Rattlesnake and Border Crossing–1914

Rattlesnake and Border Crossing–1914

Rattlesnakes were not included in Uncle Charley’s 70 years’ of living in the New England States, although he had certainly heard about them.  He wrote his daughter from San Diego about “a walk I had on Wednesday.”

April 10, 1914                                                     

Will’s horses are used considerably and don’t seem to be feeling very well so I started off alone with compass and field glass.   Headed south first to find the Tia Juana River (that’s the way to spell it but it is the Tiawana).

I found it but it wasn’t “up,” that is its bed was a big ditch with a bottom of fine dry sand.There is supposed to be a current seeking the sea at some depth below, but I didn’t find it.  When the water is visible and courses over the sand, the Tia Juana is “up.” 

Then I went on to the mesas which have been beckoning me ever since I came.  Up a canyon, talking with a farmer who was raising melons on a cultivated strip on its bottom. He had a cow bitten by a rattlesnake that morning but saved her by permanganate of potash. 

Here I cut me a stout cane to poke into the sage brush ahead and climbed up a steep side of the canyon to the “mesa” which was a plain at the top.  A desert of sage and other dwarf bushes. Came to the Mexican boundary marked by a high barbed wire fence and transgressed the laws by propping up the bottom wire and rolling under into Mexico. 

I returned by the same method, and walking along the fence to another mesa, carefully watching my path, I espied a snake stretching across the path with his head in a bush on the other side of the fence, so he did not see me, was just baking in the sun. I crawled up carefully and gave his tail a tremendous whack with my cane, but he took refuge in Mexico where I couldn’t follow him, and escaped.  I am told he was a rattler.

Daniel Charles Potter, April 1914
Daniel Charles Potter (Uncle Charley), surveying for a school in Connecticut.

Treatment of the snake-bitten cow was of special interest to Uncle Charley because, before he went to the Massachusetts College of Agriculture at age 50, he was a dairy farmer selling premium butter and cream.  He graduated with a degree in horticulture in 1895 and progressed from surveying to landscaping.

He spent most of his visit helping with the “ranch” his brother-in-law had invested in, and which his nephew was attempting to salvage.  He apparently enjoyed exploring the crops and climate of this contrasting environment.  He approached the rattlesnake with caution as well as curiosity but without fright.

We are obtaining some detail knowledge of irrigation matters, how various fruits grow, peculiarities of climate &c but won’t attempt to tell you of these by letter and a later judgment may be more mature.  Temperature has averaged about 54˚ morning and night and 66 ˚ at noon while the water used for irrigation pumped from well 105 feet deep is constant at 74 ˚–warmed from the earth’s interior! Things are in such condition here that although most of the lemon trees are starting vigorously I am afraid William is going to have a hard time of it before he will begin to get returns.

Daniel Charles Potter

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