Just when you thought you were safe …

There’s a lot to be said for the simple pleasures of rural living, particularly here in S’lano County, where men are men and women can bulldog a John Deere.

Life moves at a little slower pace here (usually due to an overturned car in the middle of the road) and the air seems just a little fresher.

So many dangers of urban living are left behind when you pack up your laptop and head for the verdant hills of Allendale or Pleasants Valley.

In the city, there’s always the danger of being mugged or getting hit by a bus, or being hit by a busload of muggers (hey, it happens …).

Here in S’lano County, crime is almost nonexistent – just ask the district attorney as he rocks gently back and forth in his hammock behind the Hall of Justice. When a crime does occur, it’s usually just a misunderstanding involving a pair of zany inebriates wrecking their car while trying to get away from a hitchhiker with a severed head in his duffel bag (hey, it happened …)

That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t some unique hazards to be encountered in rural S’lano County. And, I should point out, “unique” might be understating the case if you believe the account of one longtime Vacan who stopped by to complain about an unexpected airborne threat she’d encountered a short time ago.

“What’s wrong with this county, anyway?” she asked irritably. “Every time you turn around, something goofy’s hanging over your head. Now they tell me the place has flying rattlesnakes. I hate flying rattlesnakes …”

Uh-huh. Flying rattlesnakes …

It seems the young woman in question was visiting some relaxed rural folk in Pleasants Valley when they casually warned her about the likelihood of being hit by a falling rattlesnake.

Large predatory birds in the area, they claimed, would occasionally snatch up a yummy rattler from the valley floor, climb rapidly to a thousand feet or so and then drop their prey earthward in an attempt to kill it (or just to irritate the hell out of venomous snakes and pedestrians alike).

“That’s not something you really want to hear on a hot July afternoon. You want to be able to sit back in the shade and suck on a Budweiser without worrying about some halfwit turkey buzzard dropping an 8-pound rattler in your lap – and you know they’ve gotta be really mad when they finally land somewhere,” she added.

Although I’ve been unable to verify any incident of a rural Solanoan – or even a tourist – being bitten by an airborne rattlesnake, I have to admit that the danger of falling reptiles might be a possibility in some remote corner of the county where large numbers of snake-eating birds regularly congregate.

Oldtimers hereabouts probably have a pretty good idea of when and where they’re most likely to encounter skydiving serpents. Others, however, might want to take some simple precautions until we can confirm or disprove this tale of rural terror.

Tourists and relocated city dwellers would do well to invest in a wide-brimmed sombrero before venturing out into the hinterlands of S’lano County.

For maximum protection, rural travelers might want to consider strapping a sturdy aluminum trash can lid to their heads. They’re sure to get a nod of approval from their snake-savvy country cousins.

Better safe than sorry, amigos …

Originally published August 6, 2000