CPR Section House

CPR Section House

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Snakes In Pockets

 When my brother was 4 years old , 1958 , he had spent an afternoon playing outside in the grass ( I use this term loosely.It doesn't mean lawn. ) . At the end of the afternoon , he came into the house to watch our new TV with the family . But , he was having a particularly hard time sitting still ,which was not unusual behaviour to us . He would sit , jump up suddenly , look at the couch  then sit once more . Finally Mum asked what the problem was . "Something is tickling me . It's moving . "

Television forgotten , we searched the couch looking for something unknown that might fit his description . Nothing . So Mum turned him around to see if there was anything on him that might explain the difficulty . Out of the back pocket in his shorts poked a small black head .

A tiny black snake with a copper red belly dropped onto the floor , trying to slither across the linoleum . This is a hard thing for a snake to accomplish . Amid all our excitement , Dad caught up the baby ," Don't panic ! It's only a snake ." After letting everyone take a good look at it , he released it outside .

 Dad was always picking up snakes that ventured into the yard to show us what they looked like. He would step gently on the snake , just behind the head , then grasp it lightly but securely and lift it up for our perusal . He introduced us to the local snakes so that we would recognize them  .

Common Garter Snake

Facts We Learned:

 None were poisonous but all could bite because they had teeth .

Look at them but don't hurt them because they keep the mouse population down .The more they ate the fewer would get into the house . We often had garter snakes follow mouse paths into the basement in search of food .Dad would clear out two or three a year that had slowed almost into semi-hibernation in our cold wet basement .

Snakes like to be warm and would lay out in the sun to warm up .

Snakes would slither away when they felt you coming .

Local snakes were generally harmless if you didn't bother or threaten them .

Snakes like the warmth of the rail road bed , so were always close to our house .

Eastern Massasauga ( Mississauga) Rattlesnake
from Parks Canada -www.pc.gc.ca
 With Dad's tutelage , Sis and I learned to stay clear and ignore . My little brother, on the other hand , was emboldened to pick snakes up anytime he saw one.  Sometimes Dad 'tutelled' a bit too much .

A few summers later , Brother noticed a snake tucked into a pocket above the trucks (wheels) on a boxcar that had been recently left on the siding . He took a stick to reach up and knock it down .He stepped on it , as Dad had shown and bent to pick up the rather large snake . However , he stepped too far back of the head . When he reached to grasp the neck , the snake caught my brother's thumb with two large fangs .

The scream brought my Mum flying out of the house as only that kind can , when a mother hears her child's pain ...this was real ! The snake was still there coiled up ready to hit again . Mum yanked my brother away and threw a rock at the snake . Then she got the axe and chopped it into pieces .

The fact that this snake attacked instead of escaping told her that a trip to the doctor was urgent . She wrapped a piece of cloth around his wrist to slow the circulation , sucked on the punctures ( as seen on Roy Rogers ) , then called a neighbour to bring them to the Doctor's Office .

It was a confirmed snake bite but identifcation was necessary to determine if anti-venom was needed . Meanwhile the Doctor bled the wound until Dad could bring in a hunk of the snake for I D . After searching the book at the physician's office , it was determined that it was a Mississauga Rattlesnake in the process of molting .

That is what made it difficult to identify . The pattern was distorted . This snake was a long way from home . Somehow it had found its way onto the boxcar near Gravenhurst and got a free ride  to our front yard in Mattawa. Since , the Mississauga had only caught  my brother's thumb with two fangs , he was given a small dose of anti-venom in case the sucking and bleeding hadn't caught all the poison . A very sore thumb and the resultant scare reduced snake-picking-up to just those that absolutely could be identified .

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