Saturday, June 9, 2012


When I started the day at this start of summer, and was schlepping to the kitchen to put the coffee on, I noted what I thought to be bit of fuzz on the tile floor. My better half had been carpet cleaning the day before and I thought an errant sprig of carpet had escaped her cleanup. I touched it with the toe of my shoe and it unfurled into two and a half inches of bark scorpion. It scurried off but I was quicker, crushing its exoskeleton with a long reach of my shod foot. Barefoot is not something we do a lot of here, especially in the summer. I know about scorpion stings; one sent me to Urgent Care one late night when I didn’t see the one my socked foot found.

Incidentally the interior walls in our house are white and our floor tile is light-colored to make it easier to spot the ubiquitous tan scorpions. Most likely such an admission would not be a good sales spiel if I were showing my house to a prospective buyer. Unless the buyer was a fellow Southwestern desert dweller. Scorpions are routine here in Arizona. Even Our Governor acknowledged it with her recently released book, Scorpions For Breakfast.

Other little-appreciated residents that show up fairly regularly, in and around homes constructed over tracts of desert landscape, are rattlesnakes.

Last summer I gave my homemade snake pole to my great grandson. He was eight at the time and it was high time for him to take on manly chores. My granddaughter, his mother, didn’t feel that way, and deprived him of the useful tool. Families will talk and my daughter who lives out in the country heard about it all and her response did not sympathize with her daughter, my granddaughter. She, my daughter, was hurt that I gave away a snake pole to the kid when she herself didn’t have one but did recognize the need.

In the meantime I had made a replacement for my own use, and to soothe my petulant daughter I gave it to her. Now I had given away two perfectly good and design-proven snake catchers, and had none for myself. In making yet another replacement, I tweaked the design. Instead of the thin woven string cord I had used before, which when looped at the business end hung loosely and tended to close under it’s own weight, I thought to used insulated electric cord. I could open the loop before attacking and it would remain open, making it a lot easier to grab the viper. It tested great. It hung in my garage for several months before being called to duty.

The house next door is occupied by an elderly woman and her adult daughter. The daughter made the panicked call for help, and of course I answered. The rattlesnake was coiled in their back yard, up next to their screen patio, and under a lawn chair, and very noisy at being disturbed.  It looked big, but they always do. It turns out this one was only about three feet long but was very fat. Had I suspended it, it would have stretched to four feet under it’s own weight. I opened the virgin loop and invited the rattler in, and it worked exactly as I intended. I snugged the loop tight several inched behind the snake’s head. Then I discovered the fault in my new design.

I couldn’t let the snake go. The loop would not loosen because the wire core remained bent when I pulled it tight but the insulated wire running through the long PVC pipe handle was too flexible to push back through and overcome the snug bend around the sharp end of the rattlesnake. I intended to turn the critter loose in the desert surrounding our housing development, but far away from the houses, maybe in a dry wash. But I realized my too-tight loop had damaged the snake beyond healing, so I had to put him away.

Now it’s back to the drawing board to make my snake loop again. I’ll go back to the old tried and true and more flexible woven cord loop, and practice at holding the loop open long enough to snag a snake. I shouldn’t have to wait long to field-test it.

JIM WOODS is an independent editor assisting book authors, small presses and corporations with line, style, and substance editing; applying his expertise to novels, short story collections, nonfiction and corporate image.  Formerly, he was in-house Editor, Managing Editor and Editorial Director with Petersen Publishing Company, Beverly Hills; and satellite Contributing Editor with Publishers Development Corporation, San Diego.  His professional associations include American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and Outdoor Writers of America (OWAA).  He is a world traveler, having set foot in more than six-dozen countries on six continents, and is a worldwide big-game hunter. In addition to sixteen books, he has published some four hundred articles in Outdoor Life, Popular Mechanics, Petersen’s Hunting, Guns & Ammo, Western Outdoors, Southern Outdoors and other guns and hunting magazines. He lives and works in Tucson, Arizona. Find him on line at:


  1. I hear you, Jim. I was raised in copperhhead counry E. PA. Now I live among the coral snakes and gators -- oh that's our team!

  2. OOohh sounds awful. Coming from Africa we have to deal with other crawlies. The gecko for example, and although perfectly harmless, chills my blood. Give a leopard anyday :)
    Nice blog James, thanks for sharing