Category Archives: Rattlesnakes

Montana Fields

We try to get out to Montana every year in October for some bird hunting and photography and hiking. This year, we arrived to about an inch of snow. While it is beautiful, it is quite chilly. The good thing about it is that rattlesnakes don’t like cold weather so I didn’t have to worry as much about Emma and Ruby getting bitten.

You may remember Emma as a puppy four years ago. We had great hopes that she would someday become a good flusher and retriever of game birds.

She hasn’t disappointed us. In spite of being quite small, this English field cocker spaniel is full of energy and her cuddly nature takes a back seat when it comes to finding birds. Nothing gets away from her.

If you thought the prairies were only boring grassy fields, you couldn’t be more wrong. The coulees are full of prickly shrubs, birds, and small animals. A fat hare came tearing out of the shrubs here and just as I was about to snap a photo, my battery died.

But later I caught this mule deer running away from all the commotion. I traipsed along behind the Captain and Emma as they did their pheasant hunting thing, hoping for something interesting to photograph, and I saw something the deer had left behind last year — an antler shed. It was only the second time I had ever found one and I was quite happy about stumbling across it.

After the snow from the day before, the mostly clay ground was “wettish,” and while we had heavy clods of mud on our boots, Emma’s feet were getting harder and harder for her to pick up. Besides collecting many burrs in her fur, she had huge clumps of clay on her feet. Here she is getting them soaked off, just before I took the comb and scissors to her curly ears to remove the burrs.

She is usually so energetic, we weren’t sure this was our Emma flaked out on the couch after the day’s outing.

It was Ruby’s turn to go out today, but she is sick. We think she drank some bad water. This has happened one other year and we have given her some meds that we hope will fix her up in a day or two.

PS Now, two days later, Ruby is feeling much better. We are so relieved.



We’re on the road again. No van this time. No more travels from years ago. We are back to the present. Pulling a small trailer, we are like snails dragging our home on our backs. After driving through scrub land in the state of Washington, we found a perfect oasis near the mighty Columbia River. Wanapum State Park was a great place to stay for the night. All the services were available for trailer hookups, and although our trailer is a very modest one, we especially appreciated the convenience of having electricity.

The grounds were lush and well cared for, but a stone’s throw away, was the semi-arid scrub land reminding us that we were, nevertheless, in the middle of nowhere. The sign posted nearby reminded us of that. It said: “Rattlesnake Area.”


That night, I heard the yip-yip-yipping of coyotes. Ruby, our springer spaniel, gave a little woof and curled up more tightly on her mat on the trailer floor, knowing we would save her if anything came near. In the morning, in the scrubby area near the campground, one of the coyotes was enjoying the warmth of the sun on his coat.


That’s the Columbia River in the background.


I thought this fellow looked very well fed. He posed for me for quite a while, and just when I thought he would turn and run, he sat down instead to enjoy more of the sunshine.


I hope he can read, so he knows about the rattlers. Be careful out there!

Putting off Winter

I’m trying to think of ways to put off Christmas/winter for just a little longer. Maybe I’ll get inspired next week and get some decorations up. But for one more blog posting, I want to reminisce about the last bit of summerish sunshine I found in Montana in October. No wonder I’m yearning for it. Since  we got home, it seems all we’ve had is one bad weather system after another. First it’s wind and rain and then it’s rain and wind.

So I hope you won’t mind taking one more trip back to Montana with me to remember those sunny days. Walking through a field that the farmer had left natural–not fallow, but natural–I came across unexpected treasures. This juniper bush, for example; I wish I could share the aroma with you through the photo.

Juniper bush with berries

Juniper bush with berries

The field seemed to be nothing but a bunch of old grasses at first, but it was full of life. Even the plant life was interesting because of so many varieties. It was very, very quiet here, except for the swishing of the grasses in the slight breeze.

High grasses of many types

High grasses of many types

Imagine you are high-stepping it through these grasses when you happen to look up and, from the clump of bushes ahead, an owl silently lifts off and glides away to another clump of dense brush a safer distance from the intruders. I tried to take his picture but he was too quick and his silent flight gave him several seconds’ head start. The photo I got only shows that a bird was actually there, but you can’t tell that it was Detective Owl of Who Dunnnit fame.

Detective Owl might have had a little drink. He's quite blurry.

Detective Owl might have had a little drink. He’s quite blurry.

Owls are not the only birds around here. Upland game birds, such as pheasants, partridge and grouse can be found here too. If I had a pheasant  for the pot, I’d have no trouble finding the herbs to spice it up with. This sage is aromatic and ready to use.

Perfect for the stuffing.

Perfect for the stuffing.

But in case I started thinking too much about dinner, I continued my high-stepping hike through the field and had to concentrate on keeping out of the mucky spot where a bit of water had collected, maybe to keep the cattails happy.

They like it a little bit wetter so you'll find them in the lower dips of the field.

They like it a little bit wetter so you’ll find them in the lower dips of the field.

Not wanting to get my feet wet, I climbed higher up the hillside. Near the crest of the hill I was surprised to see a plant I had only expected to see in semi-desert terrain.

Prickly pear cactus. I was so glad to be wearing my heavy boots.

Prickly pear cactus. I was so glad to be wearing my heavy boots.

It was at this point that I remembered a farmer saying that it may be October but the rattlers haven’t denned up yet. Where there’s dry ground and prickly pear cactus, there could possibly be rattlesnakes. I walked back to the truck along the edge of the planted field that bordered the natural one. This way I could see the earth between the wheat stubble and I kept my eyes busy sweeping the ground about ten feet ahead of me. I wasn’t really worried about snakes, and I felt pretty safe with my high leather boots, but still, I believe it’s better to avoid trouble than to have to confront it.

It was a beautiful warm day and I felt part of the natural world – maybe a little bit high on all the fresh air. I loved it here. Someday I’ll come back again to the farms near the Missouri River.

A very long river

A very long river