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  • I come from the East. Boston. We do not have rattlers. (We have venomous snakes, but only in the metaphorical sense.) Snakes freak me out. I mean girlie yelling and waving of arms. I stepped on a small garden snake once near a pond in Maine. That about did me in. Nightmares for weeks. I can still remember how it felt against my bare sole and get the shivers. My life has taken an odd turn for a 60 year old urban woman. I discovered the mid-west due to my involvement with Peter, a Scot living in Tenerife, and with Young Man Afraid of His Horses and Two Moons, our spirit guides.

    When I went onto the PIne Ridge reservation for the first time, I never gave rattlesnakes a thought. Then we stopped to see Young Man's gun at the Museum of the Fur Trader and saw this sign on the wall. It is posted to remind you of the danger just before you step out to the outdoor exhibits. Needless to say, I did not step out into the back. I went back out to the car, when I was finished looking around, through the front door and the paved parking lot. At Bear Butte, I laced up my shoe right by a sunning rattler, unaware of its presence until Peter mentioned it later. Much later. I freaked in delayed reaction. That was year one.

    But last year, sleeping out on the prairie in a tipi (pause... I have to let that sink in still...), we were invaded by two bull snakes, over 6 feet long, and a rattler. I say we were invaded, but I admit that we mowed the pow wow grounds to hold the summer camp and the snakes were forced to take refuge into the trunk of a tree until they could come out again. Unfortunately, one came out during supper. I got my camera out and took its photo while one of the men picked it up and relocated it. Harmless, I was told. Yeah, right. The second one was dispatched just as easily.

    The rattler, on the other hand, was a bloodier issue. That snake came out of the prairie grass amid a group of kids playing volleyball. One camp director bludgeoned it while it was coiled to strike. I missed this part, although I did witness the blood spatters on the girls. The interesting part of this incident was the respect with which the kids and the adults dispatched the spirit of the snake to the ancestors. They sprinkled tobacco and sang to the spirit, a respectful ritual to send one of their animal brothers along its way.
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