|West Texas - June 11-16,
June 11 - I was able to take a half day personal time this afternoon in order to get out of town earlier. This would prove to pay off big time!! Instead of having to rush out to West Texas, this allowed me to take my time and also start hunting at sundown. Meridith (AKA Eagle Eyes) decided that since she had business back in town on Tuesday afternoon, that she would drive separately and she was about an hour ahead of us. We would catch up to her at the rest area out of Kingsbury. After that we grabbed some BBQ at our favorite place in Hondo. NO!, NOT McBees!!!! We have a new one now! A much better place. Gotsta have BBQ when you go out West, and any other time for that matter! On the way, the winds were pretty rough and just out of Brackettville, the windshield trim on our van came up and started flapping in the wind. I was thinking this might happen. The van is getting older and things need to be maintained. Looks like we have some maintaining to do. Well, we, for some unknown reason did not have the standard issue roll of duct tape in the van. We usually have some but for some reason it was taken out. Kim kept her hand on the trim for about 30 miles. This was very taxing on the muscles. Sorry Kimmy. I know that sucked. When we got in to Del Rio, we bought an overpriced roll of duct tape from the Valero station and sealed up the trim. That would take care of it for the rest of the trip! Duct tape's not just for snake containers anymore!!! :)
Due to the storms moving up from Mexico, I knew that this night would rock!!! Just before we got into Langtry, we made a personnel change. Kim got in with Meridith and was going to run the shotgun with the spotlight. Caleb, being the oldest, got first rights at shotgun in the van. The girls hunted East Langtry and the guys hunted the loop & West Langtry. Now, you would think with the Alterna Queen and Eagle Eyes in one vehicle, they would have at least come up with something. Well, they did not. What did happen is after the next shift change, and Weston got into the spotlight position, he was burning the cuts on the North side of the road, and I was shooting across to the South cuts. The second cut outside of Langtry, I noticed a dark crack in the rock. I stopped and stared. The crack changed shape and temporarily disappeared. I Yelled "KIDS!! THIS IS THE REAL THING!" The kids got all excited and I made a u-turn and whipped it around to the South cuts. As we pulled up to the rocks, Weston yelled "it's a gray band daddy!" I thought Caleb was going to bust out of the van like the incredible hulk! Poor Caleb was trying to get the door open but was having trouble. I noticed that the snake was moving at a rapid pace up the cut, so I had to bail out. I rushed up to the cut just in time to leap up about a foot and grab the snake before it topped the cut, which was only about 8 feet high at that point. It was a medium dark phase Blairs male. The kids were super excited as this was the first alterna they have ever seen live and on a cut. As the high fives continued, I realized that we had to keep moving because once that first catch of the season is in your blood, magical things start to happen,...........as in I WANT MORE!!!!!!
Two hours would pass and we were running the cut 3.8 miles West of Langtry and Eagles Eyes and the Alterna queen pulled up behind us. I exited the van with my arms up like I had conquered the world. Meridith said no,...you did not! "YOU DID NOT CATCH A GRAY BAND!" I said, well as matter of fact, yes I did. In unity, both Kim and Meridith said no you did not! You are not excited enough. I said well ladies, that was two hours ago. I am excited about catching more now. That alterna rush feeling has settled down for now. Well, at that point I had to show my wares. I walk slowly back to the van, the ladies still in disbelief, and I grabbed the pillow case and walked back to the car. I opened the bag and produced an awesome alterna! Then do you know what they had the audacity to accuse me of? They said "you brought that from home!" I said oh ladies!!!! Them's fightin words!!!! After they got finished with their joking around, I asked so what do you ladies have to produce??? Case closed!!!! Let's continue on then!
About 2:00 am, the women got sleepy so they hunted Sanderson on the way in. Myself and the kids hunted until 4:00 in the morning not seeing anything else. The only snake we saw and caught was the alterna. Not bad for the first night coming in! We were happy!
June 12 - After everyone woke up, we got assembled and it was show and tell time at the Outback. I was the only one that night who caught an alterna so that was a good feeling. I saw and photographed some other collectors snakes which are pictured here. We had a great time visiting the other Herpers some of who I see only once a year. It was great to catch up. After a short nap. Dinner was ready. It was the annual Herpers BBQ and cook out at the Outback Oasis! Everyone joined in. Fun was had by all and great food was served. Thank you to Ruth and Roy for once again and ALWAYS being great hosts!!!
