Monday, March 25, 2013

There's nothing I like better than a snake...except a Tornado

My friend invited our family to go hiking with hers and added as an incentive, "It's rattlesnake season!"

Incentive? you ask. INCENTIVE? Well, it should never....unless like my friend and me, instead of running away from danger, you creep near for a good looksey. Post-hike, I took a lot of flack for oogling that rattlesnake last spring. People I love and trust, persons of good sense, made the perhaps justified assumption that I was temporarily insane or permanently stupid. All I will say in my defense is this: you just don't know how you'll react to a poisonous snake until you see one (though I really do recommend backing away...Quickly!)

Usually, I am no crocodile hunter. Sure, I might keep a pet tarantula if the rest of the family would consent, but I flee cockroaches. My brother-in-law told me horror stories of centipedes that gave me an absolute paranoia. Every night I diligently check my bed for scorpions. I would never play catch with a javelina, and I don't believe I would ever stoop to pat a Gila monster on the head; if I did a photo of me with a Gila monster in a venomous steel grip on my appendage would be circulated with a caption that read, And this is why you don't play with wild animals! Daredevil, I'm not. No thrill-seeker. So why did I suddenly turn snake charmer? I suppose it is this: put me out in nature and, confronted with the unusual or the dangerously beautiful, I feel inclined to do the darndest things on the spur of the moment.

This impulsiveness is why I am currently fascinated by the show Storm Chasers. These crazy meteorologists stand outside their vehicles oohing and ahing at a twister 10 feet away when most people would be hunkered down with hands on head, eyes squeezed shut and praying.

I have asked my husband if he would consider chasing with me when the kids are grown. Nope! He doesn't think we'd get along. I'd probably be the Reed Timmer of our team, using exclamations like, "It's beautiful! A beast! Look at that rotation!" followed by, "Let's get in the path of this thing!" as I push hard for the intercept of the mile-wide funnel, risking my face getting cut up by my shattered vehicle's window. He'd be the more practical Joel Taylor, weighing the risk of loss of limb or life for a one-time shot. The only difference is, my husband would win the battle of wills.

Like snakes, I have found tornadoes fascinating since my childhood in Tennessee when my family would march down the rickety basement steps as soon as the reception went out on the TV amid the anchors' talk about watches and warnings. That vast cellar, lit by one weak, dusty bulb, had all the welcoming atmosphere of Mordor and could have harbored Shelob in its recesses. Maybe that's why we were each allotted a favorite stuffed animal before the descent. Nevertheless, the adrenaline was rushing as eyes scanned the shadows and the tiny rectangular window and ears strained to distinguish something greater in the whistle of the wind.

Living now in the Southwest, the closest I'll likely get to a twister is by twirling the Tiny Tornado maker on my desk. It was my man's first gift to me as romance blossomed. It cures some of my and watching Storm Chasers.

My enthusiasm is tempered each time the show reminds me that tornadoes, in all their ferocious beauty, have the power to do great harm to human beings. The meteorologists and scientists point out time and again the huge emotional swing of being on an adrenaline high while getting a great shot and salvaging data, and then minutes later coming to towns that have just been hit by nature's awesome monster. It's a wake-up call. They have to help the shell-shocked and injured.

Snakes are like tornadoes - dangerous, best viewed from a safe distance. Unlike twisters, however, I am quite likely to encounter them in these parts. Next hike I plan to give them a wide berth. After all, that's why rattlesnakes have their own special warning systems. Just like funnel-generating super cells.


  1. Jeez, they really thought rattle snakes would be an incentive? They should try chocolate chip cookies next time if they want to lure you out there.

    1. It's all in good fun, Kellie. My friend and I are part of a very small club of two: hikers who have gotten excited after seeing a rattlesnake...or, uh, two.

      However, I will definitely be warning my children to stay on the trails and put heavy duty shoes on their feet before we go this time. As the boy scouts say, Be Prepared!


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