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Little tales of the desert.
by Ethel Twycross Foster
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Part 8 A STRANGE CAPTURE
ONE warm day in February a great lazy rattlesnake, over three feet long,
glided out from under a broad, flat rock. It slowly wound its way
through sagebrush and cactus until it found an open space where the hot
rays of the noonday sun fell uninterrupted.
Here it stretched itself out at full length, and after enjoying the
warmth of the sunshine for a little while, gradually grew drowsy and at
last fell asleep.
Exactly one hour later, a faint rustling sound was heard. From behind
the same rock peeped out an excited looking little creature. It was no
other than our little friend the road-runner. But why so agitated and
disturbed? Its little tail was bobbing up and down, and its beautiful
bluish-black crest was raised as high as possible. He had spied his
lifelong enemy, the rattlesnake.
Suddenly, as quickly as he came, he disappeared from sight. He was soon
back, carrying in his beak a cactus burr, which he placed on the ground
near the sleeping snake. Back and forth he went, each time returning
with a prickly burr. Before long he had a hedge entirely surrounding
poor, unsuspecting Mr. Snake. Then one more burr was brought and quietly
dropped on the snake's head.
Now, the skin of a snake is very sensitive and he immediately woke up.
Of course his first motion rubbed the delicate skin against the prickly
burr. He gave a vicious rattle and started to move away from the
troublesome thing. He struck at one side of the hedge, then another. He
grew more and more angry. He would try to poke his nose between the
burrs, but on being pricked by the sharp points, he would draw back and
try in another place. At last, overcome with anger and mortification,
he drove his poisonous fangs into his own body and soon died.
Mr. Road-runner, meanwhile, had retreated to a safe distance and was
much interested in all that was happening. When sure the snake was dead,
he cautiously darted up to the hedge and gave the dead snake a series of
sharp pecks with his long beak as an additional safeguard. Then he
settled down and ate a portion, carrying the best part away to his nest
to share with his mate.
Now, if that snake had kept his temper and not become excited, he might
have realized that by poking his nose under the burrs he could lift them
and get away with only a few scratches.
However, there are times when even boys and girls let their anger get
the best of them, so why should we expect more wisdom in a poor, foolish
Sometimes the snake doesn't kill itself, but only becomes tired out and
lies down motionless, when the little road-runner comes over and pecks
him to death. There are only a few animals, birds or insects who can
kill a rattlesnake, and the road-runner does this about as neatly as