The profuse smell of wildflowers filled his nostrils. Unfortunately, ragweed accented the pleasant odors flowing into his nose. Jeremy’s eyes watered, and his sinuses had begun to drip. He would occasionally address this inconvenience with a handkerchief and continue on his walk. The yellow and green meadow in the middle of the desert looked almost out of place.
If people could only see this, thought Jeremy. Even in the most desolate places life springs alive after the rains. He stopped to watch a jackrabbit that was ten yards away under a scrub oak. The rabbit, in turn, was watching him. Jeremy stooped down in an attempt to draw the curious creator closer. Instead, long ears turned and became nothing more than a gray streak that disappeared from view. That’s when he heard the rattle.
It started slowly, like a baby playing with a toy. Jeremy cautiously turned his head, and the rattle increased in speed. He stopped. Jeremy’s head sat parallel to his right shoulder. Barely daring to breathe his eyes darted around. A diamondback rattlesnake that appeared close to six feet long sat three feet away in the shade of a sizable Russian Thistle. This iconic, but foreign, plant provided shade to the deadly serpent.
Jeremy’s young legs began to ache. He had already hiked three miles, half the distance of the planned loop back to his campsite. His back and neck started to burn as well. In an effort to find the reptile he had placed his body in a painful pose.
The rattlesnake’s rattle ceased, but the viper refused to move from his shaded location. Sweat began to drip profusely from Jeremey’s forehead. Although just at the edge of his peripheral view he kept his eyes locked on his slithering nemesis. Everything inside Jeremy told him to jump away, but he held is ground. The campground was too far away to walk for help if he was poisoned. To make matters worse, there was no cell phone coverage for at least a mile. It was something Jeremy had considered a plus until now. He knew risking a bite meant risking death.
High above him, the sky began to screech. There was at least one carnivorous bird, maybe more. He did not dare look up. Jeremy wondered if they were waiting for the inevitable. He stopped his mind from going further. The focus to survive would provide the courage that would see him through. The cries above his head seemed to grow closer, and then more distant.
Suddenly, he heard a whir in the air, and his eyes instinctively closed as something brushed his face. A moment later the air seemed to explode with a scream that faded away. Opening one eye Jeremy felt something moving across his boot. The six-foot rattlesnake was crawling quickly across his feet towards the scrub oaks. He held his breath until the serpent was out of site. Jeremy turned his head slowly to see the snake nearly to the oaks when the eagle seemed to appear out of the heavens in an instant.
In a matter of moments, the predator had become the prey. The deadly viper hung in the heavens from the eagle’s talons. Jeremy stood and stretched. Twisting his waist, he loosened his knotted back. Jeremy looked heavenward again. Both the snake and eagle were now a single spec in the sky. Nothing more than memories to be spoken of at another time.
Jeremy looked at the trail. If he turned back, he had three miles to the campground. If Jeremy kept going forward, he had three miles to the campground. He thought for a moment about his experience. Looking up at heaven Jeremy said, “Your blessings and curses reside no matter which way I turn, but if I weren’t meant to go forward You would have killed me here.” Smiling he continued on his way.
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