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We had many other kinds of snakes on the ranch. The

most spectacular were the black and white king snakes.

Their colors, those alternating bands of creamy white and

jet black, were beautiful. Although harmless to humans,

they were sure death to mice, pack rats, and birds.


Our garden, on the ranch, was in a field a half mile or

so above the house. One day I was walking up to it, and I

heard a bird, western chat, very noisily screaming and chat-

tering. I made my way through some willows and other

shrubs to where the bird was sounding off, and found a

king snake wrapped around a limb of a small tree, with his

head in a birds nest, the chat's nest.


The chat was diving on the snake, beating at it with

its wings and pecking with its beak, but the snake ignored

it. The king snake saw me or felt my presence. It immediately

put its body in reverse, and before I could act, flowed

down the limb to the ground, and lost itself in the under-



I looked into the nest, which had contained four birds,

and found one lonely baby chat. The snake had devoured

the rest, and would have eaten the last one if I hadn't

happened along. I debated what to do. I knew the snake

would come back to the nest. I thought of trying to move

it to a taller tree, but I didn't know whether the parents

would abandon it if I handled it in the moving process. Then,

also, I didn't know how to secure the nest. I couldn't just

set it in the crotch of a tree, because, unsecured, a gust of

wind would have sent it to the ground.


Finally, I decided to leave it alone, and let nature run

its course. I left the chattering parent and the young bird

with the hope that the king snake would forget the

location of the nest and the little chat that cowered there.

However, that hope was in vain, because when I returned

the next day, the nest was empty.


Nature is cruel, not just because several young chats

were killed, but because in this life there are the predators

and the prey the predators living at the expense of the

prey, and those chats had so much potential. The chat is

almost as versatile as the mocking bird. His notes and it's

songs are many and varied, ranging from trills to outright

chattering or scolding.


I felt that through their death, the earth was diminished.

Moreover, the parents moved away from the gar-

den, and I missed them very much, but the bird's death

benefited the snake. It was sustained by the meal the

young chats furnished, and I am sure, by curbing the

proliferation of mice, rats, and rattlesnakes (king

snakes kill and eat rattlesnakes). They do more good

than harm. Yet, in the battle for survival, I would prefer

that the chats and other birds would be successful. After

all, a king snake can't sing, and there are very few of

we humans who don't get a creepy crawly feeling when

in the presence of a snake.


I worked for a man named Van Zyverden in Crescent,

in the southeast corner of Salt Lake Valley, during the early

1950s. He was from Holland, and was trying to start a


tulip farm. One day, I was following him down a ditch. I

noticed a middle sized blow snake that he had disturbed

when he stepped over it, but he hadn't seen it. I picked it

up, caught up with him, and said, "Her Van, I've got some-

thing for you."


He turned, saw the wriggling snake looking him in the

eye, with its forked tongue flashing in and out, and he

screamed, "Good Lord," turned, and ran as fast as his long

legs would carry him. I hadn't expected such a violent

reaction, and I almost got fired.

(This is part of the Growing Up In Utah's Dixie series, by LaVarr B. Webb)


Rattlesnakes make creepy crawlers run up and down

my back, so, over the years, I have been able to sense

their presence. In the middle of the 1970s we were build-

ing a house in Hidden Valley, near Leeds, Utah. We had no

electricity, so were dependent upon a generator for our

power. Late one summer night, I left the mobile home we

were living in to turn the generator off. There was moon-

light, so I didn't think I needed a flashlight, but as I moved

away from the front door, I felt something crawl across my

booted foot. There was no sound, just a sense of presence.

I knew there was a rattlesnake near my feet. I called

my wife, and ask her to bring me a flashlight. She com-

plied. The light picked up a large snake, coiled up, head

and upper body weaving, tongue flicking in and out, just a

foot from my boot.


One of my pictures of hell, that I live with, is being

tied down, arms and legs shackled, unable to move,

surrounded by the many rattlesnakes I have killed, and them

weaving like demons, continually biting, but me, never


Tuesday, 23 October 2012 04:07

A Deseret Rattlesnake

(This is part of the Growing Up In Utah's Dixie series, by LaVarr B. Webb)


We bought an interest in a large farm in Deseret, Utah.

One summer, I left Dixie to go up and help with the haying.

I was cutting a field with a swather. The seat on a swather

is quite high up off the ground, providing an excellent view

of the surrounding area. As I approached the end of the

field, I saw a large snake coiled up in front of a drain



I stopped the swather, jumped off, and went over to

investigate. The snake felt, or heard me coming. He

uncoiled rapidly, and crawled into the culvert. He was

enormous, by far, the largest rattlesnake I had ever seen,

five inches thick, and almost six feet long. The rattles,

that he pulled into the culvert, seemed to be an inch wide

and three inches long, and they were blunt at their tip,

suggesting that they had been broken off.


