All things considered, I don’t recommend stepping barefoot on a poisonous pit viper, but that is exactly what I managed to do and it was entirely my fault.
I can’t blame the snake. He was just sitting there minding his own business, staring at a bunch of chickens and maybe thinking about girl snakes when I came along, a gigantic, lumbering whatever I was and stepped on him. Of course, he bit me. What would you do if something five thousand times your size came along and stepped on you? Whammo! You’d nail them with whatever you had available.
In the copperhead’s case, he had fangs and poison.
Like a lot of people say, I am not afraid of snakes, but I have a healthy respect for them. (Hell, anything that has no arms, no legs and can still climb a tree deserves our respect. At the least, you’ve got to admit that’s a pretty good trick). That being the case, I am a live and let live guy when it comes to snakes. I leave them alone and they leave me alone. I never kill them and I didn’t kill this one. I called him a few uncomplimentary names, but that was about it.
Here’s how it happened:
Along about evening, it occurred to me that I forgot to shut the gate to the chicken pen. We often open the gate of the pen to let the chickens wander around during the day. We close the gate at night to protect them from predators, like foxes, coyotes, raccoons and whatnot.
It was raining outside and it was fairly dark. I normally never step outside without shoes on mainly because the area around the chicken pen is festooned with poop – chicken poop, duck poop, goat poop – you name it.
This time, I was in a hurray so I went out barefoot.
I had just shut the gate and I was latching it when I felt some kind of sensation on the top of my right foot. I should point out that I suffer from a diabetic condition that makes my feet numb, so there was no big sting or anything like that. I looked down and saw a snake sliding away. In the low light, I couldn’t see much in the way of detail. I figured it was non-poisonous.
As a kid, I used to catch snakes and I had been bitten before, so I was not concerned in the least about it.
Later that night, I was in bed asleep and woke up because my foot felt odd. I turned on the light and noticed a bump about the size of a quarter on the top of my foot. There was a hole near the top of the bump. I assured myself that a poisonous snake would leave two holes. Me, redneck idiot that I am, I went back to sleep.
The next morning my foot was swollen. The skin around the bump was turning purple – like a bruise, and the purple seemed to be spreading. My wife inspected things under a bright light. She found a second hole. It was less than an inch from the “big” hole, but it was less pronounced.
“You got bit by a poisonous snake,” she said. “You need to go to the doctor.”
“But there’s just one hole,” I told her.
“I think he got one fang in you all the way, but not the second fang,” she said.
I’d been bitten by a snake with bad aim.
Me, redneck idiot that I am, chose not to go to the doctor. I’ve seen a few copperheads around our place and I figured it was one of them. I also knew it was a little guy who probably couldn’t deliver that much poison. Besides, I always heard a copperhead’s venom will make you sick, but it won’t kill you. So I stayed home.
I never claimed to be the brightest bulb in the pack.
By the time evening rolled around, my foot had swollen to the point I couldn’t fit it in a shoe. I didn’t feel so hot, either. I was a bit nauseated and sweaty. Still, I wouldn’t go to the doctor. I knew of people being snake bit by a copperhead and the remedy was to “sweat it out,” so that was what I was going to do.
The next day, my foot was completely purple and even more swollen. By that evening, though, the swelling seemed to be going down. At least the skin around my foot didn’t feel as tight.
The day after that, my wife threatened to murder me if I didn’t go to see a doctor, even though the foot was actually looking better. I went to a “Doc in the Box” type place. No kidding, the doctor was actually excited about it.
“I get nothing but routine, boring cases here,” she told me. “A snake bite is kind of exciting.”
The doctor made me wait while she consulted something on snake bites. While I waited, literally every person who worked in the office came in to my room to take a look. When the doctor returned, she informed me in nice, polite, in fact, kind of a cheerful way, that I was a complete imbecile for waiting so long to come in.
“You are lucky you didn’t lose your foot,” she told me.
She wound up proscribing some type of big, red antibiotic pills.
I never found the snake that bit me. Like I said, I wouldn’t kill him if I did. I would relocate him, but I wouldn’t kill him.