Tag Archives: ground squirrels

Snake on the Sabbath

 

 

If it isn’t enough to worry about Covid-19, smoke in the canyon from over 500 fires in California, last week’s 110+° heat, or pre-election politics, we seem to have been visited by more rattlesnakes than normal, undoubtedly following the ground squirrels focused on the orchard and garden, even though I’ve trimmed the squirrel population around the house by 500 or so this year. Don’t despair squirrel lovers, 300 yards from the house, the ground continues to be alive with them, yet another hatch ready to move in.

Tessa, our 10 month-old Border Collie was tethered on the front deck to keep her out of trouble when she spotted this one near the orchard, herded by a single small bird to the back of the house, probably a house finch at the snake’s head. Hair up on her back, Tessa raised a serious ruckus. After spotting it, Robbin called me from the garden, retrieved the bird shot, and I dispatched the snake.

Typically in the summer, the older dogs retreat under the deck where we’ve killed two rattlesnakes this year, and another at the dog pens, all big. We wonder, of course, at how many we don’t see.

With the help of Ken McKee, we’ve been fine tuning our bird shot loads now that the factory loads, that used to be #9 shot, have become more of a home defense load with #4 shot. With such a poor pattern, the first snake under the deck required 5 shots of factory loads. We’ve been experimenting with #12 shot, but the .38 plastic shot shells are brittle and require a significant crimp to keep them in the case after recoil in revolvers. The significant crimp keeps the pattern small at six feet, the plastic shot shell acting more like a slug. After having one snake get away, and another that required four shots, I moved back to ten feet this morning. With still enough poop to penetrate the snake, I paralyzed him on the first shot.

Supervised by Jack, our 15 year-old Border Collie, I am removing this four-footer to the end of the driveway, my designated feed ground for the buzzards, to emulate roadkill.

 

TASTE OF PEACH

 

The Elberta ripens
thinned by ground squirrels—
dogs bark at night:
raccoons down from the hills.

I have lost my car again
trapped in another strange place
without friends, backtracking
in my dreams to rise

in the dark, fumble
for a light too bright
to find my way outside
to follow the dogs with a rifle

to the gate beside the peach tree.
No eyes burning in the black,
barking fades out of range,
I am now awake

and wonder what it takes
to save a peach,
or why we bother—
other than its taste.

 

PICKING PEACHES GREEN

 

Behind our back, ground squirrels
crawling on their bellies raid
the peach tree, an Elberta with huge

fruit starting to color that bob
and bounce across the pasture,
bigger than the heads that run

with them gripped in yellow teeth.
Come evening, a flutter of black
feathers, our resident pair of crows

dining at the fence line on scattered
cadavers, fuzzy lumps awaiting
buzzards for breakfast.

Everyone trying to make a living,
nothing goes to waste,
not even peaches.

                                        – for Mas Masumoto