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Stories by Mike Humfreville

The Tempests of Summer - Bahia de Los Angeles 1985, Part 7: Snake!   ( Posted May 12, 2004 )

This was our second day at Las Cuevitas and Michael and Kevin were already getting tan, their hair lighter. Since our arrival we had been focused on completing the construction of our summer home. Now the basics were in place and I felt like I could slow down. We took a break during the heat of the afternoon and sat in the shade as the sun passed behind the hut. The boys were in inner tubes in the shallow water, pushing and shoving and trying to drown each other in great flurries of splashing and shouting. The waves, constrained by our immediate north and south points, were safe for the boy's small sizes but still large enough that they presented some challenge if they got a few yards offshore, where the water was a foot or two deep.

Las Cuevitas is a small bay facing Isla Coronado, Smith's Island. There is a thousand foot volcano on Coronado's north end. Forming our little bay two rocky points, one north and one south, jut into the Sea of Cortes and prevent the larger waves from hitting our shore except during the largest storms. We didn't feel that we had to stay with the boys when they were in the water because we were only a few feet away and never out of sight. Even in the hut we could see through the walls of bamboo. Lassie was always with them. There were no other people for miles and the risks were well known to all four us from prior trips. The boys over time were given great latitude of freedoms.

Later in the afternoon of the second day Mary Ann was in the tiny kitchen and I was fishing from the shore. The boys left the water and were digging in the dirt behind the hut. We had brought cowboy boots for them and had a firm rule that they wore these whenever they wanted to go hiking. I heard them come in for their boots and then wander a few meters up the road that led back to La Gringa.

"We're going 'venturing." Michael called.

"Yeah!" Echoed Kevin. We watched them walking up the road.

"Were 'sploring!"

"Kevin! Come turn this rock over!"

"HA! It's a bug!" Kevin shouted. "But Mikie, here's a path! Come and see!"

And off they went. They instinctively stayed within a safe distance from the hut. They disappeared over a slight rise along a path and were out of sight for several minutes, but we could hear them slapping their sticks against rocks and the dirt and running and laughing.

For a moment there was no sound and Mary Ann and I were both alerted. We stopped what we were doing and stood looking in their direction. Suddenly they both came barreling over a rise, dust swirling, sticks flying akimbo, calling to us, excited. They ran straight back to the hut. "Snake! Mom...Dad...Snake!"

Snake. Alarms went off in both our heads. This was a situation I had known we would face before the end of our stay, but this was sooner than expected.

"Where is it? Where is it???" We called, running toward the boys. They grabbed our hands and tugged us in the direction of an ironwood tree along the side of the road. I grabbed a stick we had for snakes and the four of us ran off to the tree, with the boys yelling wildly. They pointed to the underbrush that had collected at the base of the tree and told us that the snake was there, dad, right there! I moved the brush around and we heard it rattle and I pulled the brush away and sure enough there was a medium sized rattler, brown and tan and coiled with its forked tongue sensing the temperature. I pulled the spooky beast out of its cover with the stick and smashed its head with a rock.

I've never been a hunter and I don't like to kill animals for any reason, but I convinced myself that it was necessary to destroy a snake (whose territory I had recently invaded) who had the ability to possibly take a human life. Especially one of a child. I didn't need this slinky thing living next door and constantly presenting a threat. I knew that the longer we lived at this place the greater the threat would be. The four of us took the dead snake back to the hut and cut off and buried its head. We noticed that the snake had several protrusions along its tubular body and were curious so we cut it open lengthwise and extracted three partially digested mice from its gut.

This was a good lesson for Michael and Kevin, not because we had chosen to kill an animal living in its own environment, but in taking care to avoid problems caused by threatening things. We were surrounded with potential problems that if not avoided could have become serious. Scorpions, tarantulas and snakes, two-inch black wasps, coyotes, foxes, eels, killer whales, the water itself, the wind and rain, lightning. In this environment any of these mostly friendly or at least unthreatening animals or elements could turn bad. Caution should always reign when there is no nearby cure.

The boys took the lesson in stride and went on to their next adventure. Mary Ann and I sat down and discussed a few rules and then called Michael and Kevin. We presented a few ideas we all agreed were good and made sure we understood and agreed with each: They should always wear their boots when playing outside our area. They should always let us know where they were going and for how long. They should go no further than the hills behind our camp. They should come home whenever they heard us blow a whistle we had bought for that purpose.

Other rules developed formally over time, but these few were understood from the outset and almost always obeyed.

Copyright 2003-2006 Mike Humfreville

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