The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge


By Hope Kristoffersen © 1986

Issue: July, 1986

A feller just down the road was snakebit last year. Well, so was I, for that matter. This is pretty snakey country. It’s supposed to be like the Carolinas' western slope, some kind of geological mystery about it; same animals and snakes and plants as the Carolinas, which may be why I feel so at home. This road I live on is about a mile from the Mississippi line, in Louisiana deer country. Oil country, too, I hope, with a man made 75 acre lake to add to the good living on the front of the Louisiana boot where the leg part starts.

John was cleaning up his yard, which must be one half acre, at least, and part of his place is on the lake. The yard was full of leaves and all sizes of tree branches. John had recently bought the place and hadn't caught up yet on what he could put up with by way of tidy or untidy. So he was working past dark, piling up trash to burn later. It was a fall kind of day, but warm, so John was working barefoot. He does barefoot water skiing, so maybe he was getting his feet used to dirt, too.

He had a long, full day and slept hard. When it was time to go to work the next morning, he found out he was snakebit and couldn't go. Couldn't get his left boot on, his foot was swollen so big. He looked to see what was wrong with his foot and found two sets of puncture marks on his toes. He called up where he works and told them he couldn't make it. He stayed home for two days. No doctor, just waited until he could get his boot on. John is a bachelor.

Snakes have been a fair sized part of my life, and I puzzled over how anybody could be snakebit, never mind twice and not even know it. John said his foot never did hurt, so he had no way of knowing what happened before he found the fang marks. Bet he thought a branch or stick hit him, like they will do, especially in the dark.

I never figured out how all this could be, until a couple of months later.

It was really a fall morning, a touch crisp and a little foggy. This was a day scheduled for lots of work in the garden and a little in the house. I was up by daylight, and let my dog, Loretta, out to run in the yard. She ran, all right, all the way into the garden and me right behind telling her to come back here. As I went in a hurry past some felled trees, one of those branches got me hard on the left ankle. I said some, not such good, words under my breath and kept on after my dog. By the time I got her back, the other people who were going to work in the garden with me had parked their truck and were ready to work.

All day was busy, busy with good hard work. My ankle did sting some, but I never took time to fix it. When I got in bed that night, I realized that my ankle was hurting and took a look. It was swollen way up, and was blue, black and purple with two puncture marks over the bone. I was some surprised to find I had been snakebit, didn't know it for twelve hours, and never did see the snake. Since I was still alive and well, decided to just let it go its own course.

I never realized before that a snake hits so hard, and that the bruise comes from the force of the blow. Always thought the venom did that. That ankle stayed puffed up and blue, yellow and green for over two weeks.

Maybe next time I won't wish as hard to be able to figure out how something can happen. I might get snakebit again.