Tag Archive: eccentric mountain men


Sometime between 2009 and 2010 an 80-year-old man by the name of Forrest Fenn trekked out into the Rocky Mountains and hid a bronze chest filled with over $2 million dollars worth of treasure. The secret to the location of the treasure is contained within a six stanza poem. Forrest Fenn’s treasure, as it’s come to be known, has captivated men, women, and children around the world and has lured many treasure hunters to the Rocky Mountains in the hopes that they’ll find the gold.

Ralph Slaughter was a legendary old mountain man up here in the Julian area.  Just to give an idea of his personality, he used to take his Cessna out over the nearby Ramona Fair every year with four pallets of eggs, and drop them onto unsuspecting fairgoers.  He lost his pilot’s license over those stunts.  He once shot a man at a poker game (the victim, who was there to beat up his wife, thusly deserving his fate, nonetheless survived).

Butch, a ranger from the lake, met up with Ralph once.  Butch was young, and had in fact just purchased his four acres from his old high school teacher.  There had been some tremendous rains that year, and many roads and culverts were washed out.  Ralph Slaughter was visiting Butch’s property to give a bid on repairs.

“All day long I’ve got estimates today.  These storms’ll keep me in work for the rest of the spring.  Let’s take a look at this end part first, and we’ll work our way back to the truck…”

They ran across a Pacific Black Diamondback rattlesnake, about four feet long.  Butch kept well away from it, especially seeing as how he was wearing nothing more than a pair of cut-off jeans and work boots.  Ralph didn’t seem concerned in the least.

“Do me a favor, run on back to my truck.  In the back you’ll find a square-point shovel.”  Butch complied.  Those shovels, with their long handles, are perfect for chopping off a snake’s head.

But instead, Ralph just used the shovel to pin the snake’s head to the ground.  Then he leaned down and picked it up behind its head.

“Over here, we’re going to need to do some grading, even out all this mud and rock that’s gotten everwhere.”  He gestured with the hand holding the snake, while fishing out a tin of Copenhagen from his front shirt pocket with the other hand.  Butch helpfully took the lid off for him, thinking he must want to refresh his chew, all while keeping a close eye on the rattlesnake, which, still rattling, was frantically writhing in Ralph’s grip.

“Then, see where this here pipe is exposed from the erosion?  That’s gonna have to be covered.  That won’t cost you much, but you might want to think about concrete there in the future…”  Ralph squeezed open the rattler’s mouth, then pinched off a good-sized chunk of chaw, and shoved it right down the snake’s throat.  “Hand me that stick there, would ya son?”  The tobacco tin was returned to its pocket.

Butch again obeyed, rapt.

“The bad news is that this culvert will have to be replaced entirely.  You can try to clean it out, but I guarantee it’ll just get jammed to hell again every big storm…”  Ralph took the stick from Butch, spat a good-sized spittle down after the chaw, then shoved the tobacco down the snake’s gullet with the stick.  Throwing away the stick, he then pinched its jaw shut and switched the snake to his other hand.  It was already foaming at the mouth and nose.

“That part is gonna cost some more.  But the total amount won’t be that bad.  I know your pa, and we can work out a payment plan if you need…”

Ralph dropped the snake.  Butch leaped backwards.  The snake curled up, turned upside-down, and was very much dead.  Only a minute or two had passed.

“Only thing is, there’s some folks ahead of you, and you’ll be on the list.  Might be a couple of weeks before we can get up here with the Bobcat…”

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