My brother and I used to wander through the desert all the time as kids when we lived in Victorville. Mom used to warn us of snakes, but growing up how she did, she knew we'd be fine out there on our own. Together we sounded like a herd of elephants tromping through a tropical forest, so typically the most we would run across was a scared little lizard as it darted across the path in front of us.
There was always the scare of the Mojave Green though... they were an amazing cross breed between a rattle snake and a gopher snake, the story I heard. They were somewhat of a Mutant Crossbreed in our neighborhood circle campfire chats. Different rattle snakes had figured out how to breed with non-venomous snakes in the desert, creating different kinds of poison snakes all the time. No two Mojave Greens had the same venom, so if a person were to be bit by one, they had to take that EXACT snake with them to the hospital in order to get the antivenin made, or there was no hope. The person would ALWAYS die in the end. It was quite a horror story to grow up hearing for the 5 years we lived in Victorville. We certainly knew enough to stay alert.
Jason down the street went out into the desert one day with his .22 rifle. When he came back, he had one gopher snake in a glass terarium he planned to keep for a pet, and a dead rattle snake flung over his shoulder. That family was always up for some sort of an adventure. It was at that moment I developed a huge crush on the 17 year old at 10 years old myself. I was his little sister Jodie's friend. He later became very close to the family and I came to think of him more as a brother.
Jason cut the rattle off of the snake's tail and gave it to his brother Justin. Then he skinned the snake (where we couldn't watch) and roasted the meat. He ate every part of that snake and even offered us a bite. Back then I wasn't as open minded as I am now, so I turned it down. It's a decision that haunted me for many years until I finally got a taste of snake meat a few years ago now. It's nothing fantastic, but it's not bad.
One day my brother and I were out wandering through the desert not long after that. We had an old War Games fox hole we would hide in for the day. Sometimes we would catch lizards and play with them a while, sometimes we would play tic-tac-toe in the sand, sometimes we would go to the closest fox hole to ours and help to build a bit more to the fort over it with the other kids when they came out. There was even an old concrete slab with bent rebar sticking out at odd, bent angles. It had a strange name etched into the dried concrete, and my brother had me convinced way back then that it was the grave site of my hero, John Wayne.
"But why would John Wayne be burried out here," I asked.
"Because," he explained calmly, "he didn't want anyone to know where he was burried. He was even burried under a fake name."
"So this W. E. Bradley could be John Wayne," I asked, tracing the capital 'A' with my tiny finger in awe. (I don't remember the actual name on the concrete slab, the name W. E. Bradlye was made up for the sake of the story)
Most days we took the dogs to the fox hole with us. They enjoyed the exercise and liked getting out of the patio. One of the many times we went out into the desert, we didn't take them with us though. They waited obediently in the back yard for our return. About half way home, my brother froze in his tracks and motioned for me to do the same.
"Look," he said in a hushed tone. I looked.
"I don't see anything," I answered.
"Under the rock," he said back to me. Again, I looked. This time I saw it.
Coiled around in circles, blending in with the sand and stones, lying in the shade of a rock laid a very thick, very large rattle snake. The rattle didn't shake, but the head was pointed right at my brothers leg. I was incredibly grateful we had stopped in time. One more step and my brother surely would have had the fangs in his ankle. We took several very slow steps backward.
"Should we run," I asked.
"No," he responded hurriedly. "Don't make any fast movements. That's not just a rattle snake. That's a sidewinder."
"Yeah, they go like 35 miles an hour when they're in a hurry. That's as fast as a horse."
"What do we do?"
"I'm going to try and kill it," he said.
"NO!" Panic took over and I shouted.
"You go on ahead a ways and I'll let you know when to stop."
"You're crazy," I shouted.
"Don't yell," he said. "You'll wake it up." He bent over to pick up a fist sized rock. I took off running in a sweeping arc around the snake, not even concerned about there being any other snakes around. We had just found one, that was enough for me.
"Ok," I heard him say from behind me. "You can stop."
I kept going.
I stopped after another 5 feet from where he told me to stop and turned around. He wasn't following me. Instead, he pulled his arm back over his shoulder and wound up his pitch. He grew an evil grin on his face, one I knew well from the days we would pull pranks on one another. He took a few more steps backward and launched his missile. It bounced harmlessly off of the stone shading the snake and flew off in the opposite direction, but my brother was too busy running away to notice.
He went back slowing and picked up another stone.
"Come on," I said. "Lets just get out of here. Leave it alone."
"No," he said, "That's ok. If we leave it here it might kill one of the dogs or bite one of us next time we come out here."
He aimed his second rock at the snake, pulled back like a rubber band, and changed his mind at the last moment. Instead he decided to bowl the stone to the snake, making it skitter across the ground and landing a good foot from the snake because of the way it rolled. He jogged jsut a few steps away this time. Then he went back again. He picked up a third stone.
He ignored me. He held his stone tightly, pulled his arm back underhand again, and released the stone at the precise moment. It landed and bounced against the dirt, straight back into the air and landing directly on the coiled back of the Sidewinder rattle snake.
"Hey look," he said, grabbing a stick. "I think it's dead!"
He poked at the snake only once, and the rattle twitched like mad. The body rippled with movement. I screamed like I had just been bitten by the thing and took off. He was only a few steps behind me, a trail of dust marking the few places his feet had actually touched ground when leaping to get away.
"Yeah," he said, pretending to not hear his own heart pouding where his brain should have been, "I think it was dead." We walked the rest of the way home in silence. I don't think we ever mentioned it again.