Thursday, September 21, 2017
 

A Snake Story

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A Snake Story- Josh Heath
A Snake Story- Josh Heath
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Date:August 8, 2014
It was a nice warm early fall day and I was basking on top of Rattlesnake Mountain. It’s one of the easier climbs in the state, something you could do in a few hours and then still make it to the party you had to go to later that day. Or something like that anyway.

I usually did this hike once a week, it was a good way to reenergize after a week of work, and I really enjoyed the atmosphere and view from the small peak. It was one of those nice places to relax, maybe talk to a few of the other hikers and let all the worries of the week pass by. Actually, I think the interactions with other folk are one of the most interesting parts of the hike, especially when you get to meet the day hikers that bring their girlfriends along on a “short” hike. You can tell the type, those that want to be more outdoorsy and intrepid, but rarely make it past the stairs in the mall. I can’t say I’ve made a habit of it, but I’ve met my fair share of women that way. Usually good for short relationships, the kind you know won’t go too far, but go on long enough to enjoy the company.

I sat there in between the crook of two larger rocks and sipped slowly out of a pleasantly cool water bottle. I’d had the sense to throw a few ice cubes in before I left the house. It was a tad past mid-day and clouds were floating by, you know the ones were kids are pointing at the different shapes and what not.

I heard the footsteps of someone coming up the path, but I wasn’t worried. I’d known someone would come by before too long, it was guaranteed this time of year. An older gentleman, not too old but not young either, made his way gracefully up the path. He was dressed in green slacks and a green button up shirt. I figured he must be a forest ranger, but he didn’t have the usual patches on. Maybe he’d just retired. He carried with him a cooler, quite a bit bigger than most hikers would have carried. It was one of those big blue ones, white top and handle, the kind you see at a barbecue. He had worn tan boots on, and had his distinguished gray hair tied back in a ponytail. He wore a long beard. It was trimmed and combed well though, and like his long hair, just seemed to work.

“Hello young’n,” his crisp voice traveled over to where I sat.

His accent was odd to say the least. He could have been an old timer from around here, but the way his hello came out, almost made him sound foreign. Familiar, but not quite what I’d expect from one of the people around here.

“Hi,” I called back respectfully raising my right hand in greeting.

“Yuh mind if I join yah?” again he sounded like he could be an old native, but just not quite right.

“Mountain’s not mine. You’re welcome to,” with a broad smile on my face I replied.

“Yuh right ‘bout that, mountain don’t belong tah no one anymarh,” he chuckled and left it at that.

He sat down near me on a rock that had been worn down with so many other folks doing just the same. He set his cooler down and reached towards his feet, stretching his arms down towards them.

“Arrrgghhh, if I could tell you not to get old and you’d listen, I’d do so,” he chuckled.

“If I could stop it I would,” I smiled back again.

With a strangely serious face he said back, “Ayuh, I’d do the same”

I looked him over one more time and sat up straight. I put forward my hand in introduction, “My name’s Alex.”

He took it with a firm grip, “I go by quite a few names, but you can call me Grim if you like.”

“Grim it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Ayuh.”

Again, I got the sense that he’d been here for a long time, long enough to pick up the colloquialisms but not long enough to get rid of that foreign accent he seemed to have. We sat for a few minutes gazing at the same view, taking in the mountain. I saw him breathe in deeply quite a few times, and I realized he was doing something I tended to do when I first reached the summit: breathe in the clean air. Usually a silence like that can drag on, but not this time, it was a pleasant day, and it was nice to see someone get the same enjoyment as I from it.

About a hundred years ago the last of the rattlesnakes had been killed off in the state. The locals didn’t take to them very well, and there weren’t enough to really make it hard. This small mountain was just one of two in the region with the name, so they’d had a pretty wide territory back in the day. I’m not one of those folks who have any sort of phobia about snakes, I kind of find them interesting, and I’d heard a rumor about a project to reintroduce the serpent. I was sure that some bureaucracy would stop that from happening though. Some mothers group against snakes or something. My opinion was this mountain could use a few more snakes and a few less flatlanders walking around on it.