I’m Listening Lord…


By Charles Towne                       

A faint, barely discernable suggestion of sound, a troubling dissonance suggested itself upon my being.  Then, silence?  A silence all the more foreboding and pervasive because the author of that sound could make the next few minutes or hours most interesting indeed.

Nature, all of nature, with its myriad quirks and eccentricities has always fascinated me, holding me a willing captive to its will.  As I follow an indistinct animal trail that will eventually lead me into the dense swamp that is part of the Wekiva river flowage.  I progress steadily from dry, sandy highland habitat with its oak groves, long leaf pines and Gopher tortoise burrows, ever lower to where the palmetto scrub becomes almost impenetrable.

The dense palmetto provides cover for many animals as well as a handy food source for the bear for the berries it provides.  Here also is habitat more than adequate for a denning female, due to the fact that a large predator, such as man, or another bear, would find it most difficult to approach the den site through the almost impenetrable, noisy cover with any amount of stealth.

Most humans find the large expanses of palmetto growth most inhospitable and not at all to their liking, not only due to the palmetto’s sharp serrated edged, flesh cutting stems but for the unpleasant fact that it is also ideal habitat for that king of North America’s venomous snakes, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake.

While negotiating your way through a large patch of scrub palmetto it is almost impossible to see the ground immediately at your feet.  The large meandering trunks of the palmetto plant creep along the ground in a most snakelike manner, thus rendering each step most precarious.

While I was forceing my way through a particularly dense and wickedly inhospitable patch of scrub palmetto one day I was suddenly jerked up short by the distinctive, and under the circumstances, unwelcome sound of a diamond-back rattlesnake .

Nature, all of nature, with its myriad quirks and eccentricities has always fascinated and enraptured me, holding me a willing captive to its will.  Whatever the fascination of the moment, be it a spider’s web with its hungry and vigilant resident, to the most delicate flower, to a scorpion or a diamondback rattlesnake, I find it all a marvel, a mystery waiting to be unraveled, but as I stood there in the heart of that forbidding patch of scrub palmetto, I could tell from the dispersed sound there were at least two of the reptiles and from the volume and proximity of the sound they were large, and close, very close.

I stood absolutely still.  In fact I gave new meaning to that old saying, “frozen in your tracks”.  After a few seconds of intense rattling and no more movement on my part that threatening, dry, castanet sound slowed, became erratic, stopped, jerkily started again and then ceased altogether.

I could hear at least one of the snakes as it crawled over something, probably the above-ground root systems of one of the large palmetto plants.  That dry, rasping sound made by the snake’s movement over and around the palmetto roots seemed to be coming from somewhere three or four feet away, but it was difficult to tell.  Quietly, so as not to disturb either reptile I began to carefully push and lift aside the closest palmetto fronds to better enable me to see the ground at my feet.

There, no more than eighteen inches from my right foot was a portion of the heavy body of a large, beautiful diamondback rattler.  It was obviously well fed, a prime, healthy specimen.  My only difficulty was posed by the somewhat prickly fact that I didn’t know where the snake’s head was and as yet had only spotted the one.  Oh well, all in the day’s work of a wildlife photographer.

It was difficult to tell but according to what I could see of the snake’s body; A section perhaps a foot long, I guessed it to be in the neighborhood of four or perhaps, four and a half feet in length.  That is certainly not a huge specimen but if it bit you it could more than likely ruin your day.

I continued carefully pushing aside the fronds and soon discovered the second diamondback.  It lay there in a loose defensive coil a little less than four feet away.  It seemed to be undisturbed as it faced me; it’s black tongue lazily tasting the air of its environment.

O.K., The next thing to do in the order of importance was to find the business end of snake number one, the snake at my feet.  Carefully parting some fronds at my side I saw the musical section of old Mr. Buzz tail.  According to the width of the rattles I knew that my estimate of the snake’s size was probably right on.

Well, it ain’t the rattles what hurts yah folks!

And by the way, it is impossible to tell a snake’s age by the number of rattles it possesses.  Each and every time the reptile sheds its old skin it gets another segment.   A snake such as the one at my feet, if well fed could shed a half dozen times in the course of a single year and each time another segment is left from the shedding.

As the reptile crawls along, over and under various types of obstacles in its path there are times when those dry segments become damaged and break off, thus you might find a five-foot specimen, (a rarity in these days of indiscriminate slaughter and urban sprawl) with no rattles at all.

I pushed aside another frond and there was the impressive head, two inches wide with fat cheeks.  Yes, this baby could definitively put a hurtin’ on you.  A snake this size is going to possess fangs three quarters of an inch in length, which means deep envenomation and even though he could possibly expend enough of his poison brew to kill a man the amount actually injected would only make the limb turn black, the skin and underlying tissue to slough away and leave you with some interesting bragging rights, if you are so inclined.   It is highly unlikely that a person is going to die even from the bite of a large diamondback, but it will leave you suffering enough so that you will, at times, wish that you were dead, believe me, I know.

Oh so carefully, I let the fronds settle back as they were and began my slow, oh so careful retreat, leaving the cute couple in possession of their lovely patch of palmetto scrub.

As I began to move away one of the rattlers buzzed a brief farewell and then all was silent again except for the frantic beating if my heart.


Thank you so very much Lord.  How many times have you protected me in my everyday walk?  Lead me, guide me, and reveal to me your divine will for my life.  Show me how best I can reveal you to all I come into contact with and help them to see you and know your love for them through me.  Praise you O Most Holy one, in Jesus’ beautiful name I ask it, Amen.

Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.


  1. Love this article. For me it’s a wonderful example of the beauty that this planet offers along with an equally beautiful example of the Lord leading us through dangerous and frightening situations.

    Thank you Chuck for sharing this awesome adventure! God bless!

  2. Dear NH, boy, aint it the truth. There is healing to be found in the wild places, yes, healing for mind, body and soul. I have been blessed to see lives changed as people are exposed to the purity of nature. What a joy to be able to enjoy what God has gifted us with. Chaz

  3. Don, I find it puzzling to see folks take krazy kruizez to faraway places, drinking and feeding themselves into oblivion and yet we have so much real, genuine beauty close at hand. Thanks for the perceptive comment, Chaz


  5. This brings back memories of a time I heard a loud hiss. It was overcast and dark, and I could not see how far away the snake was. That was when I prayed and trusted the Lord to show me the way out of the swamp. Like you, the Lord is my constant friend and guide! I love your stories. Thanks Chuck!

  6. What a beautifully suspenseful story as Charles takes us along on his trip through the natural inviron of the swamp and his encounter with its residents. As I sit here reading his account, it seems as though I was exhibiting the shakes even more than him at the time. Within his three to four foot circle he made me feel that he was at home as much as those two reptiles. Excellent and most exciting!
    Jim C

  7. Dear Jim, Thanks so very much for your heartfelt comment. If I can touch others with my life stories I have lived well. May you and yours be greatly blessed this Christmas season and always, Chaz

  8. Wow, such clarity. I luv the writer’s enthusiasm. His words bring me right there in the brush with him. I could hear the rattles of the snakes. The twigs snapping had he walked. Jyst as God paints a beautiful picture on the brush, Charles brings it to life on paper. That he sees it thru God’s eyes. Enjoyed very much. Look forward to reading the next article.

  9. Dear Tahara, WOW! I believe the Father gives us all gifts, and yours would be edification and confirmation. You bless me dear one. Thank you so very much for the beautiful comment. May our wonder working God bless you and yours is my prayer, Chaz

  10. Truly thought provoking, as I have said several times, proof that your guardian angel stays with you even after childhood! Also an example of how dangerous things can seem beautiful, the enemy is a crafty being and often makes evil seem appealing!.And lastly, it shows Papa God’s great love by his providing a sign that something dangerous to us is lurking, you just have to learn to listen if you were talking or preoccupied, you may not have heard the rattling!!! God’s blessings to one and all this holiday season and indeed, all year round!

  11. Ahhh Richard, wise words indeed. Another way to look at it is on the obverse, those things, and people, that at first glance appear beautiful are often deadly to the extreme. My wish is that you and yours will have a lovely and safe holiday season. Chaz

  12. Dear Don, a most unique experience that few have enjoyed! Thanks for the comment pal and I pray the Lord’s blessings and protection on you and yours, Chaz

  13. As I read this story, I think I might have actually been holding my breath. Thankfully this adventure ended well for you and not with a venomous bite. It is inspiring how you relate so well to nature. You remind us that nature is a gift from God to us for our well being, provided we are paying attention and being respectful.

  14. Dear Kristin, there have been many such moments in my life, moments of great expectation, thrilling moments, exhilarating moments. It is when I am in the wild places that I come alive and realize just what an incredible God we have as our friend. My prayer is that you too can experience the untame. Blessings, Chaz

  15. Charles i gotta give it to you brother if it were me i would have been quivering in my boots. Your a brave sole. Amazing read keep up the great content love ya bud


  17. Amazing story!! All of Nature is such a beautiful gift from God and we thank Him
    for giving it to us for our enjoyment.
    But, I have to admit that I was glad it was YOU doing the “enjoying” out there, and not me!!
    May God continue to bless you in all you
    do and protect you in all your adventures!

  18. Dear CSG, man, if all of you dear folks are praying for me how can I lose? I wake this morning to your note, what a wonderful blessing! May you be blessed abundantly, may you be touched by the divine, may there always be reason for joy in your life, may you have so many miracles in your life that you have to cry out to Papa God to stop. These are my prayers for you on this glorious day, Chaz

  19. Thanks for taking me on a journey that I would never think of taking physically. I have always had a deep respect for snakes and always have given them a wide berth. I found it interesting that as powerful an amount of venom the snake possesses that it will only use enough to give you a reminder that you have invaded his space and did not heed his warning to “back off human”. Another great story. Merry Christmas Chaz.

  20. Hey Mike, I love sharing my experiences in the wild places with folks like you. Having been treated to those reminders you speak of three time in my dull life I am not looking to do a repeat performance any time soon. I suppose a “little bit” of snake venom can be compared to being a little bit pregnant, THERE AINT NO SUCH THING! And merry Christmas to you pal, Chaz

  21. Thanks for the comment BarklayTo be very honest with you I have lived a life that could be called anything but dull. Please check out my column this next Sunday for another article. Blessings on you and yours pal, Chaz

  22. Dear friends, Thanks to all of you dear Apopkanites! All of you dear people that have commented on my articles and adventures have given me a great gift of love and appreciation. Blessings and much joy to you all, Chaz

  23. Wow! You had me enthralled from the get go and I don’t even like snakes! But isn’t that the way it is with sin! I had to see what happened next! Fascinating story


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