Thursday, April 7, 2011

They Only Have to Hit You Once

To fully appreciate this story, you need to know a little about my dad. He's five foot three, Texan, and out of his damn mind. His nickname is Yosemite Sam, based on his penchant for muttering under his breath then breaking into loud cursing, and for his unfortunate facial hair choices. Plus, there's the gun thing (I did say Texan). He actually shot himself in the foot. Recently.
One of my dad's...hobbies, I guess you could say, is hunting rattlesnakes. He likes to catch them and make belts and hat bands and wallets made out of the skin. Like you do.
When I was around nine or ten...actually I may have been older. Sometime between age ten and fifteen. My dad took me, my brother Brian, my stepmom Toni, my aunt Linda and my cousin Danny on a camping trip somewhere in Kern County. We'd been there a few days, long enough that Dad had already caught a rattlesnake. Brian, Danny and I woke up early and wanted to go exploring. Linda was still sleeping off the night before, so my dad gave us the go ahead (Linda never would have let Danny go, she was way over protective).
The three of us set out up the nearby creek that ran down a pass between two mountains, strolling through the cold water and hopping from rock to rock. We hiked for a few hours, stopping to explore deep pools and catch salamanders. Once we got hungry, we unpacked our snacks and picnicked on some boulders, looking up at the mountains around us. As we were finishing up, one of us (I forget who) declared that they had seen a mountain lion on the top of the hill to our left. You don't take chances with that kind of thing, so up the hill to the right we went. We hiked about halfway up the hill and then started to make our way back to the campsite. We were up away from the cool water of the creek and quickly became hot and miserable, so we picked up our pace and in about an hour we were up on the hill behind our campsite, looking down on Dad, Toni and Linda, all of whom appeared to be freaking the fuck out. Dad was cursing and throwing things around while Linda and Toni were packing things into the trucks.
The three of us looked at each other and as one started running down the hill even though it was precariously steep. Once we reached the bottom, we all went into emergency mode. We'd had plenty of practice with the dad we grew up with. I managed to sync my packing up with Toni's and asked her, "What did he do?"
"Your idiot father got himself bit by that rattlesnake. Dumbass!" That last was directed at Dad.
"Hey, it's not my fault!" he responded.
"What the hell did you think would happen? You were playing with the damn thing and you're drunk."
"I was not playing with it, woman! I was boxing with it!"

That's right. My dad had decided that it would be fun to take a rattlesnake, set it on the ground in front of him, and whap it on the head with his fist. To see who was faster. He lost.