By LEON YOUNGBLOOD
Running into wildlife is one of the pleasant things about being outdoors in the Ouachitas, but some of the encounters can be unpleasant.
Last week, some advice was given on how to prepare for the inevitable meetings with Mother Nature’s minions. We started with mosquitoes, then biting flies, covered ticks and chiggers and made it to scorpions.
I’ve met many scorpions at Briar Circle. The only sting I’ve experienced was at Cedar Lake Park. The little devil came from the drain while I was showering, with soap in my eyes, and got me on the big toe.
He was immune to profanity, so I belted him with a bar of Irish Spring. I was fine after an hour or so without any sort of treatment. The scorpion did not survive his injuries and was washed away without the next of kin being notified.
Centipedes are another stinging creature I’ve found under rocks and firewood. I’ve seen two kinds: a wimpy, little variety an inch or so long, and a large, aggressive, fire-breathing sort a foot-and-a-half long.
That was the first impression, anyway. Calmer examination found it was only about five inches. Being in the woodpile, he met the same fate as the scorpion, except a lighter-knot was the weapon.
I can’t speak from experience here, but I understand centipedes use a pair of hollow legs adapted with claws to bite into the skin. For a few hours, there will be pain, redness, swelling, and the larger the centipede, the greater the pain will be.
This will be the worst part of it, though, for thankfully, centipedes are not toxic enough to be deadly.
Bees, wasps, hornets: If you get stung, remove the stinger with a fingernail or the tweezers you forgot to bring, but don’t pinch! Pinching can inject any venom still in the stinger. Then, ice the stung area, elevate any throbbing body part that can be elevated, treat symptoms with over-the-counter painkillers and antihistamines, and you can soon continue enjoying your outing– usually, that is, for there are exceptions.
If a person has a history of allergic reactions or shows any signs of an allergic reaction, don’t fool around. CALL 911! The signs may be difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, dizziness, nausea—get the victim to an emergency facility.
This goes for spider bites, too, but the only dangerous spiders will be black widows or brown recluses. If you suspect you’ve been bitten by a spider, don’t waste time. Get help immediately.
Which brings us to venomous snakes. Rattlesnakes, moccasins, copperheads and coral snakes provide entertainment and excitement whenever you meet one, and most people have an interesting snake story or two to tell.
However, you do not want to tell your story in the hospital emergency room, so be aware of what’s underfoot! Don’t go looking for snakes, but always look for them. Stomp the ground occasionally.
Snakes supposedly feel the vibrations and consider it expedient to be elsewhere. Be cautious at the woodpile, in weeds and around the pond. Have a plan for all possible emergencies and know whom to call and where to go immediately if you get snake-bitten.
The hotdogs can wait; the ATV can be washed off later on; the ticks, chiggers, even the scorpions somehow become unimportant. A snake bite is something you want to tend to right away.
For the thoughtful and sentimental person, it may be some small consolation that the snake was most likely biting out of a sense of self-preservation; but that does not in any way affect what the hospital or funeral home will charge.
All of which naturally brings to mind the old story of the Georgia farm boy from a ne’r-do-well family who had the misfortune of being in the way of a five-foot eastern diamondback. Things were serious and the local preacher was called upon to pray.
He arrived, went to the sick-room and kneeled, the concerned family following suit. He heaved a sigh, and said, “Lord, you know this fam’bly ain’t been to church in a year; that they drink, they fight, gamble an’ cuss. You have seen fit to send a serpent to make them aware of their need for You. I pray, Lord, send another snake to bite Billy Joe; send a snake for Luke, and a mid-size one for Danny. And, Lord, ship out a big ‘un with extra pizin for th’ ol’ man. Thank you Lord, an’ amen.”
More next week.