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EPISODE FOUR: Harvesting The RATTLESNAKE
Hand-harvesting wheat is a meticulous/meditative process. Time-consuming too (compared to gas-powered huge machine harvesting).
I had an hour to devote to the process before moving on to make lunch for the crew. One man's in his 60s , the other in his 50s and I'm in my 40s. The middle-one saw the rattle snake first as we approached the wheat, next to the plastic green-house.
Awesome creature, large reptilian thing he was. The eldest, the founder of the farm, immediately took his dog up the hill to lock the dog in safety. But I paused, thinking, "aren't there snakes everywhere around here?" And the voice of the Smith's Morrissey goes through my head, "this beautiful creature must die". That was about domesticated cattle used for meat for humans.
I'm a vegetarian, happy to harvest the wheat, tedious as it may be, and now, I quickly discover, the danger of snakes in this area, in the domesticated land of our meadow garden, a snake is a threat we can't simply trap and relocate her/him to some other wilderness. The eldest, our teacher, got the rake, trapped the beauty under it, giving me space to conduct the beheading, and I have the flat shovel.
We said our goodbyes to our brother snake, thanking him for his service in our garden (removing the mice or gophers that eat the vegetables we didn't intend for them), and with one quick deadly blow, life leaves my brother snake. Now what? The other men bury the head (where the venom is stored), and i drip the snake blood into the alfalfa bed, newly planted two nights prior. The body still writhes in my hands, possibly digesting the large lump in the center, the meal which made brother snake easier to catch in his drowsy work this morning. His body still wriggled for an hour, especially when responding to touch, it seemed.
Once a decade, i am called to intentionally eat the flesh of other animals. Sometimes insects enter my mouth accidentally, but i'm the one who was swept up in this annual ritual with the random appearance of a dangerous intruder that must be killed to keep the rest of us humans healthy on this ordinarily, temporarily vegetarian garden. So for the Summer Solstice, last night, with friends gathered to celebrate Summer, i dined on vegetables, a bit of snake muscle, and wine.
The day had started peacefully with our first EVER wheat harvest, but quickly, a crisis with a snake took over the day's tenor: Summer Solstice 2012