Thanks Bro!

  Few years ago I joined my wife at her artist-in-residency at the Buffalo National River near Jasper, Arkansas.  It is a spectacularly beautiful place.  And much wilder than I’d imagined.

Arkansas B

  Her lodging was an apartment above a remote stable used by the NPS to effect backcountry patrols.  One evening she heard a dog barking outside.  She loves dogs and having finished dinner went onto the balcony*  and threw out a few scraps for her visitor.  The moment she did so a bear rushed from the woods in contest.  It won.  Tough neighborhood.

  Our anniversary fell during our stay and so late that day we had a glass of wine and headed in town for dinner.  On the way I spotted a snake along the road and of course had to stop to investigate.  Didn’t take long to see that it was a rattler.  Timber Rattler.

  I quickly grabbed one of the ski poles we had in the back of the car and ran up to the snake before it could slither off the road into the bushes and away.  It wasn’t big on the idea, but couldn’t mount much of an offense because I kept it from coiling.

  After a short pas de deux, I had it draped over the pole and held it in the air to show off (umpteenth time – one day I’ll impress her…) for my bride.  “Get a little closer, stupid, so I can get a good picture” she said.

Arkansas snake

  While maneuvering about, I thought to myself that it seemed sort of sluggish, that I could probably safely grab it just behind its head and make it bare its fangs for the camera.  Dad taught us the procedure on a bull snake forty years ago and I’ve had lots of practice since, though never with a viper.  Indeed  pet bull snake Beulah was about the size of my new friend.

  Just as I began to choke up on the pole, a conversation I’d had with my MD brother came to mind.  While talking about Dad and snakes, he asked me to guess what the description of a typical snake bite victim might be.  I can’t remember if I guessed it or he told me, but the answer is “drunk white guy”.

  Had that memory not come up I’m sure I would have gone for it.  But not wanting to embarrass myself (also for the umpteenth time) I put it off to the side of the road and soon it disappeared.  We went on to have a fine evening.

  Upon return home I did a little research and found that Timber Rattlesnakes aren’t really all that venomous.  Given another chance I might give it a try.  I am 100% certain that my brother would agree that our father would not have hesitated.   He’d have been 82 today.

*From which was taken the photo above.

**Recent research (WSJ 5/12/09) indicates that those scary snakebite kits – complete with razor blade and suction device – might not be the way to go.  The trauma wrought by the incision does more harm than good and an application of suction by itself is ineffective.  Get bit by a snake just head to the ER ASAP.

One Response to “Thanks Bro!”

  1. bro Says:

    Oh, most definitely he would have gone for it!
    Mom and Dad and I had completed a long wonderful dinner in Teton Village. Juniper was all about. We were taking the long back road to Moose. Porcupine in the headlights. Dad so wanted to pull a quill (did I mention the porcupine was alive?) All we had in the car was a hard hat. I somehow was supposed to immobilize the creature with the hard hat. Dad kept saying “Agitate it, agitate it”. To what end I don’t know. I chickened out. Never let Dad down as much as I did that night…

    Hope your kids are more respectful of you than I was of our dad that night.

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