Snake for Supper

Creosote bush as far as the eye can see. We are driving out of Animas in the far south-west corner of New Mexico.

Only small towns here. Animas active, almost buzzing, things do happen here. Haticha almost deserted, an abandoned church where people obviously have slept for a night, an old locked-up trailer with beautiful sculptures in the window, a replica of the Three Graces in stone.

Everywhere in the area the people are surprisingly beautiful and modern. It’s us behind the times, not quite knowing yet that it all can coexist.

I thought this road would eventually take us to Apache, Rodeo and then Paradise, but it does not. It goes to Cloverdale. Taking the back roads through the park we will end up in Douglas, Arizona, a border town to Mexico.

Not concerned where we end up. it’s November, but the sun through the windshield is hot.

Suddenly the centre line on the road wiggles … a snake.

I make a U-turn and find a rattler recently run over, probably the border patrol since they’re the only ones besides us on this lonely road. Its head is squashed but the body is perfect.

I afraid of the poisonous fangs, Michael carefully places it in a bag. “Fresh road kill will make a great….”

A few kilometres beyond, we turn into a rancher’s dirt road, toward the mountains. We open and close the simple but functional wire fences, some held together with canes of ocotillo or cholla.

We weave through the desert, the endless scape turning into rocks, crossing arroyos, the dry creek beds that lead toward the outcrops on the top. We find a camping spot right on top of the continental divide, which runs along the tops of these Animas Mountains.

Here in the mountains that rise from the seemingly flat desert, life is abundant. Places where water seems close to the surface, but also high up on the rocks.

There are animal tracks, the sounds of birds, and now that we know some snakes might not be dormant yet, we watch where we put our feet and listen for the sound of a rattle.

The ocotillos grow tall with long groping arms full of spines. Walking, one must navigate around them. Even bushes have prickles in this desert land. Agaves with needle-sharp leaves.

I collect some fruits of the prickly pears, while Michael prepares our main dish: Mojave rattlesnake. Indeed.

The skin peels like a banana and the entrails come out surprisingly clean. He cuts it into bite-size pieces. A bit of butter in the skillet, a light sauté, and voila! Supper’s ready.

An excellent free meal … part of the nomadic lifestyle. The taste is clean but rather bland. With our teeth we pull the meat off the tiny bones, pleasantly.

Later, in yet another amazing sunset, I lay out the skin with salt to preserve it and weave a basket of beargrass to keep it in.

We may never end up in the town of Paradise, but we are in the Garden of Eden, sitting among the 20-foot tall flower stalks of the century plant.

He the most beautiful man (“It’s then that I loved you the most”); I the most beautiful woman.

With the last rays of the November sun on my face, I become aware of the agelessness of our existence and the joy of simple pleasures.

Nature (and an unseen vehicle) providing a meal without modern conveniences.

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