Montana Slim said he was riding around in the Badlands all by himself when a rattlesnake decided to up and bite him. As soon as it happened, he said, he just sat down in the dirt and said, God, you’ll have to take care of me. He was way out there by himself; he knew he had no chance of getting to a hospital in time. But in a few seconds God talked back and said, Think, Slim, just think.
I didn’t get a chance to ask him how long he sat there or how he got back to town. Some doubt must have passed over my face because before I could ask these questions, he was pulling up his pant leg to show me--mid-calf, just at the top of his cowboy boot, in that soft spot behind the knee were two small side-by-side puncture wounds. They were red and puffy around the edges but brown in the center, like a scab in the process of healing.
This place seems to go on forever, and so do its stories. I feel a little snake bit myself, by Montana Slim’s story and by all the other stories I’ve heard the last three weeks. They’ll roll around my head for years, and maybe I’ll start to believe I’ve forgotten them. Then one day when I’m in real trouble, in real need of advice, they’ll come back to me with the cure for my ills. That’s what comes from listening. And for that, I’m grateful.