It was surprisingly magnificent
Tuesday May 21st 2024, 9:55 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

There’s a road about five miles long that ends at a preserve near the Bay in one direction and runs towards the mountains in the other, sloping upward but never quite reaching that far. On its western end it takes you through what were once endless apricot orchards; now there’s just the Heritage Orchard by city hall and the library. Most of its apricot trees were replanted in the last year or two because the prior ones had had a bad case of old (or it may have been their roots drowned in all those atmospheric rivers.) The new ones are growing nicely with lots of the redness of baby leaves at top and they are in lines facing that road, spaced closely.

Which, on the other side, has Main street and its shops angling away like the arms of a Y.

I was at the front in the right-most of the three lanes coming down that hill while stopped at a red where the two roads come together. A woman was walking across towards the apricot trees but kept turning back and motioning a clear Come on. Come on! to someone I couldn’t see through the taller cars to my left.

The wave of an arm in return and then I saw who she was gesturing to. I had assumed he was standing in the median waiting for the next walk sign, which would mean standing there through another cycle with all those lanes of cars whizzing by, and I didn’t get why he wasn’t just racing to catch up with her–but now it looked like he was actually in the road. That was nuts.

The light turned.

I inched forward.

He waved me emphatically on: GO. GO!

So I did, slowly, not knowing at first why.

Only then did I see.

The car next to me started to then quickly thought better of it. The car in the left turn lane wasn’t going anywhere.

The man was trying to protect what I now knew he knew we wouldn’t have seen in time. It was easily six feet long or more, the shades of gray of the pavement, and as the snake twisted its body in the sun, in those half-rolling motions there was an unexpected glistening, the lighter belly accenting the dark upper.

I have never in my life seen such a huge snake in the wild. Though it seems almost a perversion to describe the widest part of that commuter road in that town as in any way wild.

I will never again hear the phrase herding cats without thinking of that guy trying to encourage a snake to cross the three lanes plus bike lane of that nice warm road.

How many of those baby apricot trees could it climb all at the same time?

Conversation later at home: The only native snakes that big around here I think are the rattlesnakes, he told me, and some of them are quite dark. Did you see the patterning?

The right-eye retina scarring got the better of me, I told him. I was the farthest car away and I couldn’t quite see that level of detail to be sure.

Edited to add: after Googling snake types in California? He was apparently right. Rattler.

2 Comments so far
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Yikes! I try to respect all living creatures, but a rattle snake?

Comment by DebbieR 05.22.24 @ 9:57 am

Oh, yikes! Pretty sure I would have been freaking out. Glad you appreciated it!

Comment by ccr in MA 05.22.24 @ 3:48 pm

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