The Rattlesnake's Sting and the Bite of the Hydrophobia Skunk.
Major Wilcox, a veteran surgeon from Fort Huachuca, told the other day of the red racer snake, a deadly foe of the rattlesnake and who fights the latter on every occasion. He cannot kill the rattler by a poisonous sting, but awaiting an opportunity seizes his victim behind the head and gives it a crushing squeeze in his powerful jaws. This severs the rattlesnake's spinal cord and causes death. The red racer then swallows the rattler, poison and all. Occasionally, when in the field, Major Wilcox treated soldiers for rattlesnake bites and found it easy to overcome the effects of the poison.
One day a private came to him with a wound from a rattlesnake's fangs in his index finger. The major hastily scarified the wound, broke open a rifle cartridge, poured powder over the wound and exploded it. This cauterized the injured part and so effectually dispelled the poison that only one-half the hand was swollen. The patient soon recovered. On another occasion a man cut off a rattlesnake's head, and, desiring to preserve it, packed cotton into the dead snake's mouth. The jaws closed upon the man's fingers, inflicting a wound from which he soon died.
Rancher Leonard, owner of a vast cattle range in New Mexico, in recounting his experiences on the plains, remarked that he feared the hydrophobia skunk far more than he did the rattlesnake. The snake gives warning of his presence; the skunk does not. This variety of skunk is not only vicious, but aggressive, while the rattlesnake seldom attacks unless disturbed. The hydrophobia skunk is probably the only animal, excepting the coyote, west of the Rocky mountains whose bite induces rabies. Besides this and because of its fondness for occupying the tents of frontiersmen at night, the animal is much dreaded.
Occasionally a coyote will "run mad" and bite another, and thus hydrophobia is communicated to large packs of the fleet footed animals and they race over the prairies and mesas, making mad every living creature in their pathway that they happen to bite. One of the amusements of the cowboys is to capture a rattler alive and get the creature drunk. With a forked stick the snake's head is held down, its mouth is forced open and whisky poured down its throat in sufficient quantity to intoxicate it. The snake will then try to coil its body as if to go to sleep. The action of the alcohol makes it "groggy" and the coils won't coil. When a stick is shoved before the snake's nose, it tries to strike, but the head and body wobble from side to side much as does a drunken man in his attempt to reach a lamppost. — San Francisco Chronicle.
Friday, August 29, 2008