I watched him coil up at the mouth of the culvert and

dare me to come and get him. I was tempted, but decided

against killing him. Instead I went to the house, and ask

the grandkids if they wanted to see the granddaddy of all

rattlesnakes. Of course, they did. Even my wife and

daughter went to see him.


The kids, their mother, and grandmother, very cautiously

approached the culvert. When my wife saw the

snake, she was shocked by its size, and said, "Kill it." I

didn't want to. It had lived a long time, and because it was

almost a mile from the house, I didn't think it could do any



It buzzed its warning song, making the chills run up

and down my back, yet I refused to kill it. My wife became

very angry. She, of course, was thinking of the children,

but I argued that it was in an isolated area, and if the kids

avoided it, it would try to avoid them.


She insisted, "Rattlesnakes have a habit of coming

apart and making new ones." She was right. Young rattle-

snakes are carried inside the mother's body, and are born

alive, and though small, are mature enough to survive, bite,

and do their victims a great deal of damage. However, I

won, and the snake lived.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012 04:05

A Snake, What Kind?

Now, it is necessary to jump ahead a few years. I had

fulfilled one of my oldest dreams. I had purchased the Old

Mill Ranch and we were living there. My wife was doing the

laundry using her new May tag washer, powered by an elec-

tric generator. She loaded up a clothes basket, picked it

up, and started to walk to the clothes line out in the yard.

About ten to fifteen feet away from the house, she heard

a rattlesnake buzz. The snake was near her feet, but she

couldn't see it because the clothes basket cut off most of

her view of the ground around her.


She dropped the basket and jumped back, then she

could see the snake. It was coiled up just a foot or so from

her clothes. One more step, and she would have been in

trouble, but the snake had warned her.


Sam, who was about three years old, was playing in

the yard. His mother, as calmly as possible, asked, "Sam,

run to the barn, and tell your Dad there is a snake under

the clothes line."


Sam ran, got almost to the barn, turned around, came

back, and asked, "What kind." He wasn't going to bother

his dad for just any old snake.


On the ranch, that same summer, I returned home

from town, and my wife said, "Wilma Dawn saw a large

rattlesnake up on the garden path. George (her brother,

visiting with us) has taken his pistol up to shoot it." I

didn't think George could hit a rattlesnake with his pistol,

so I grabbed a shovel and went up to the path. There I

found George and all of the kids standing near a large rock.

I asked George if he had killed the snake.


He answered, "No, I missed."


As I approached the rock, I could hear the snake buzzing

from, I thought, under the rock. However, after listening

for a moment, I decided the snake was not under the

rock, but in a cavern in front of the rock, and right under

my feet.


I put my big foot on the shovel, and drove the blade

into the ground. The roof of the small cavern was only an

inch or so thick, and it immediately caved in.


The rattlesnake, a large one, four to five feet long

and three to four inches thick, came boiling up out of the

hole, as angry as could be, and it came after me.


I stepped back, and almost fainted. I thought I had

been bitten by that rattlesnakes big brother. I had backed

into a large chola cactus, and the spines entering my back-

side burned just how I imagined a snake bite would feel.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012 04:03

Shooting Off Lisha Lee's Hat

(This is part of the Growing Up In Utah's Dixie series, by LaVarr B. Webb)


Meat was a rare commodity in Dixie during the depression

years of the 1930's, so rabbit and quail hunting

were done out of necessity as much as it was for sport.

Rabbit suppers as a form of entertainment were as popular

as molasses candy pulls.


As one hunted the gullies and sage brush flats around

Virgin, it was always possible to kick up a rabbit or a covey

of quail. I found quail, however, almost impossible to bag

with a 22 rifle. They made very small targets, and were

constantly on the move. Once in a while one would see a

tasseled cock sitting on a rock or a fence post, but he was

very difficult to approach because he was on the high perch

as an observer, a sentinel. He was there for the visual

command that the high perch gave him of all the surrounding

area, and as soon as the hunter began to get within

range, he would hop or glide to the ground, alert his covey,

and all would run in short bursts, fly in short bursts, from

cover to cover until they were well out of sight and range.


Rabbits, though, made larger targets, especially jacks.

They also had the foolish habit of halting, periodically, in

flight, stopping sometimes right out in the open, stopping

to gaze in pop-eyed wonder at the intruding hunter.


