The Nag, the Cripple, and the Deaf Dog,
We rode through the palo verde forest and down an arroyo past
the owl nest in a saguaro. Just before we got to the Hohokam
ruin, Lady froze and pointed. No big deal, I thought, maybe a
tarantula or desert tortoise. That's when the buzzing began.
Lady was pointing at a diamondback on the trail, thicker than
my arm, coiled. At the sound Boy Horse screamed and reared. Mary
held on, clinging to the saddle horn. Taffy shuddered but waited
for my command.
Cued by Boy Horse, Lady lunged at the rattler. I hollered
"Lady, no." Of course she couldn't hear. She bit it
and it bit back, impaling her muzzle. Lady thrashed and flung
Boy Horse bolted home with Mary. Lady bolted, but in the wrong
Time seemed to freeze for me. Half an hour, I thought. Lady
had half an hour to get rattler antivenin or she would surely
die. Within half an hour, despite living way the heck outside
Tucson, we had to get Lady to a vet, and on a Sunday.
And -- would Boy Horse bring Mary home OK? Or would she get
peeled off by a palo verde branch, maybe end up bleeding and
screaming in the middle of a cholla cactus?
I needed to catch Lady. I also needed to gallop after Boy
Horse to see if Mary was OK. I leaned forward, asking Taffy,
not demanding, that he move fast. Without hesitation, he thundered
She was running with the power of a superbly fit, adrenaline-drenched
Dalmatian. She soon outdistanced us, disappearing over a ridge.
What about Mary? Taffy and I turned and followed Boy Horse's
dust, hoping Lady would manage to run home.
As we galloped up to our home, Mom and Dad and Mary were outside
with Boy Horse. Mom had already called our vet, who was already
rushing to his office to meet us.All we needed now was Lady herself.
I wheeled Taffy and we galloped to the east of where I'd last
seen Lady heading.
We found her collapsed on a caliche ledge. No time, I thought,
to check for a heartbeat. Miraculously, no cholla needles were
visible bristling her coat. I slung her limp body over Taffy's
lathered withers, leaped into the saddle, rolled Lady up onto
my lap and galloped home. This was a stunt I could never have
My parents were waiting in their Impala, engine running. Mary
took Taffy to cool down while the rest of us drove off.
It was a good thing Dad didn't pass any cops. We skidded to
a halt as the vet was unlocking the office. I lugged Lady inside
and laid her on the examining table.
The vet put a stethoscope to her chest. "She's alive."
He examined the wreckage of her muzzle. "That was one big
rattler." He opened her mouth. "I'll be darned. The
fangs punched all the way through. I'll bet most of the venom
poured out through her mouth. She just might make it."
He injected antivenin and got intravenous fluids going. Her
head was now beginning to swell.
It seemed like an eternity before Lady opened an eye. That
was when the vet said, "She's going to live."
His voice echoed like I imagined God must speak. I suddenly
felt thirsty. I wobbled into the waiting room toward the water
cooler. As I reached for a Dixie Cup, there was a buzzing sound
and everything went yellow, then black. I'm not sure how long
I lay passed out on the floor .
The next day Taffy felt fine even though he'd galloped with
220 pounds of saddle, dog and rider over caliche and rocks in
desert heat. A week later Lady came home, wriggling with joy
to greet her horses - our magnificent horses.
Next chapter: Rattlesnake Acres --->>
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Killer Buyer: True Adventures of a New Mexico Horse Dealer