March 19, 2019 By Tom McKinney

A Close Encounter

Several years ago, my wife Mary Ann and I booked a couple of nights at Skywatcher’s Inn, a B&B located in the desert four miles from Benson, Arizona. We received lodging and breakfast and the use of a few telescopes. The larger and most sophisticated telescope was in a room in which the roof rolled back to expose the planets and stars, and students and professors from University of Arizona in Tucson could be hired to set up the telescopes and give lectures.

The first night, we waited until dusk to check out the telescopes on the highest part of the property, planning to join fellow guests clustered on the knoll. Mary Ann said, “Go ahead. I’ll be there in a minute.” I headed outside with a glass of wine in hand and got a sudden wake-up call as I headed up the steps. I heard a loud rattle accompanied by the sight of a large rattlesnake coiling up about three feet from me and staring me in the eye. To say I was frightened would be an excellent guess or answer. I hollered, “Snake! Snake!” and beat a hasty retreat back down the steps. By that time Mary Ann was returning and she and the other guests outside all heard the rattling. She said I was shaking and upset. I am not sure, but I may have spilled a little of my wine! Soon two scholarly astronomers from Germany came upon the scene and excitedly decided to seek out the snake. Luckily for them, they didn’t succeed.

A few minutes later Mary Ann and I decided to go in to Benson and get dinner. After eating we purchased a large flashlight at the local Safeway for better snake watching. On the return trip, we saw a truck with its headlights on stopped in the middle of the road. The driver was outside the truck and had taken a shovel to a large rattlesnake in the road. He approached our car and showed us his prize, dangling from the shovel.

No further encounters with snakes that night, but if I had been bitten by one, my greatest fear was that I would have been taken to the Benson Hospital, which wasn’t equipped to handle a rattlesnake bite. The nearest hospital that could was 40 miles away in Tucson. The next day, we noticed several signs around the property noting to “Watch for rattlesnakes.” I consider myself fortunate and have a healthy respect for snakes and stay clear of them if possible … and they of me.


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