The snake was a startled as we were.
We had begun the days walk knowing we would be going through an area where rattle snakes were common. We spaced ourselves out, each of us with a walking stick and not attempting to be quiet (hopefully giving snakes a chance to avoid us).
We reacted to the surprise encounter by throwing large rocks at the snake who understandably took a fierce defensive posture. But as kids (and our adult leaders) we became intent on the kill. For me it was like a fever that needed quenching by death.
Several of the rocks hit there mark. Once the animal was injured it seemed to go mad and struck out at anything that moved, including itself.
We thought how odd that the snake was attacking itself.
Why did it bite itself?
We killed it with the deadly barrage of stones.
Our leaders skinned the snake and found a rat it had just eaten in its gut. They stretched the skin on a frame and salted it down to dry and preserve it.
Eventually the skin became a fancy adornment to a cheap felt hat and a story of a kill.
Why did the snake bite itself? These many years later I know – the snake was driven mad by the attack and injury the snake was no longer knew itself.
There was no purpose for what we did. We needed neither food or the skin or protection (we could have backed off and avoided the confrontation).
I believe I allowed myself to get caught up in the need to be more powerful than an animal that simply wanted to digest its lunch and live as it had been created.