25 April, 2008

Of snakes and shrieking women

So yesterday there was a lot of excitement in the field as not only did we find a cool stone with a drawing carved on it--which also tells quite an interesting story that unfortunately I can't quite share with the world, I know a tease but I am bound by ethics here--but one of the vatos from the comite had brought his gun with him and shot a snake.

Well, we didn't know it was a snake at first--all we heard was a couple of sharp pop-pops and then the shrill shrieking of the women. Word drifted up that a snake had been shot, and I ran over (well, slightly down-hill more like) to check it out, imagining that it was a rattlesnake or something based on the decible levels of the screams. When I got over there, well...needless to say I was quite disappointed by the size of the thing...really nothing more than your common variety venom-less snake, prolly similar to a gartersnake.

The guy hadn't taken a good shot, so there was just this big old flesh wound in the side of its neck about 5 centimeters down from the back of the head and the poor thing was twitching on the ground while this dog was trying to eat it. Usiel dared me to pick it up and since I've owned snakes before and this one wasn't long for this world, I grabbed it right behind the head--as you're supposed to when handling snakes--and gently picked it up, making sure to support the part with the wound.

"¿No tienes miedo?" (You're not afraid?) Teofila asked with very wide eyes. No, I explained, I've had two snakes before as pets. I began walking back up to the site and the women--sino Juana--fled from me like scared little quail, shrieking and shrieking. At one point I was 10ft away from them but they still stood there shrieking and looking at me with wide eyes. At one point I think they just all ran away. Pedro the nightwatchman insisted I put the snake, which by then was practically dead except for the tiniest twitch of life, into the fire we keep burning all day--hmm, humo del copal!--and for the briefest second the snake squiggled around before finally succumbing to its wound and the hot ash. Una creancía en Oaxaca (a belief in Oaxaca), if you burn a snake in a fire, others won't come and bother you.

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