Of Ironmen, Talking Dogs, And Rattle Snakes


Hi folks,

About 10 years ago in mid-summer I was riding a rental bike along a lovely trail in South Dakota, when I noticed a couple of rattlesnakes all wrapped up together in the grass close to a small footbridge with a wooden railing. More about that railing in a minute! This trail was a local railway line that had been converted to a walking/biking trail by the Rails to Trails program (Dagny Taggart is rolling in her fictional grave, I am sure!).

George S. Mickelson Trail, From Rails to Trails – http://www.traillink.com/home.aspx

Whether removing railway lines is a good idea is debatable, but these trails provide great access to nature and they are perfect for safe family bike riding. Safe from traffic, that is! The summer in question was particularly dry, which drove the local rodents and lagomorphs (rats and rabbits, essentially) down from the dry hills to the moister valleys below, where the trail is located. These animals are followed by a major predator, the rattlesnake. Along this trail I saw dozens of rattlesnakes sunning themselves, and some were quite large.

One day I took it into my head to revisit the entangled pair by the bridge. I was alone with my bike, which I leaned quietly against the bridge. Then I found the happy couple, and for some unknown reason I picked up a small pebble, climbed onto the hand rail, and found myself looking directly down upon two coiled-up rattlesnakes of moderate size. Then I responded to the irresistible urge to drop that pebble next to them to see if they would move. They moved all right! They went nuts! First the noise of their rattles frightened me into a state of rigidity, and then their purposeful search for the source of the pebble gave me chills. They were looking for me, and they exhibited a kind of malicious aggressiveness that is hard to describe. I remained motionless, knowing that they would have no trouble attacking me if they looked up, which they never did! As soon as they settled down a little I was on my bike and I high-tailed it out of there with my tail between my legs (clever trick that!). I will never mess with rattlesnakes again, I promise.

If you go on the Internet you can find some pretty good rattlesnake movies. Here is a link to one I like. The World is changing, and online video clips are clearly contributing to this change. At the click of a mouse you can pretty well see anything you want (or don’t want!). About 25 years ago I created a ten-minute movie on nasal mucociliary function. I employed the latest technology available to me at the time, including 16 mm movie film, a number of microscopes, a local photo lab (now closed!) and lots of time in the cutting room. The whole process burned up quite a bit of my research budget and it took almost six months full-time to complete. Today, thanks to video technology, kids can make better movies than mine as one-day school projects, and cell phones are being used regularly to collect visual information, Chez Ollie.

It is now routine for me to receive links to YouTube movies from friends. For instance, yesterday I received a link to a highly amusing movie that mocks my crazy sport, Ironman Triathlons. It certainly hit that nail on the head! We are crazy, but I love it! This link was rapidly followed by another, to a hilarious movie that features a talking dog. Watching these highly entertaining videos (DON’T MISS THEM IF YOU FEEL LIKE A LAUGH!) reminded me of one of my favorite books, ‘Amusing Ourselves To Death‘ by Neil Postman. This little tome explains in a philosophical and effective way the influence that technology can have upon epistemology – it can change the way we understand the World! But a movie is just that, a movie. It is not a real life experience, in the way we generally understand ‘real’ to mean. You can watch as many rattlesnake movies as you like, but you’ll never have that deep-seated emotional ‘bond’ that my experience on the bridge created – stronger cathexis due to all senses being involved, not just vision and hearing? I wonder if the sound/movie byte nature of the life experiences of the young today is preventing them from thinking more deeply? They may be ‘entertaining themselves’ into a semi-dead mind state? Why not read? This is a good question that as an avid reader I recommend highly; however, you can read too much as Einstein said:

Much reading after a certain age diverts the mind from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking,…”

If Einstein said it, it is not necessarily correct, but it generally is, and most certainly in this case. I think that novels can function as a distraction in the same way as television (which I avoid like the plague).

Maybe blogging could become excessive too, but not triathlon training (you have to see that link above if you haven’t already).

-k @FitOldDog



  1. I love the Ironman cartoon.

  2. Great post hahaha! I love how you carried that curiosity for days after you saw those snakes near the bridge the first time; and the kicker is that days later you went back! Lol….totally something I would do.

  3. Going back to those snakes is something a boy would do; I doubt that most females would do this. I don’t think this is a sexist statement.

  4. I learned an important lesson, which is: “Rattlesnakes are extremely dangerous.” I was lucky. Got to be careful around reptiles, I think, human or otherwise. Kind Regards, Kevin (CrazyOldDog)

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.