about thirty yards into the brush when the frightening buzzing sound of a rattlesnake chilled my spine. As I hurried to meet up with them I managed to holler out a warning, “Tino, una vivora cascabel!”

My brother was kneeling down on one knee holding on to Blackie’s collar with both hands as he howled viciously at something on the ground directly in front of them. It was an enormous Western Diamondback. The front half of its body had risen into a spectacular S shape stance and its beady eyes with the masked face focused on the uninvited visitors with lethal intentions. Its rattle never ceased to deliver its warning and its triangular-shaped head swiveled slowly, first to look at Tino, then to look at Blackie, then to look at me with my .410 double-barreled shotgun aimed at its head. Tino’s .12 gauge shotgun was resting on the ground inches away from the rattler’s cream colored belly. 

The rattler was about seven feet long and it must have just swallowed a dozen rats because its body was as thick as a motorcycle tire. The diamond-shape blotches on its back and the coon-like rings on its tail were so conspicuous it must have just shed its skin. Its forked black tongue flicked excitingly in and out of its closed mouth, tasting the unfamiliar odors emitted by the unfamiliar figures that had stumbled into its domain. Rattlesnakes in this area are not uncommon, but never before had we ever witnessed such a fascinating phenomenon. Its imposing statuesque “Get away from me you fool” posture was strikingly stunning.

We relished the extraordinary episode for what seemed like a very long time when I finally asked, “What do we do now? Kill it?” 

“Of course not!” Tino scoffed. “Why would we want to kill such a magnificent creature? It did warn us to keep away; let’s obey and consider it our lucky day.”

I gave the rattler a thumbs up. “Ditto to you, too, fatso,” I said as we retrieved Tino‘s shotgun and gingerly walked away.