Trails, like rules, are there for a reason

“Trails are there for a reason; my husband always told me when we were hiking. The high grass and wooded areas can be dangerous”. His warnings were usually confirmed by the posted signs that instructed people to stay on the trails.

The problem was that I had a hard time staying on the trail. My curiosity about what I couldn’t see compelled me to follow sounds I couldn’t identify. Often I went off the trails to get photos of birds, such as the Painted Bunting and the Scarlet Tanager soaring out of my camera’s view into the thickets of trees and bushes.

In South Texas, where we lived, the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge was home to hundreds of bird species, plus ocelots, deer, javelina, squirrels, long-tail weasels, alligators, and mountain lions.

We spent a lot of time driving or walking the trails surrounded by thick brush and cacti, with Mesquite trees serving as umbrellas against the hot sun.

Sometimes I didn’t always look where I was going when aiming my camera. Once when I started down a hill toward a muddy puddle to get a shot of a Black-Bellied Whistling duck, my husband stopped me and pointed to an Alligator lying in the thick, wet sludge, watching my every step.

My careless days of going off designated trails changed the day I saw something huge and dangerous that generally lived off the trails.

We were on our way to one of our favorite trails. About 100 yards ahead of our car, I saw a dip in the road from a distance. It seemed to reach from one side of the road to another, so I warned my husband to be careful.

However, as we got closer, we realized the dark line was not a dip in the road. Instead, it seemed to be moving. We recognized what it was a few moments after we saw it move. It was a seven-foot rattlesnake with a prominent bulge in its stomach.

The sun was warm and bright. The large bulge in the snake’s belly looked like he had just had a big lunch and decided to stretch out across the cold, wet road for a siesta. I was so excited. I grabbed my digital camera from the seat and started to open the door.

Thankfully, my husband grabbed the handle and stopped me from stepping out into danger. He did, however, turn the car sideways to parallel the massive creature and let me roll the window down and take photos.

He lay there while I filled my disc with its image. Then the giant snake lifted his head, and his tail gave me a look, shook his rattlers, and slithered off into the brush where my husband always warned me of danger.

When we reported the giant reptile to the park service, the ranger patiently explained why the park posted signs to stay on the trail. “It isn’t just that there are wild animals and poisonous snakes out there, but when people veer off the trails, they also trample wildflowers and cause erosion problems.”

I got the message loud and clear. But, of course, when I tell this story to my grandchildren, I point out that rules are there for a reason, too.

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Deana Landers
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I have had many roles in life
Pastor’s Wife , Mom/Nana , Nurse/Health Educator, Writer , Christian Speaker
I can't remember a time when I wasn't writing stories, either in my head or in my journal.

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