Rabbits fell victims to my marksmanship regularly, as

I hunted, generally alone, walking the sage brush flats and

the gullies, skirting the fields and orchards, watching for

the bobbing white puff of the cottontail, or the long legged,

zig zag bounce of the jack.


I received my first twenty-two for Christmas, 1933,

when I was almost twelve years old. The following spring,

sometime in April or May, I was hunting near some fields

just west of the town of Virgin, and just north of the river.

I shot at a rabbit that was between me and one of the

fields. I missed, and the rabbit disappeared into the thick

brush. So, I continued on my way, walking slowly, always

alert for another shot.


About an hour later, I saw Leslie Wilcox, the town

marshal walking toward me. I stopped and waited after I

saw him wave at me. When he came up to me, he said,

"Jiggs," everyone in town, other than my mother, called

me Jiggs, "I'm going to have to take your gun." Of course,

I asked, "Why."


"Because," he said, "You shot Lisha Lee's hat off."


"Oh, no," I cried, 'I haven't been near Lisha Lee's place."


So, he explained that Elisha Lee had been watering

hay in the field near where I had been hunting.

Now Elisha Lee was an old man then. He was a son of

John D. Lee and somewhat of a relation of mine. I say

"somewhat" because John D. Lee had quite a few wives

and many children, and one of his daughters was my great

grandmother and Elisha's half sister.


Elisha, with his long white beard and hair, looked like a

prophet or patriarch, and according to the marshal, I had

shot his hat off! The marshal went on to say, "Lisha," who

was ordinarily very calm, "got real excited and upset when,

suddenly, his hat was blown right off his head."


Elisha had described to the marshal how he heard a

shot, and how his hat went flying, and how when he picked

it up, it had two holes in it - one where the bullet went in,

and the other where the bullet went out.


"Now," Marshal Wilcox added, "Lisha Lee is mad. In

fact, he wants me to arrest you, and you may spend some

time in the county jail. I saw his hat. That bullet missed

the top of his head by about one half of an inch."


I remember that I was very thankful that Lisha wore a

high crowned hat, but that didn't help much because the

marshal still took my gun away from me as he did he

muttered something like "Irresponsible kids shouldn't be

allowed to carry guns."


So, I lost my gun, one of the few things that was

really mine, and one of the few things that I loved. I sat

down on a rock and tried to figure what to do. I had shot

at a rabbit. I hadn't shot at Lisha Lee's hat. Therefore, I

reasoned, it had been an accident, but, I also reasoned,

how do you convince an upset man and a big, rawboned,

stubborn marshal, and, some angry parents, mine, that it

really was an accident. I didn't want to go home. I didn't

want to face Lisha Lee, my parents, or anyone else in town

but I had to, and I did.


To Elisha, I was a menace, to the marshal I was irresponsible,

to my parents, I was a problem, but to the other

kids in town, I was a bit of a hero. They got a big kick out

of knocking each others' hats off and saying, "Jiggs just

put a hole through it."


Oh, yes, a few weeks later, after a lecture, I did get

my gun back.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012 03:59

Her Daddy Was The Bishop

It was hay hauling time, sweating and sticky dust and

hay leaves, and itchy fox tail grass seed working into socks,

pants and shirts. I can't remember the year, but it must

have been around 1934. I remember it was hot.


We boys had a swimming hole down river from Virgin.

The upper end of the hole was two to three feet deep and

placid. The lower end was four to five feet deep, and

there, the water flowed up against a limestone wall. There

was a tunnel, approximately two feet in circumference,

carved through the limestone wall a few feet below the

surface. Much of the river water flowed through the

tunnel the rest created somewhat of a maelstrom as it

buffeted up against the wall and flowed over and around it.

It was a thrill to dive, swim through the murky water,

find the tunnel, pass through it, come up and fight the

rough rapids on the other side. Of all of the swimming

holes in the Virgin River, that was our favorite.


One day, after hauling hay, about eight of us were out

riding horses. The sun was bearing down, so we decided to

cool off with a little skinny dipping. As we came up over

the sand hill to the north of the river, we saw all of the

town girls, our age, cavorting in the nude in our hole.


With whoops and hollers, we charged off the hill, and

galloped our horses right out into the water. There were

nude girls running everywhere. Some of them ran for their

clothes. Others made for the shrubbery between the river

and the hill, and all of them screamed.


But, there was one girl, my favorite, the light of my

life at that time, who just sat down in the water. The

water came up to her chin, and as I brought my horse to a

stop and looked down at her, she gazed up at me with

those big blue eyes, and said, "LaVarr, I'll tell my Daddy."

