Longhorn Mountain near Meers, Oklahoma
Late September 1983 – Field Notes.
I am so sick of the damn rattlesnakes. It is 9 a.m. and I am sitting on the ridgeline at the top of Longhorn Mountain eating my lunch just to calm my nerves. I am supposed to be mapping out contacts on this Ordovician rock pile. In the distance far below me, I can see the refuge of my car. I have already encountered four rattlesnakes during the half-hour hike to my perch. At least back home in Mississippi, the snakes played by the rules. There is a smell to the cottonmouth, especially the big ones. I remember my parents and grandparents sniffing the air and speaking of an area as “snakey.” Growing up, I don’t ever remember being surprised by a water moccasin. But these western
|A strike-ready, coiled
rattler that’s buzzing
has stopped moving,
except for that devilish
little tail. Miss that
detail and the victim is
just as prone to leap
onto the snake as away
rattlesnakes – they love surprises. Yes, they rattle, but sometimes after they’ve made the first strike. And then there is that buzzing of the rattle itself – so high pitched, so startling, so loud, that quite often there is absolutely no sense of the direction of the imminent danger. A strike-ready, coiled rattler that’s buzzing has stopped moving, except for that devilish little tail. Miss that detail and the victim is just as prone to leap onto the snake as away from it.
I had been leaping aplenty that Saturday morning and I was done for the day. So I sat for far too long. I pondered the beauty of the area and the many other Ordovician limestone hills jutting up from the prairie. I remembered the distant tornado I’d seen from that very spot. I thought about how to hike back to the car. I anticipated the enormous hamburgers served at the Meers eatery. Far to the south, there was the quiet safety of my campsite in the Wichita Wildlife Refuge. Tonight…now more likely, this afternoon…I would enjoy the solitude of the campground often invaded with buffalo. Hopefully, nearby Fort Sill won’t be conducting tank and artillery practice into the wee hours. And on Sunday morning, I will awaken to the gentle sounds of Kate Smith crooning hymns over the loudspeakers of Holy City…until next time…
The Happy Mapper