Incident in San Francisco (Chapter 8, page 2 of 8)


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Chapter 8

While gophers and squirrels could also be controlled by rattlesnakes, most ranchers succumbed to the primordial enmity between man and snake and killed them on sight. Although these were not as aggressive as rattlers in Texas and the southwest, they did grow to considerable size, and the sudden shot of adrenaline produced by the sound of one's warning rattle usually triggered a reaction which resulted in the rattler's death. They did pose a deadly threat: the instructions on dealing with a snakebite were clear.

"Remain calm, and get to a medical facility within 30 minutes," might be doable if one were bitten in a county park or suburban backyard. Out here, it could take most of the 30 minutes just to get to the nearest building or vehicle, and the victim could then still be half an hour or more from town. The knowledge that the deadly venom was working its way through the system, and that the flesh in the immediate area of the bite would soon begin to be eaten away by the poison, was guaranteed to make it difficult to remain calm if one was over an hour from medical help. Besides the danger to humans, many country people had lost pets to rattlers, or had large animals sicken or die from bites received when they had unwittingly stepped on, or too near to, a sleeping rattlesnake. Gopher snakes also frequently grew to be over 4 feet in length and had a brownish-green color similar to the rattlers, though without the diamond pattern, but a quick glance at either end identified the snake as poisonous or not. The gopher snake had a thick neck and small head compared to the rattler's pencil neck and broad, triangular viper's head. At the other end, the gopher snake's smooth, tapered tail was in sharp contrast to the stack of dried rattles which gave its poisonous relative its name, and so frequently spelled its doom.

Wild pigs fell into the same category as coyotes. For ranchers without cultivated crops, the pigs caused little harm, although there were instances of them ripping up water pipes or overturning troughs to get water. Some ranches had miles of underground pipe to supply water to distant areas, either pumped up from a river or fed by gravity using a higher pond or spring as source. Having those damaged or destroyed was a serious matter. The pigs were also known, in rare instances, to have killed a cow which was down on the ground, unable to get up through illness or weakened by a hard calving. While domestic pigs lived on ground-up cereal grains, these wild and feral beasts were omnivorous. When hunters wanted to be assured of getting a pig or two for a barbecue or for a hunting client, they frequently used the carcass of a dead animal as bait. But most ranchers tolerated the pigs, finding in them a supplemental source of meat and of income from hunting leases or guided hunts.

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