Snakes and crackers


There are two narrow lakes on this ranch, and now that spring is here, bringing with it the first of a few minuscule tadmouses as they make the transition from tadpole to pollywog, these lakes are a source of Roo’s greatest joy. And what with her recent health issues, the most troubling of which is some stiffness and joint pain, there’s nothing I’d rather see her do than hunt tadmouses. It’s her favorite thing in the world to do and it exercises her to the point of exhaustion without making her bear too much weight.

Dogs have poor near vision, and so Roo can only spot the two-inch tadmouses from the distance of the banks, but when she gets in the water, she doesn’t see them even if they’re right under her nose. The water here is also muddy, so as soon as they dart off they’re camouflaged in mud and that’s that. Still, she loves it. That’s what made her tadmouse hunting in Maine the best in the world. They were huge and the water was clear. If I ever find other lakes like that for her to hunt in, I’m going to take a camp chair and let her do it for hours on end. I really do believe that there is nothing in the world she would rather do.

The problem here, of course, is the cottonmouths — water moccasins. We saw another one today, swimming across the lake. They’re easy to tell from regular water snakes because of the way their bodies float high in the water and they hold their heads up. Once you see one off them swim, which I only had the honor of doing a few days ago, you never confuse them for a harmless water snake again.

Roo seems to have gotten the idea that it’s a good idea to listen to me when I tell her to stay away from snakes. She checks with me before going into her usual spots and when I ask her not to, that The Snake might be there, she has been listening. At least I’ve been able to keep her out of places where I can’t first  limit her to places where I can check the banks for snakes first. Still. I have to admit to being terrified the whole time we’re out now. I can’t walk three steps without worrying about snakes. And if it’s not the cottonmouths in the water, it’s the copperheads in the deep grass. And they’re all hungry, now that their winter is over with. I can’t keep Roo on a leash all the time. She has to have exercise, and she wouldn’t get any if she was limited to my speed.

So now we have to get moving. The idea of it is murder. It becomes a full-time job. Looking for places to stay is the worst part. If we head west of here, we can find free camping, but at the price of no cell service, no internet or power. We have to run the generator, which consumes a lot of gas and has to be opened up frequently to adjust the valves. Setting up the camp every day, finding places that are good for Roo, fixing the things that constantly break (on the menu now, everything from the broken water pump to the wheel bearings). 

Committing to heading in one direction or the other from here in east Oklahoma is another problem. We’re not just south of the exact center of the country. If we head north, we’re going to end up drifting again from camp to camp and I can’t take it. They’re all going to be filling up and I can’t take the smoke.

Over the past couple of years I developed some kind of vicious allergy to woodsmoke, and even though most Americans go camping in order to watch TV and drink Bud Lights, most insist on the tradition of keeping a huge campfire stoked even when its 90 degrees and all they do is sit in their apartment-size fifth wheels cleaning their AR-15s while Sean Hannity warns them about the Deep State from a plasma TV. Camping in red state America has become nightmarish. You can feel the power of all the prayers for war, for getting the chance to shoot a libtard, reverberating through those campgrounds. This has got to be the most beautiful country in the world. Thee’s no way not to come to believe that if you spend as much time on its backroads as I have. The mean-spiritedness of half the population abroad in a land like that makes for a sustained dissonance. The other half of the population, lacking the desire to belittle or persecute others, stands no chance against them. They’re like a 1500-pound man dead of gangrene in an outhouse. Who’s going to haul the sonofabitch out? Better just bulldoze the thing and save up for indoor plumbing. 

When we came back from Roo’s walk today, one of the guys who works this place warned me that a group had moved into the space next to ours and that he had had to spend all day cleaning up after them because they had been burning railroad ties all night. The reason railroad ties last so long is that they have creosote in them. Any idiot knows you don’t burn them unless it’s someplace you don’t want to stink up. But there is a class of cracker in America that thinks of doing things like that, or trashing places up with Bud Light cans and smashed Mike’s Hard Lemonade bottles, or taking dumps at the foot of a 600-year-old cedar tree and leaving mounds of toilet paper behind are what constitute the Liberty That Must Be Protected From Democrats And Muslims At All Costs. Never underestimate the American slob. He is unequalled in feelings of righteousness. He believes in the elite of the ignoramus and is certain of his place in it. It is why no amount of bad behavior from the president will ever erode their support for him. The American cracker is not equipped intellectually with the capacity to understand much beyond their admiration for someone who says “fuck you” a lot. America has been breeding those chickens for years, and now they’re home to roost.

For the last couple of nights a horrible smoky stench took the camper over. I thought the crate was on fire and went out to look it over a few times. It wasn’t and I looked around to see who was burning a fire, but no one was. I couldn’t figure it out. I couldn’t find the source of what was stinking the camper up, but the creosote-burning campers explained it. The crackers. It’s the problem with being stuck in this camper. I’m probably turning into a cracker myself. If I do, please — some friend come and do the right thing and shot me.

The ranch hand, Randy, shook his head. “Burning railroad ties,” he said.

“Man,” I said.

“Railroad ties,” he said. “Eight foot long. Didn’t even put ‘em out. Let ‘em burn all night. I had to clean that whole porch, that whole side of the house.” They had been staying in one of the rooms for rent. That was why I didn’t see them burning the fire that has now filled the camper with a lasting stench of smoke.

“Fair warning,” he said. “Now they picked out the spot next to yours. And they got a bass boat and a fish cutting table and everything.”

The whole campground is empty. This happens all the time. Somehow people think there’s nothing you might enjoy more than their company four feet away from you. People are inexplicable.

“Fair warning,” he said again.

“Between them and the snakes,” I said, shaking my head. “Well, it’s been time to get moving anyway.”

“Railroad ties,” he said again.

[As long-tiome readers of this blog know, I've had a lot of trouble with our camper. I wrote a book about it. But a copy here on Amazon.]