The rattlesnake coiled up in the shade of the rocks. The only thing moving on a day like this was the drops of sweat on Fingers Maguire’s face as he eyed up a fat Western Diamondback. He had no club or gun, he relied on his wits and timing. It was all in the timing, Fingers said. He was known for being the best snake catcher in the territory. Fingers started chasing snakes when in his teens. While out on his father’s ranch fooling around with his mates, a big old rattler joined in and caught Fingers rightly on his leg.
The rattler tried to slither away but Fingers in a hot temper caught the snake behind the head. He kept bashing it against the hard rock until it resembled his Grandma’s Friday night stew – all lumpy and gooey. Only for the ice-cold beers that were passed around on stew night, most of the ranchers were happy to skip the dinner and remain hungry.
The incident with the rattler grew legs and soon Fingers was brought on the hot summer overnights when there was a chance of a rattler visiting the camp while the cattle-hands slept. He liked to go out on his own and hunt the fearsome and feared vipers that caused injury to human and death to rodents.
After having killed many rattlers and they having bitten him many times, Fingers decided to retire. Each wall on his house was covered with snakeskin, trophies of those he killed. Even after word spread that he no longer cleared areas of the rattlers, people kept asking him to rid just one more from their yards or fields.
He went to his eternal reward at the young age of thirty-nine years. They say it was all the venom in his body from bites. By his graveside we were all gathered and the preacher praying when a loud hissing sound stirred the evening air. It continued throughout the service until the snake killer was put into the ground and then the hissing stopped. They say it was the rattlers saluting their old foe Fingers.
Tis’ all the truth I tell and don’t you be sayin’ different. I know ‘cause old Fingers was my Pa.
— Mary Bradford