We decided that tonight I would do something out of the ordinary. I would hunt up 285 North into Pecos County. I would hunt 9 mile, 16 mile and 18 mile cuts. We would find nothing so we then got on FM 2400 and hunted that road all the way to 349. We would see one live atrox about 3.5 feet long and I filmed him cruising off the road in to the grass and under the fence. We would see another small female that of course was just hit by the only other car on the road. Thank GOD it was not an alterna. I would have had to track him down and beat him to death. Right as we turned left on to 349, a vehicle showed up and began riding our bumper. I told Kim who was now driving at this time, to just take her time and continue to hunt like we always do. It was probably border patrol trying to intimidate us like they always do. Well, he was so close to our bumper that when we saw the first snake on 349, if we had have stopped, he would have been saying hello to Caleb and Weston. I was getting quite pissed off as he had followed us for about 4 miles at this point and then the time to turn around and burn the cuts was here, so I told Kim to signal and make a U-turn. This is when the lights came on and we just pulled over. Kim saw the door of the vehicle open up and there was a Sheriff's star and the door. She said it's the Sheriff. He asked for Kim to step out of the vehicle and walk to the back of the vehicle. As she did, I am sure he was totally shocked to see a Caucasian woman exit the vehicle at this time of night. He had to justify his stopping us at that point so he ended up giving us a warning ticket for a tail light that was out. It is actually not out. It is an across the board problem with the wiring that all Chevy vans seem to have. Anyway, he came up to talk to me as I was sitting in the passenger seat. I expressed to him how displeased I was with his riding our ass so close as we could not even see his headlights and the fact that he did this for 4 miles and over was totally unacceptable! I told him that this would one day cause an accident and that type of tactic needs to stop!!! He said as he fumbled for words to say, that "there's a lot of illegal drug activity in this area and we patrol this area frequently". I said yeah, I know. I have only been hunting this area for 30 years! I told him that his tactics needed to change for safety reasons. Also if I saw any illegal activity regarding drugs or suspicious activity, I would be the first one to report it. I proceeded to hand him by Wayne's World of Snakes Business card and we were done. I told him we would be burning the cuts here with the spotlight and we would maybe head to the big cuts out of Sheffield.
We actually decided to head back down South to Dryden, but as we got to a high point before Myers Canyon, we started receiving messages on our cell phones as we had just gotten back in to range for cell phone reception. Both Kim's phone and my phone had messages coming through. Well, what had happened was Caleb had gone hunting with Dr. Larry Nordyke who was out as well and he was riding shotgun and spotlighting for Larry. They had gone West of Sanderson and also to Lemon Gap further toward the West looking for alterna. Well, Caleb had hinted to Larry about "hey, maybe my parents are back from snake hunting now". He was obviously missing his mommy and daddy, so Larry headed back in a little after 2:00 am. We were on 349 at this point and out of cell range. He left messages saying he was all worried about us and crying asking when we were going to be home. What in fact had happened was he locked his self out of the room and did not want to wake Larry up or Ruth and Roy. What we failed to do was explain to Caleb that we would not be in until 4:00 am. or so and to hang out in the room as he had a key. Stacey and Curtis drove into the motel and noticed Caleb crying and all upset so Stacey let him hang out in her room until she heard from us. Stacey, as a personal note, thank you so much for taking Caleb under your wings for that time. We sincerely appreciate it. Thank you also Curtis. Obviously Caleb is not quite there yet! I passed up Myers Canyon and skipped all the cuts back through Sanderson in order to get back as fast as possible. I do not even want to think about the alterna I possibly missed but you gotta do what you gotta do. I sincerely apologize to everyone that was involved in this. Also Roy, I am glad I did not wake you up when I called you. Thanks for letting Caleb back into the room. We caught no alterna this night.
June 13 - We ran the East cuts of Sanderson tonight and this is all we did all night. We saw literally everything but alterna! We saw and video taped Subocs, Molossus, Hypseglena, and Emoryi. Snakes were moving everywhere!!!! Early in the night, a snake hunter drove by and said he had just caught one around 9:30 pm or so about 9 miles East of Sanderson. We hunted back and forth for a bit and then he came back around and said he just caught a second alterna close to the same area near the fiber optic building. Then around 12:30 am, someone drove by me and said he just caught his third alterna tonight!! This guy has all the luck! He did this same thing back on 277 a couple of years back! I am going to start calling this guy Mr. TRIFECTA!!! You lucky *%@#!&*!!!! We had gone back to the room at this point for a shift change. Kim and the kids were getting tired so Meridith returned with Weebie who she had been hunting with for the last two nights and we then cruised off in the Element. As we came over the railroad track just East of Sanderson, we saw another collector and his wife just sitting there on the shoulder of the road. I stopped and said "You can't catch Gray bands just sitting and bullshi**ing in the car!!! He very loudly said "I am just putting my gray band up that I just caught!" Now, didn't I feel SCHTUUUUPID!!! He produced one of the nicest alternas I have ever seen. Bright fluorescent orange with stunning markings! This was his first alterna he has ever caught. He has been herping for 15 years and this was his first! CONGRATS!!! Your alterna is pictured here on my updates!!! Great job dude!!!!! I am sure we will continue to see you out in the future! You will ALWAYS revisit the scene of the crime!!!
