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That Day on Texas Creek

Stepping on a Stick

By Dana CrandellPublished 12 months ago Updated 12 months ago 7 min read
Top Story - April 2023
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That Day on Texas Creek
Photo by Nick Abrams on Unsplash

The impact of chance is something we often don't immediately realize. At least, that's been my experience over the years. Looking back, I know that the “accidental” crossing of paths in the past has had much to do with the person I am today. This is the story of one unusual chance meeting that changed my entire outlook, although the realization didn't come to me right away.

To the best of my recollection, the year was 1994. I was on a “guys'” fly fishing trip with my brother-in-law, Arnold and my nephew, Michael on Texas Creek, near the family property in Colorado. The creek is easily accessible and popular, mostly for picnicking in the wide meadow beside the highway. Not far upstream, the banks become very narrow, then all but nonexistent. For the boys in my family, that's not a deterrent; it's a reason to go. (All of the ladies in the family like to fish, too, but not on this particular stretch of water.)

This had been an impromptu trip, which wasn't really unusual. Janie and I had driven down to stay with my sister and her husband while I did some work on a cabin on their property. Michael had come to wind down after a fight with a girlfriend that had left him distraught. Arnold had taken the initiative and decided it was a great time to hit the creek.

Now, practically speaking, it wasn't an ideal time at all. It was late in the day, and there was a storm brewing over the ridge. We wouldn't have a lot of time. Still, there was no getting around tradition. When the going gets tough, the boys go fishing. It was and is the best therapy for any malady.

So, here we were, three “grown” men, working our way upstream with our fly rods (Don't leave home without it!), racing against the sun and clouds. Most of the time was spent in the water, since that was usually the only path. We didn't need fancy waders or expensive shoes; our jeans (and underwear, and shirts) would dry, and well, sliding and stumbling around on the slick rocks below was part of the adventure.

We had covered a lot of water and the temperature was starting to drop when Arnold decided it was time to head back downstream. The truth is, it was well past time. The sun was getting uncomfortably low and those storm clouds were far too close. We shuffled, slogged and slid our way down the creek as quickly as possible until a bit of bank allowed us to clamber out onto dry, albeit slippery land. With no time to reel up and break down our rods, we simply secured our lines and headed down.

Arnold took the lead, I followed several steps behind him and Michael brought up the rear. In the deepening twilight, it was pointless to try to watch the trail. I kept my eye on Arnold's back, keeping a comfortable distance, making sure I'd have time to stop if he did.

We reached the spot where the bank began to widen and the pace picked up. About ten steps into the home stretch, I stepped on a fair-sized branch, which flipped up and tangled with my leg. Not wanting to fall off the pace, I began what must have looked like a weird sort of courtship dance, stepping with my left leg, then shaking my right vigorously to rid myself of the offending stick.

My nephew's unexpected exclamation of, “Hoooooooly sh*t!” brought us to a halt, and the sudden stop partially released the dead weight from my leg. It was still there, however, and I was still kicking. As our little procession stopped, I finally looked down.

Here's a quick pop quiz: Did you know that rattlesnakes in the woods will come to the streams in the evening to drink? Dangling from the right knee of my jeans, wrapped once around my lower leg and piled up top of my right foot was one of the largest specimens I've seen in that part of the country. It was not happy. In fact, it was just freeing its fang from my heavy, wet blue jeans and preparing to express its displeasure for the second time.

It was nice to have quick reflexes in my younger years. I kicked one more time, just as its head was freed, and launched it several feet away. It thudded to the ground and, now that it could use its rattle, it did so as it coiled and raised that deadly head. I'm not sure what it thought about being prodded with a nine-foot fiberglass stick, but it apparently already had enough sore spots and decided to call it a day. I gladly let it retreat. It was barely visible in the light that remained, but I'm sure if it had possessed middle fingers, it would've flashed me a sign.

My legs were numb from the cold water, but I assured Michael and Arnold that I was almost certain I hadn't been bitten. We were back at the car within a few minutes, and just to be sure, I dropped my pants and submitted to a check by the headlights, since none of us had been wise enough to bring a flashlight. There was one tiny, red dot, directly in the center of my right kneecap.

Satisfied that no one was going to have to administer first aid, we all breathed a sigh of relief. I wiggled my now 15-pound jeans back on and we piled into the car. On the short drive back to the main road, Michael explained that he had been close enough to see that I had stepped directly on the back half of the snake and it had whipped backward to strike my leg. From there, it was easy to deduce that its restricted movement had kept it from successfully penetrating the loose, wet, heavyweight denim and it went for a wild ride with one fang hung in my jeans while I performed my version of a madman's jig.

