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Mojave GreenBefore I get into this, “Mojave Green”, is a slang name for the Mojave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus). I didn’t know that until a couple years after I moved to the desert. Sometimes though, the facts are just plain boring and a bit of B.S. can brighten things up and even change our lives.
One of the reasons I moved up here was that back in the early 1970s, the Mother of a friend lived in a cabin out on a mesa nearby. Pretty nice place she had built out in back of a smaller cabin that her father-in-law had homesteaded about 20-25 years before. Anyhow, in the evening we’d sit in the little cabin, get insanely wasted and then go drive drunk and shoot inanimate stuff. In the morning, we’d drag our dehydrated, hungover, pitiful selves up to the main cabin for breakfast and listen to my friend’s Mom tell us stories about the desert.
One of the many stories she told us was about how the Mojave Green came to be.
The Tale of the Mojave Green
There were rattlesnakes all over the place. Mean ones, with nasty tempers and bad attitudes. They’d eat a good-sized coyote whether they were hungry or not. Their venom was nasty also, but not any worse than a normal rattler. Since their venom was bad, but not potent enough to kill a beast as big as a coyote, it would die a horrible death being swallowed alive. There’d be a lot of howling, yipping, yelling and ungodly screaming and yelping.
One day, way, way, way back in the late 1800s, a circus wagon train was making its way to San Bernardino for a celebration. The wagons headed up a sandy wash toward the pass with lions and tigers and bears, and of course, a wagon full of deadly cobras from India. The wagons with the lions and tigers and bears were considerably heavyr and wore deep ruts in the sand. The wagon carrying the cobras was lighter and top heavy and with an ornate wooden roof. After a bit, the cobra wagon tipped over and all the cobras escaped.
Well, everybody was too afraid of the snakes to collect them so they just left without them. After a couple days the cobras started running into the rattlers. There was snake fights all over the place. Cobras were fighting rattlers and rattlers were fighting cobras. All the rats had been eaten so the victor of each battle got to eat the loser. Now, while rattlers were annoying and mean, the cobras were just plain killers and more often than not, the rattlers were the ones that were dinner.
Now the weird thing is; only the boy rattlesnakes were being eaten by the victors- all over the valley. Eventually the girl rattlesnakes came out of hiding, and the boy cobras married them in little snake wedding cermonies and made passionate snake-love to them during snake honeymoons and eventually had little snake babies that had the head of a cobra and the body of a rattlesnake. These were the first Mojave Greens.
The story doesn’t end here.
The baby snakes, fathered by the victorious cobras had a much more potent venom, and horrible, horrible mean tempers. They like the coyotes to suffer after they were bit and so now they don’t have to eat them to make them yelp and howl- just bite them. And they do that all the time and that’s why you hear the coyotes every night, lying there in pain twitching and howling like they do in the desert.
The end?- not quite…
To the victor go the spoils of war. Being how this war of the snakes went to the killer cobras, and they got all the girl snakes, in their honor they named the area of these battles– The Victor Valley. Of course with all the snake socializing and romanticizing that went on they had to get together somewhere, and that mess of snakes became known as, Victorville.
This was what got me hooked on the desert, at least aside from the desert itself. I like to think I'm a different, or actually better person than I was when I was a rowdy kid. I've learned to respect others, myself, and the desert over the years. It took awhile. I think my friend’s mom was probably a little bit out there. Loved her and her stories though and still drop by the place to listen to another every now and again. She cooked up a great breakfast plate of eggs and… …bacon?
Walter Feller - 1/09