Busted Axle Road
CopyrightÂ© 1993, 2001, 2010
Pam had worked hard every day since she'd brought her stuff back from the dorm in Athens, and even after ten days, it was getting dull, not finding much of anything. At least it was good exercise, she thought. And, she got to sleep in a little.
After getting up and getting around, she got out into the swamps about nine or ten, when the sun was getting up a little, and the snakes were getting out. It wasn't as if she saw a lot of snakes, maybe three or four an hour on the average, but every snake that she saw was clearly not a Gibson's water snake, and the only thing that became clear from her daily forays into the swamps was that if there were any sipendon gibsonis to be found there, there were darn few of them. But, for an endangered species, that was to be expected.
It was possible that they might have a range of only a few acres, but it had to be concluded that if that were the case, that few acres had to be some place close to the sewer system. That limited her search area to a couple of square miles, which doesn't sound like much -- but for one person, hunting for a needle in a haystack, a couple square miles was an almost impossible figure to work with.
The one specimen had turned up in the sewer system, so she put a lot of time in there, using Josh and Danny's improved periscope, which had half of a busted pair of binoculars mounted on the stick, to get a closer look up the sewer pipes. Pam spent a couple of hours each day peering down storm drain grates all through the south side of Spearfish Lake, and once did see a snake, minding its own business. She spent more than an hour on her knees, peering at the snake through the periscope, before she was finally able to conclude that not only was it not a Gibson's water snake, it wasn't any kind of a water snake, but a run of the mill garter snake.
It had to look strange, she thought. She couldn't help but wonder what people must think, to see her trudging from one storm drain to another, shoving the periscope down through the grating and peering down it for a moment before going on to the next one. Surprisingly few people asked her what she was doing, and that worried her a little.
She was peering down through the periscope that Thursday when she thought she heard someone approaching her, but she was more intent on studying the image in the eyepiece. Something off in the dim distance looked vaguely like a snake, and the more she looked at it, the more she doubted that it was -- probably a stick, or something. It hadn't moved in some time, but that was not inconsistent with a snake. She had about made up her mind that it was a stick when she heard a loud voice behind her: "What the hell are you and that fairy professor of yours trying to do? Grab all the credit?"
It was Pacobel's voice. "What do you mean?" she said as she stood up, pulling the periscope from the sewer.
"I mean this," Pacobel said, shoving the Record-Herald in front of her.