Every now and then, you’d get a family or couple that had just walked the longest and flattest trail in the park, the 5 mile [one way] Castle Trail, and come off the trail with a story for the ages. I really don’t know how they did it, but somehow, some way, they managed to STEP on a snake and not receive a bite! One fellow even told me that he felt the snake squish and roll under his foot.
I had yet to have any close encounters like that. The most I stepped on was either a wretched bison pie [the worst smelling one, of course] or a prickly pear [actually my boots were drawn to any near by like moths to a flame--lucky for me the boots were too much for the cactus and unfortunately for me, I couldn't manage to NOT step on them!]. I did run over a dead snake once on my bike, but that was as close as I had come.
One day, as I was opening the visitor center, I let in a couple who had been parked outside. As I finished turning everything on, they looked around at the exhibits very leisurely, very normally as if nothing was wrong. It was to my utter surprise when they approached the desk about a half an hour later that the lady said she was bitten earlier in the morning by a rattlesnake. As I asked for details, she said it was a small one at a lookout where she had stepped out of the car and nearly stepped on him. Only one fang pierced her skin and her husband sucked out the venom [please don't do that, it's not an effective practice!]. Sure enough, there was a tiny red hole and it appeared to have been sucked on! Though it seemed to be a misfire on the behalf of the snake, they were still advised to go to the hospital [about an hour away].
At the very same overlook is where I stood one afternoon after a Fossil Talk. I didn’t feel that well, so I wasn’t mentally sharp [I was almost sent home, but it was just a horribly upset stomach and nothing else]. My sluggish mind was having a hard time keeping up with the story I was hearing from a visitor. He was telling me all about a visit to a nearby state park that allows hunting. As a large group of visitors there were watching a bull elk from the side of the road, someone pulled up and shot it! Right in front of children and people taking pictures and people enjoying the bull elk bugle! My jaw dropped as he told the story and I think I was so taken aback by it that when I looked down at my boots, the tiny button rattle didn’t register. I looked down at my feet again, not to see what it was, but in astonishment over the visitor’s experience. When my brain finally placed ‘rattlesnake tail’ into the ‘DANGER’ part of my slow brain, I felt like an earthquake jolted me out of my boots!
Lucky for me, the rattlesnake, and the visitor, I stood where the boardwalk met the paved trail so the rattlesnake, though under my foot, was a few inches below. His button tail was so tiny that there was nothing to rattle, but I suspect this was the snake that bit the earlier visitor. Being under the boardwalk and so small, I let the visitors ogle and awgle at him and when they departed, I then warned and showed others until the little guy slithered into the deep, dark parts under the boardwalk. The reports of baby rattlesnakes from that spot were numerous that summer, so I assume he very much liked that boardwalk.
To this day I am not sure what would have happened had I stepped physically on him. I’m pretty confident I would have lived and he would have needed traction for his vertebra.