10:20 p.m. - 2004-12-21
In the early morning of July 5th, 1995, I stepped out the front door to retrieve the daily paper for my father. Immediately, a sharp, pin-like pain shot through my bare foot, and I shook it vigorously to remove what I thought was a rose branch. Instead, a small snake flew off and landed in a coiled position only a few feet away.
My first instinct, of course, was to scream for my mother, as Iím sure most other fifteen year old girls would do. She was standing in the kitchen, and per usual, thought I was freaking out about nothing. It took repeated cries to finally get her out the door where I stood, hopping on one foot and pointing idiotically at the foot long copperhead who still lay where he landed.
As soon as she realized that I had actually been bitten, my mother started screaming herself. She ushered me back in the door, into the kitchen, and began yelling for my father.
Iíll never forget that image of him--so well emblazoned upon my mind--running down the hallway in only his underwear. He took quick action in getting me into the truck and to the hospital, and though he soothed me while I cried out from the pain, there is no doubt in my mind that he was just as scared as I was.
The rural hospital here actually had some anti-venom on hand, presumably because another resident had been bitten only two weeks prior. After being examined by the doctor in the emergency room, I was sure that Iíd be perfectly fine. I casually informed him that I had to be at the 4-H State Finals two days later, so he needed to give me instructions on what to do to deal with the snake bite while I decided on barrel racing strategies.
Of course, I didnít get to barrel race that day, because I was still in the hospital. My parents stayed with me throughout the entire ordeal, assuring me that my swollen, black leg would eventually go down and look normal again. It took a couple of weeks, but they were right. After a great deal of bed rest, numerous antibiotics and painkillers, and lots of TLC, everything went back to normal.
My fatherís best friendówho was bitten by one of his own ďpetĒ rattlesnakes todayówasnít as lucky. Though he was within walking distance from the hospital, they didnít have anti-venom, and had to wait on an emergency vehicle to transport him to the city that lies an hour north of here.
I canít be certain as to what my fatherís reaction was when he found out the news about his friend, but Iíd be willing to bet that he was just as scared as he was that day nearly ten years ago. He and my mother rushed immediately to the hospital after finding out the news, and have been there for the past 6 hours. What started as an emotional roller-coaster rideóhe was stable, then he wasnít, the venom had been stopped, then spread to his kidneysóended in an untimely death for a man who Iíve known my entire life. A man who has always stood out in my mind as being one of the most adventurous, free-spirited, devil-may-care people Iíve ever known died tonight, and none of the people closest to him were even granted the chance to say goodbye.
When I was bitten, the first thing that my father and brother did after finding out that I was okay was to chop the snake into a million tiny pieces. I donít know what will come of the snake that killed my fatherís oldest friend, but I do know that the snake isnít to blame. Anytime that we, as humans, try to tame the wildest, most unpredictable, deadliest creatures in nature, we run the risk of getting severely injured or killed.
Iím still in shock over it all, and donít know what else to say. Iíd like to be able to place blame on someoneósomethingóeither for carelessness, or stupidity, or for being an innately evil creature, but I canít. Carelessness and ignorance may have been factors in the equation, but the man has been dealing with the same snakes for years and years. I canít fault the snake for doing what itís supposed to do, either, though Iím angry that it took the life of my fatherís best friend. But thatís the chance we take when we gamble with wild animals, I suppose.
Mostly, Iím angry at the hospital for not having the antidote that most likely would have saved his life. Iím not familiar with the shelf-life of anti-venom, nor do I know whether they normally have it in stock, but Iím fairly certain that they donít. Seems rather irresponsible for a hospital situated right in the middle of nowhere, but maybe it isnít. I donít know, and I suppose it really doesnít matter anymore.
Itís been a long, hard day for many people around these parts. I donít know when theyíll schedule the funeral, but I do know that the majority of the town will be in attendance. He was the type of man who knew everyone, and had friends in every place he visited.
Still, itís impossible for me to wrap my mind around the fact that heís actually gone. New Yearís, the Super Bowlóand all of us who knew himówill never, ever be the same.