We were sitting, my wife and I, at a summer dinner party by the pool, in honor of a mother and her college-age daughter visiting from Chicago. Just for a moment, as night was coming on, the subject of rattlesnakes—our Massachusetts Timber Rattlesnakes,Crotalus horridus, to be precise—edged out the incessant talk of Trump Trump Trump. Our visitors, full of the police troubles in Chicago, were unaware of the Great Rattlesnake Controversy, and Tara, our well-informed hostess, weighed in first. . . .
Tara is a local, unlike the rest of us urban transplants, and I respected her sense of solidarity with the displaced. Their parents and grandparents were not asked if they were okay with abandoning their homes; they themselves were not asked if they wouldn’t mind having a few rattlesnakes as neighbors. But I myself would not have begun the story with the eradication of the four towns by government fiat, and the scattering of their population.
I would have begun, instead—I actually did begin, and rather vehemently, to the evident surprise of our Chicago contingent—with the indiscriminate slaughter of native rattlesnakes, which began much earlier, intensified with the rapid settling of New England by Europeans schooled in the biblical evils of the serpent, the devil incarnate, and continues unabated to this day, even though it is a serious crime to kill or even to disturb a rattlesnake, an officially endangered species in our state.
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