6/6/08

King of the Road

Four years ago, my daughter and I had just turned onto the old dirt road that leads to our house and we saw what we thought at first was a branch in the road. As we drove closer, we realized the branch was moving....moving...moving...until finally, it was at the side of the road. She and I are both incredibly curious about nature and God's creation and we HAD TO stop and see what this particular creature was. As we pulled up beside it, I rolled down my window and Leiren leaned over me poking her head out next to mine. It was no real surprise that this snake was a rattler. The surprise was his size and non-chalant attitude towards our presence.

People see snakes and cringe. They run, they attack, they kill. This snake was at least as long as I was tall. We counted over ten rattles on his tail. He was an awesome creature. But, he was as non-threatening and comfortable with our presence as any creature I have ever seen. He didn't coil and shake his tail. He didn't run into the brush - he probably knew he didn't have to do that. Instead, he approached our car and very gently began to examine it. He looked at the door. He raised up slightly and looked at us. We couldn't move, we were spellbound by him. He then eased over and appeared to sniff our tires, raised up and looked at us again intently studying us as we remained stuck in that now barely open window. We couldn't breathe, he didn't care.

After several minutes of analysis he must have known that our awe at his size and beauty prohibited us from exercising the typical farm-girl reaction - killing him. He ever so slowly began to slither off the road. We exhaled and re-aligned ourselves in our seat and he sat there, stretched out next to us yet carefully not bothering us or threatening us. Leiren asked me "are we going to run over it?". I responded "Do you want us to run over it?"

We sat there what seemed like a few more hours and she said "you know, he hasn't bothered us and he's really pretty. Can't we not bother him either!" My 12 year old had read my mind. This creature had lived without disturbing a soul for what appeared to be a very long time. His size alone indicated that he had done quite well on his own. I am not a person who has an affection for snakes of any kind, especially the poisonous kind, but I experienced a respect for this creature that forced me to just do what he did and leave the scene without engaging. To this day, I have no regrets with that decision.

Last night as I was driving home, near the same spot, I saw a snake someone had killed. This snake was at least two feet shorter than the guy we had met and it had been tossed off the side of the road after someone removed it's rattles. Someone's treasure meant the death of this creature and more than likely, they justified that killing with the fact that they may have spared some poor fool his life. But, I haven't seen much in the news about rattler bites. This scene reminded me of my own encounter and my bizarre inclination to not act in fear but in respect.

This experience left me wondering. How often do we react to one another out of fear and anger instead of respect and admiration? How often could we just sit and watch, look over one another and then simply walk away? Why is our first reaction to destroy something which leaves us feeling uncomfortable? Lastly, can I treat my human foes with the same respect as my reptile ones, simply walking away without trying to get in the first attack?

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