Loose Ends: They shoot rattlesnakes

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RBC | “Are you still shooting rattlesnakes?” a high school classmate asked me after reconnecting on social media. Having moved to the western slope of Colorado so many years earlier, I’d forgotten my long letters to friends and family regaling them with all of my “Back East meets Out West” stories. 

That first year I was included in an afternoon of shooting. The way one of the party described it, we were going to pop as many pesky prairie dogs as possible. The rancher’s cattle kept getting stuck in the holes all over the ranch, so the friends had been enlisted to try and get rid of as many of the pests as possible. The only creature who met his demise was a rattlesnake that day and I never knew who was threatened by his sudden presence. My friend remembered me including the dispatching of the rattlesnake in the story and thought it was funny to refer to a popular movie, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” I had forgotten that I’d written about the experience as if it were a golf-get-together with friends. No more invitations ensued, as I assumed the rancher was not too pleased with the unsuccessful outing.

The greatest disconnect between me and my new home was everyone’s dogged determination to maintain their western image. One of my friends said that her father would have been none too pleased with the friendship, as if we had met two decades earlier, he didn’t raise her to be friends with “townies.” Then there was that uncomfortable silence that settled over a room when our dinner hosts proudly pointed out their newest wall decoration — the head of an unlucky critter. The only gun-owner in my immediate family was my grandfather, who reportedly got a weapon after someone broke into the house in the middle of the night. 

There is no disconnect these days as most people did not turn the facts of our different upbringings into a long list of reasons for treating me as “other.” There were lots of snarky barbs and jokes but those never escalated into name calling or threats of bodily harm. These days in both the rural and urban sections of Colorado the divide between “us” and “them” gets greater. It does not matter if we share our neighbor’s political or religious views, we must continue to accept each other to ensure that our community remains a great place to raise a family.

By DOLLY VISCARDI | Special to the Herald Times