All of a sudden, the escapade was no longer fun. Her

father was the bishop.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012 03:57

A Rattlesnake With No Skin

(This is part of the Growing Up In Utah's Dixie series, by LaVarr B. Webb)


The most horrifying experience I ever had with a rattle-
snake took place on Lower Kolob Mountain. The family
spent the the summer up there clearing sage brush for a
man named Hopkins. He was trying to establish a dry farm
(cultivated land totally dependent upon natural rain and
snowfall for moisture) on the flat, sandy terraces. Dad and
Hopkins chopped the brush out of the soil, piled it, let it
dry, and then burned it. I helped with the piling and the

I had received my twenty two rifle the Christmas be-
fore, and liked to go rabbit hunting. One day, Gwen, my
oldest sister, and I walked out across the cleared land to a
section that was still in brush where I thought we would
find some rabbits. I was in the lead as we weaved our way
through the tall sage.

My eyes were generally focused ahead, looking for
rabbits, but once, for some reason, I glanced down at the
ground, and saw a large snake stretched out full length
right beside my foot. I yelled, and jumped back as Gwen
came up behind me wondering what had happened. I
showed her the snake, which, by then, was wriggling to-
wards the closest clump of brush.

It was the ugliest rattlesnake I had ever seen. It had a
bloated body much larger than my arm, and it had no rattles,
just a large black button at the tip of its tail. Its whole
body, including most of its head, was a glazed pink, al-
most flesh colored. It wasn't only a frightening monster, it
was also sickening.

It gave me the impression of just having been skinned
alive, and yet had managed to live. I now realize it had just
shed its old skin. We came upon it quite early in the
morning while it was still cool. It had crawled out into the open
to catch the warm rays of the morning sun to wait for its
new skin to congeal and toughen up. We had stumbled
upon that snake when it was most vulnerable, and, again,
it was a wonder that I didn't get bitten.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012 03:54

A Rattlesnake Scares Three Boys Off A Horse

(This is part of the Growing Up In Utah's Dixie series, by LaVarr B. Webb)


Snakes of all kinds have intrigued and fascinated me.

I have found rattlesnakes coiled up on my doorstep as I

stepped outside in the morning. I have found them coiled up

in feed sacks, waiting for an unsuspecting mouse bent on

stealing grain or dairy feed. I have found them stretched

across trails I was traveling.


One bright summer day, two of my friends and I were

riding, bareback, three on a horse. I was at the rear, sitting

over the horses hind legs. We started up an incline, and I

had a difficult time staying on. There was nothing to hang

on to, other than the boy in front of me, but he was suffer-

ing the same problem I had, as was the boy in front.


There we were, three boys on the verge of sliding off

the rear end of a very slick-skinned horse when a rattle-

snake buzzed on the ground under the horse. The horse

came unglued, plunged, and pawed trying to get up the

hill. I slid off just behind the snake. My two friends landed

on top of me, and there we were, a horse, three boys, and

a rattlesnake, all trying to get out of each others way, but

again, I was fast. I made it to the top of the hill almost as

soon as the horse did.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012 03:52

A Rope, No, A Rattlesnake

(This is part of the Growing Up In Utah's Dixie series, by LaVarr B. Webb)



I visited the Old Mill Ranch often, working in the fields

and playing with my Maloney cousins. One day, we were

playing in the barn. It was a very large wooden structure

with a hay loft over the mangers where some of the horses

and cows were kept. The balance of the barn was just a

storage area for loose hay. This particular day, there was

no hay in the loft and only eight to ten feet on the floor of

the barn. We had tied a heavy rope to one of the large

beams that reached from wall to wall, tying the walls

together. The beams were more than twenty feet off the

floor, and were made of rough timbers sixteen or more

inches thick.


We would push off from the loft, holding to the rope,

and swing out over the hay. As the momentum of our

pendulum-like swinging diminished, we would drop to the

sweet smelling hay. It was great fun. However, we each

had to wait our turn, and I was impatient. I decided to find

another rope. While standing on the floor of the loft, I

looked around hoping to find one somewhere in the barn,

but I didn't see one. So, I walked over to the outer edge of

the loft, and looked out over the corral, to the corral fence,

and then down on the ground.


Right below me, I saw what I thought was a thick rope,

just the right size for swinging on. I jumped from off the

loft to the ground, reached for the rope, and was horrified

as it coiled up under my hand. My rope was actually a large

rattlesnake, and the shock I gave it, as I bounded out of

the loft, landing practically on top of it, was the only thing

that kept me from being bitten.


Before it could strike, however, I, with all of the ease

of an ungainly, but frightened bird, flew the ten feet back

to the loft. I don't know how I did it, but I did.

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