We would see nothing else this night but the common stuff. We headed on in around 4:00 am.
June 14 - I decided that since we had not caught an alterna since June 11th, that I would bump myself back down to "Langtry status" as I call it. This simply means that if you are not having luck catching alterna, head to Langtry for your best chance. We headed to Langtry dirt road and hunted at sundown as we usually do. We saw nothing at all. We hit Langtry loop and then headed West. About 10:38 pm I saw an alterna across the road on the cut almost directly under my buddy's marker at 3.8 West Langtry cut, and I made the U-turn and pulled up to it. Weston was once again spotlighting and said yep dad! It's another Gray Band! I was looking for the flashlight that I usually keep between my legs for easy access, but I could not find it now, and was searching frantically for it. I finally determined that well, Weston has it lit up on the cut, so I will just quit wasting time and I exited the vehicle and ran up to the cut. As I got closer, I realized that the snake was higher up on the cut than I expected. It was just out of reach! I looked around for a foothold and there really wasn't one. As I lept up onto the rock, it scared the alterna who cruised very quickly up the cut and over a little knoll behind a little bush. I lost visual contact at that point. I started to panic and said "Kim, get out here with a light!!! I cannot see anything" I was thinking there is no way I am going to lose this alterna! She came out with a light and came up to the cut. I said where the hell did it go??? She said it is behind that bush and those rocks!!! When I located the spot she was talking about I saw nothing. Thinking it had gone into a hole or crevice, I was panicking even more. My heart was beating fast as I was determined not to lose this snake! I started pulling the rocks out and letting them fall to the ground, my heart pounding at every second that was being lost. On the third layer of rock, I was frantic and just ripped the rock out of its position. With that third rock also came the alterna with it! I can reflect in my mind in slow motion the orange and gray that had been laying vertically between that last rock and me tying to grab it before it fell along with the rock. As I saw it fall, I had no light to pin point where it hit, and was yelling for Kim to please get close enough to the cut to see where it landed. She could not make it close enough in an acceptable amount of time in which to pinpoint the location of the fall. SUPER FRANTIC at this point, I was trying to get back down the cut to the bottom, but could not get down safely where I had climbed up. I moved to the right about 6 feet and saw a little ledge I could come down on. Please know that at this point, I was at least 10-12 feet high up on the cut. As I stepped on the little ledge, I saw the rock just split in half! I knew it was all over with at that point. I was going to fall so pucker up and get ready! What I would estimate as 200 LBS of rock cut loose, I went with it! I fell to the bottom of the cut thinking "I know this is going to really hurt" As I landed, all I felt was scrapes and abrasions on my legs, and nothing else. I was sure my legs were going to be crushed! When I realized all was cool, Kim yelled "are you OK?" I yelled "YES!!! Just get the damned snake!!!!" I am guessing at this point several minutes had gone by and Kim was really not where she needed to be. I hobbled over to the location of where I think the snake had fallen. We stripped that area clean of any brush an it looked like a black bear had bedded down in the area. I searched and searched but could not produce and alterna!!! I walked that cut for the next two hours as Kim and the kids patrolled to the bridge and back up toward my direction. I could not find it and had to get used to the fact that I had failed miserably!!! There was NO EXCUSE for missing this Gray Band whatsoever! Talk about being down on yourself for a miserable failure. It was awful! What made it even worse was I had my damned flashlight in my pocket and did not realize it with all the excitement. This would have helped immensely, but I did not realize it was in my pocket. Also, the key to catching this specimen would have been to not freak out and ripping the rocks out as fast as I did. It should have been a slow methodical process. If I had have just taken my time and not gotten that excited, I would have had my second alterna. I was livid!!! My legs were scraped and bruised, I was hurting and felt like I had just been turned down for a date by a super model! Real bad feeling!! Not only that but when I got back to Houston, I ended up going to the doctor because I realized something was stuck in my leg. My leg was getting infected and I needed to have what was in it taken out. It ended up being a little over a ½ inch piece of wood that I had received when I fell off that cut. I was shot up with laticane and the intruder was removed from my leg. My doctor went over board and prescribed me hydrocone, silver sulfate and some other pain medication plus a refill on hydrocodone. Did I mention I love my doctor!!! I let Kim drive at this point and began to medicate myself with a "daddy drink" Let it be known that this snake appeared to be a male and was medium gray with bright orange and was approx. 2 feet in length. The pain of it all! This makes the second alterna I have missed in my thirty years of collecting out West. We would not see any more alterna this night and got back to the Outback at 5:00 am. We only saw the usual on the way back.
