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The Verdict

ROBERT GARDNER --

August 01, 2000

ROBERT GARDNER

A long time ago, I wrote a column about two incidents in which

rattlesnakes struck at me and missed.

The first was when I was a small boy in Wyoming. I was pushing my way

through the sagebrush in a small ravine when I put my hand on a

rattlesnake stretched out on a rock. He struck at my hand but was

apparently sluggish from his winter hibernation. Anyway, I pulled my hand

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away just in time, and he missed.

The second incident occurred a few years ago. Lee Hasenjager, his

wife, my wife and I had rented a houseboat for a romantic trip on the

Florida Keys. The first night, we got to a small key called Rider Key,

way to hell and gone out in the Gulf of Mexico.

That night, a hurricane hit and we sweated out several days of trying

to keep our houseboat afloat. Then we made a run for that highway that

runs all the way to Key West. We made it, and wonder of wonders, found a

spot where someone had dredged a boat slip out of a key over which the

highway went.

Lee was the pilot and put the boat into the slip. But the stern was

still banging against the sides of the slip, so I jumped ashore and

started to run through the jungle to the stern of the houseboat. I almost

stepped on a rattlesnake. He struck at my foot but missed. I stopped,

picked up a stick and killed him. End of original story.

An editor at the Pilot put a headline on that story which read,

"Here's hoping that rattlesnakes don't get a third chance at me."

Well, I stumbled across that column the other day and belatedly

realized that a rattlesnake did get that third chance.

I was dove hunting in Paso Robles with Bill Lester and Don Lenk. We

had stationed ourselves in a small ravine through which we hoped some

doves would fly. I was on one side, Bill and Don on the other.

Suddenly, they yelled, "Bob, watch out! There's a rattlesnake coming

down in back of you."

I turned around, and sure enough, there was a 4-foot rattler coming

right at me. I suddenly gave up dove hunting and became a rattlesnake

hunter. I shot his head off with my shotgun, which was a lot easier than

killing him with a small stick, as I had done in Florida.

As far as I am concerned, my experiences with rattlesnakes have come

to and end, but I'm not sure rattlesnakes feel the same way.

For that reason, I do not intend to go to the Florida Keys again, nor

to return to Wyoming. And I have no intention of going dove hunting

again.

And just to be sure, I approach every pile of driftwood on the beach

with great care. Rattlesnakes get washed down streams and rivers, and

that fourth rattlesnake may just be lying in wait for me.

*

* ROBERT GARDNER is a Corona del Mar resident and a former judge. His

column runs Tuesdays.

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