As we pulled back on to the main road, I said the first thing that came to mind: “Hoooooooly sh*t!” Laughing as much from relief as mirth, we pulled up to the house and laughed even harder at the quizzical expressions from the girls as we walked in the door, fishless, in the middle of a storm.

~~~

Arnold is no longer with us in this life, but I have a feeling he shakes his head every time I tell this story. I still find it hilarious, and I can't imagine the train of thought that drove through my nephew's mind as the whole scene unfolded. There's a stark reality here, though, and as it caught up to me, it changed the way I look at life.

That day could have ended very differently, if any single link in the chain of events had broken. I've lived most of my life around rattlesnakes, and I don't fear them. I do have a healthy respect for them. I know that we were in a remote area, far from the nearest hospital and although my family knows what to do, I'd have been in for a very painful few weeks, at best, and a shorter life at worst, had those fangs found their target.

As it was, although it could have been a major event, it was reduced to an insignificant one, at least on the surface. I stepped on a branch. The "branch" and I both received the gift of another day.

And that, my friends is the point. I learned that each day is a gift. It's not the first time I've been reminded, by far. However, even after undergoing open heart surgery a few years ago, that day at Texas Creek is the one that I carry with me and look back on when I need a reminder to be grateful.

***

This true story was written for the Vocal “Passing Ships” Challenge, which prompts writers to “Write about a small moment in your life that had a big impact.” You can find out more and enter your story, here:

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. If you enjoyed it, please leave a heart, and I'm always grateful for any feedback in the comments.

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About the Creator

Dana Crandell

Dad, Stedpad, Grandpa, Husband, lover of Nature and dogs.

Poet, Writer, Editor, Photographer, Artist and Tech/Internet nerd. Content writer by trade. Vocal Creator by choice.

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Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (27)

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  • L.C. Schäfer12 months ago

    Holy fuck! 😮

  • Roy Stevens12 months ago

    Terrific entry for the "Passing Ships" challenge, good luck! Wow, both you and the rattler were sure lucky to get away with it that day! You have some pretty seriously dangerous breeds of rattler around Colorado, right? I'm sorry to hear you lost your brother-in-law; it sounds like he was a good friend.

  • Heather N King12 months ago

    This was a beautiful and inspiring read. Your descriptive writing allowed me to feel like I was right there with you, experiencing the beauty and serenity of nature. Thank you for sharing your story and reminding us of the importance of cherishing our natural surroundings. Keep up the great work!

  • JBaz12 months ago

    Moments in time determined and measured by seconds and centimetres. We should all realize that. Glad you did, and you got a great story out of it.

  • Gerald Holmes12 months ago

    This is very well told. A real holy shit moment that could have been much worse.

  • Joan Hall12 months ago

    "Each day is a gift." That is so true. I'm glad you received that gift so many years ago. Sounds like you've had a few of those gifts, having been through open heart surgery. I too had to chuckle at your description of the snake's anger.

  • Naomi Gold12 months ago

    So glad you lived to tell this story, Dana! You had me chuckling when you described the snake’s anger.

  • Steffany Ritchie12 months ago

    Wow, a very lucky escape! Great story, thanks!

  • Heather Hubler12 months ago

    Wow, that was an amazing story, and you told it so well. Congratulations on Top Story!

  • Congratulations on your Top Story!

  • Loryne Andawey12 months ago

    Hoooooooly sh*t! You are so lucky! Thank you for sharing this!

  • Cathy holmes12 months ago

    That was great, Dana. Congrats on the TS.

  • Babs Iverson12 months ago

    Awesome!!! Congratulations on T S too!!!💖💖💕

  • Melissa Ingoldsby12 months ago

    Love it 😍 congratulations 🎊 on top story!!!! I love fly fishing 🎣

  • Donna Renee12 months ago

    Yikes!! 😱. Congrats on your top story and on surviving that situation!

  • What a great story teller. You had me the whole time. Congratulations 🎈

  • Congratulations on your Top Story

  • ARC12 months ago

    Dana this is amazing. First of all, what a 'guys in the woods' story... so well-told, felt like I was walking right behind you when you stepped on that 'branch.' Secondly, your takeaway leaves me smiling in mind and heart. Life (IMO) really shows its true majesty in those little moments... those tiny things that... one inch to the left or right or one second sooner or later could have spelled a very different day... week... life. What a story to illustrate that point. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  • Judey Kalchik 12 months ago

    Well told. Such an easy conversation with the reader- I felt like we were walking in the woods.

  • Dana Stewart12 months ago

    Whoa. I would have fainted. I got lightheaded reading this story. So glad that rattler didn't decide to chomp down. Great entry for the challenge. I reckon this places, hat wearer/name bearer. 💞😊💞😊

  • Ahamed Thousif12 months ago

    Awesome Story! Well Done

  • Woooo, I'm glad you are okay 😔 ❤️Great Story for the challenge❗

  • Kristen Balyeat12 months ago

    What an amazing story, Dana! Your writing is so fun to read. You had me laughing...until the snake...then laughing afterward. You are such an awesome storyteller! Thanks for sharing! Life truly is a gift, each and every moment! Great work, my friend!

  • Moe Radosevich12 months ago

    Great story buddy and greater yet the snakes failure to execute, happy for that,

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