June 15 - At this point O'l Eagle Eyes had returned to her home in Katy, and as we were talking, I was supposed to leave by 2:00 pm to return home but she talked me into pushing the envelope and hunting at least until 12:00 am. I pondered the idea, and used to do this on a routine basis back in the day! This is what I used to do back when I was a "young buck" and could handle driving back and sleeping two hours and going to work the next day. Not this day and time muna!!! It is just too hard on this old body! But I said to myself, wait! Kim is not working over the summer, and the kids do not have school. Hell, she can drive and I can sleep on the way back! IT'S ON BUDDY!!!!!!! Thanks for talking me into it Meridith! (as like it took me a long time to decide) We ate lunch at the Dairy King and came back for a short nap. We then said our goodbyes to Ruth and Roy and headed out about 8:00 pm. We passed Larry Nordyke on the way as he was going to be hunting the same area. We pulled up to our cut, which is the one marked by Keith Armstrong's marker, Yes, the same cut where we lost the alterna. :(. We drove back and forth and about 10:02 pm Larry drove by and I told him that if anyone was going to catch an alterna it would be between now and 11:00 pm. We went about our own way and about 11:15, I saw Larry drive by without spotlighting the cuts and he made a u-turn. I told Kim that is weird. What is he doing? As he pulled up behind us, I got out of the van and walked back to his car and asked him what was up? He got out of the car and said to me" Well, I just broke my 10 year drought!" He had a pillow case in his hands and walked up to me. He proceeded to open it and out came a heart stopping light phase alterna that was the epitome of excellence when you speak of alterna! I will have to admit I was not expecting to see what I was laying my eyes upon. I am glad I did not have a bad heart because EMS would have been called on this one. This light phase Blairs was the perfect specimen!! They just do not get any prettier than this folks. At least this is the way I feel about it. I showed Kim and the kids are we were all super excited for Larry!!! Then what does he do? He hands the alterna to me, pillow case and all. I kind of stuttered and said "don't you want to take it back to the Outback and show everyone?" He nodded his head no, and said "I will see you back in Houston" I wished him well and said I will see you there. Larry no longer keep snakes but is involved in DNA research, so what he wants is to take a swab from the mouth of the snake in order to do his research. Larry, you know you can have visiting rights whenever you want!!! In fact, this snake being a male is now named Larry!
We celebrated and when the clock struck twelve, we headed back for Houston. I drove to Uvalde and we got gas and switched drivers. I slept on and off into Houston and I took a shower when I got home and headed off to work. Kim and the kids would sleep the rest of the morning. Well, at least Kim did. This marked the end to what I would call a successful and very fun trip. Almost everyone out there had caught at least one alterna and in some cases many more. We were not harassed in any way shape or form while Herping the Trans Pecos regarding herping. I am seriously hoping that Law enforcement realizes the absurdity of the no collecting off the highways and easement and that it is totally ridiculous. I would personally like to thank the game wardens in Terrell County as well as local law enforcement for not harassing us while out there in West Texas because we truly love the area and we do care about the region and love the people. I did notice this!!!! I bid adue to West Texas until next year. This was the second planned trip and last one for this year. We have a family vacation planned for the East coast to visit relatives in late June in to July. Will I do any herping there???? DON'T KID YOURSELF!!!! Rock on Herpers!!!!
LeAnn Armstrong with Adam the T.Pecos Rat
The Alterna Queen and Eagle Eyes
Work it hard Weston!
Scenery off of Langtry dirt road
Paradise in West Texas!
KK says all is well in West Texas!
A little West Texas scenery
A looming storm towards the West
A huge storm cell West of Sanderson
Weston & Kim in front of the storm
The looming storm & moon in Sanderson
Are we sure this isn't a nuke?
My little alterna queen hard at work
When are they going to come out?
It's a scolopendra
It's an Emory rat snake!
It's a cut East of Sanderson
The hills behind the Outback Oasis
This is fun dad!
Looking for arrowheads
I love hiking, daddy
I am looking for buried treasure
Are there any arrowheads, Weston?
Roy & Ruth Engledorf of the Outback Oasis Motel
Mrs. Fraser, Larry Nordyke, John & Barb
Barb & John Fraser, Meridith, Curtis & Stacey
Meridith & Ruth
The Emory rat heads for the hills
Night snake East of Sanderson
Molossus on top of 5 mile cut
Molossus on the rock cut
Male 9 miles East Sanderson
Female 9 mile East Sanderson
Male balirs alterna
Female Light phase Blairs
Wayne's West Langtry Blairs male
Larry Nordyke's light phase Blairs
Larry Nordyke's light phase Blairs
Larry Nordyke breaks his 10 year dry spell!
Blairs just East of the railroad tracks
A smokin' hot Longnosed snake
A fatally wounded atrox
A cruising suboc
Black Gap Graybands found during this superb hunting week
What snakehunters do during the day...boooiiiinnnnggggg!!!
Shard of wood from Wayne's leg
The shard was half an inch long
My legs 3 days after the fall
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